Defoe and Crouch are unable to score the all-important goal against Villa
By Mark Ashenden
Tottenham and Aston Villa were unable to boost their hopes of a Champions League spot in a frustrating stalemate.
The hosts dominated the first half with goalkeeper Brad Friedel twice denying Ledley King, and a 30-yard thunderbolt from midfielder Tom Huddlestone.
Tottenham keeper Heurelho Gomes also impressed as he made a double save from James Milner and Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Spurs pushed for a winner with Peter Crouch's deflected shot going wide and Jermain Defoe denied a late penalty.
The Tottenham players were left screaming for a spot-kick after a tackle from Stilian Petrov but the Bulgarian's challenge was deemed to be fair by referee Chris Foy.
Both teams continue to boast an impressive array of statistics. Villa are unbeaten in eight and Spurs with five successive clean sheets at White Hart Lane, but one point is a prize neither team will fully appreciate.
After Liverpool's earlier victory in the battle of Merseyside, it was crucial for Spurs and Villa, starting the clash in fifth and seventh respectively, to crank up the pressure on their rivals.
Battle on for fourth place - Redknapp
Despite having the league's meanest defence, Villa, unchanged from the side that beat Fulham, began in shaky fashion with a rejuvenated David Bentley enjoying freedom on the right wing.
The England midfielder almost created an early opener with the recalled King towering high to head the corner straight into the arms of Friedel.
Villa's attacking force was dealt a blow on 21 minutes when Emile Heskey limped off after a challenge with Wilson Palacios and was replaced by John Carew, in the squad again having missed the previous four games with a knee injury.
But it was Tottenham, eyeing only their second league win in 2010, who looked the hungrier and again went close when defender Richard Dunne and Friedel combined to shut out Crouch's toe-poke after a cute throughball from Luka Modric.
American Friedel was again on hand to push away a blistering 30-yard strike from Huddlestone, and just before the half-hour, it was time for Tottenham's number one to be called into action.
The Brazilian's reactions were instinctive as he smothered Milner's low shot before getting up to save from Agbonlahor with his legs.
Much of the battles continued in the middle as Villa's brilliant Dunne led from the back to keep the opponents at bay, but Spurs gave one big push before the break and almost grabbed the vital strike.
Bentley floated in a free-kick for Crouch to twist in mid-air and nod down for King, whose prod was well saved by Friedel before Defoe pounced to stab the ball over the bar.
Neither boss introduced any changes for the second half, and the defenders continued to dominate with Villa restricted to a pair of free-kicks from Stewart Downing and Ashley Young flying horribly over.
'Transformed' Villa delight O'Neill
With 10 minutes remaining, Modric burst forward to set up Crouch, whose shot from outside the box was deflected narrowly wide by Dunne.
O'Neill, looking determined to avoid defeat, urged his players to drop back, but it was a dangerous policy and Tottenham came agonisingly close to a winner three times in the dying minutes.
Defoe and Crouch had more chances but Villa's defence stood firm to clinch a hard-earned draw.
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp: "Every time we pulled the trigger it seemed to take a deflection or hit somebody, but overall I thought we were terrific.
"It's going to be tight for fourth place, it's going to go all the way.
"Liverpool are in good form, it's one defeat in 12 games for us, so we've been in great form, Manchester City are going to be right there and so are Villa.
"There are four teams battling for that fourth spot and maybe even third, who knows? If somebody has a run, anything could happen."
Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill: "I'm delighted with my defenders. They also appreciate the players in front of them as well.
"In the second half, at times it was every man to the pump. But it's been a great effort and against a very strong Tottenham side."
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