Aston Villa 0 Wigan Athletic 0

Last updated : 31 January 2009 By Footymad Previewer
Emile Heskey failed to sparkle on his home debut against his former club, Wigan Athletic, and as a result Aston Villa wasted a glorious opportunity to go second in the Premiership.

It was Martin O'Neill's 100th game as Villa's manager and he was frustrated at his players with their failure to breach Wigan's resolute defence which took the honours in collecting another good away point.

Wigan, without their leading marksman Amr Zaki, produced another impressive performance.

They may have only won one of their last six league games but they have held two of the top-four clubs to a draw in the space of 72 hours.

Often Wigan rode their luck but poor finishing by Villa's front men enabled them to hang onto a commendable draw despite being on the back foot for most of the encounter.

Although without their two most influential players, Martin Laursen and Ashley Young, Villa were more dominant than Wigan who made no secret of the fact that they were quite content to operate a containing role to frustrate the home side.

Gareth Barry took full advantage of the extra midfield space to dominate the game with some splendid play which was the feature of the first half.

Surprisingly Villa failed to carve out any real clear-cut chances in this period as they were often blotted out by a strong Wigan rearguard in which Paul Scharner was a guiding light.

Wigan's first goalscoring opportunity occurred in the 29th minute when Daniel de Ridder gained possession following an astute pass by Mario Melchiot but he was challenged by Curtis Davies and his shot was blocked by Brad Friedel.

In the last minute of a somewhat frustrating first half de Ridder, who was substituted at half-time, provided a good cross from which Maynor Figueroa powered in a header only to watch Friedel push his effort over the bar.

Five minutes into the second half Figueroa appeared to handle James Milner's cross but referee Rob Styles, involved in the midweek controversy at nearby West Bromwich Albion, choose to ignore the infringement.

This incident sparked off a spell of intense pressure by Villa with Zat Knight heading against the post from Barry's free-kick.

Wigan, however, stuck doggedly to their task of containment and Villa found it extremely difficult to break through the five-man defensive barrier.

Titus Bramble and Emmerson Boyce were outstanding in this department and they made no mistakes keeping out Villa's attack which was strengthened in the 62nd minute by the inclusion of big John Carew following a three-month absence.

Figueroa earned the plaudits with a goal-line clearance which hit the post and bounced clear before Bramble came to Wigan's rescue with another two clearances following an indirect free-kick as Villa did everything but score in a hectic end to the game.