Alan Curbishley‘s side, of course, also harbour hopes of playing in Europe but a return of just one win from their last 10 matches made them ripe for the taking at Villa Park last night. The Charlton manager is all too aware of his side’s tendency to lose their way at the end of the campaign: "This is the fifth successive season this has happened," he said. "We had conceded 12 goals in our last four games so keeping a clean sheet was important. That's given us a platform to build on and if we can get a good result at Norwich on Saturday perhaps we can push on."
It is difficult to see where exactly they are going to push on to as aside from a near miss from Hermann Hreidarsson, they never looked like winning a match that was about as eventful as the Annual Leamington Library Convention. Villa were forced to field two full-backs, Mark Delaney and Jlloyd Samuel, in the centre of his defence and a midfielder, Gareth Barry, at left-back, but it was not in defence that they struggled.
Carlton Cole and Juan Pablo Angel have failed to gel together and save for a robust run and far-post cross from Cole that just evaded his Colombian strike partner, they did not look like starting last night. Indeed, it was Thomas Hitzlsperger, who is leaving Villa Park for Stuttgart at the end of the season, who was most threatening in front of goal and his powerfully struck free-kick under the wall caused the first moment of alarm in the Charlton defence before it was blocked by Radostin Kishishev.
The German's second effort forced Dean Kiely into the first save of the game, but while Villa were showing the most attacking intent, the Charlton goalkeeper was never really overworked. Barry curled a right-foot shot just wide and Danny Murphy was forced to head Nolberto Solano's shot off the line, before the best chance of the game fell to Hitzlsperger in the closing minutes but blazed wide. With Tottenham Hotspur and Middlesbrough both failing to win, David O'Leary will consider it a missed opportunity.