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Saturday, November 6, 1999 Published at 17:58 GMT

Poor Villa beaten by Saints

Aston Villa 0-1 Southampton

An unimaginative performance from Aston Villa handed Southampton a rare win on their travels and condemned the home side to a first defeat at home this season.

The BBC's David Oates: "Alarming lack of cohesion and ideas"
Villa are now without a win in six games, and despite a shake-up in midfield John Gregory's side lacked the guile to open up one of the weakest of Premiership defences.

Steve Stone was given his first start of the season, while Paul Merson and Alan Wright began a Premiership match for the first time since September.

Merson created what little Villa did manage, but he was substituted in the final ten minutes, and within seconds of his departure Dean Richards powered home to hand Saints all the points.

Thompson close

Villa's Alan Thompson had twice came close to open the scoring in the opening 20 minutes.

[ image: Villa boss John Gregory has a lot of thinking to do]
Villa boss John Gregory has a lot of thinking to do
Stone's cross was headed over by the former Bolton man, who also drove a free kick against the crossbar after Benito Carbone had been fouled by Dean Richards.

David James gave Villa a couple of hairy moments midway through the first half, charging out to deny both Marians Pahars and Stuart Ripley.

The keeper appeared far keener to clear his lines than the defenders around him, although they were forced to wake up as Hassan Kachloul and Mark Hughes forced Villa back towards the end of the first half.

The visitors began the second half as they ended the first, with Richards producing a sign of things to come as James produced a low save to deny his header from a corner.

Too many passes were going astray from both sides, although Villa did gradually improve, stopping the Southampton attacks which had been a feature either side of the break.

Merson into the game - and out

After 20 minutes of the half and a quiet return, Merson slowly began to provide the spark for Villa.

Carbone drove a fierce effort wide after a clever run across the edge of the area from the former Arsenal man while Dublin headed wide from Merson's right wing cross.

And Merson was again instrumental in setting up Carbone for Villa's best chance five minutes later.

But Jones showed incedible reactions to tip over the Italian's drive from just eight yards out.

With ten minutes remaining to break the frustrating deadlock Thompson was taken off, as was Merson - the man who looked more capable of unlocking the Saints defence than any other.

Grefory explained afterwards that the 6.75m man was simply too tired to go on.

Header flicked in

Within a minute the job handed to substitutes George Boateng and Nagwan Ghrayib was made all the harder.

Richards was again allowed a header at a corner, after Claus Lundekvam's flick.

This time James had no chance to stop it and prevent the travelling Saints fans fully enjoying their day in the Midlands.

The home side were booed off by another small crowd at Villa Park, and how their fans must long for the unfulfilled promise of 12 months ago, when they were three points clear at the top.


Aston Villa: James, Wright, Southgate, Dublin, Merson, Thompson, Barry, Carbone, Delaney, Stone, Calderwood. Subs: Watson, Boateng, Draper, Ghrayib, Enckelman.

Southampton: Jones, Dodd, Lundekvam, Richards, Oakley, Hughes, Ripley, Pahars, Colleter, Kachloul, Soltvedt. Subs: Le Tissier, Benali, Beattie, Boa Morte, Moss.

Referee: A D'urso (Billericay)

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