Darren Bent draws Villa level with a brilliantly timed header
By Owen Phillips
Stoke City halted a dismal run of seven successive away defeats, denying Aston Villa and edging towards Premier League survival in a scrappy game.
The Potters took the lead through a towering Kenywne Jones header following a trademark Rory Delap throw-in.
But an out-of-sorts Villa levelled when the in-form Darren Bent expertly headed home Kyle Walker's cross.
Villa had the better of things after the interval but struggled to create clear chances and the visitors held on.
The result means Stoke are now five points clear of the drop zone, while Villa are seven points above the bottom three.
McAllister happy to do a job for Houllier
But the Potters, who have not lost any of the 12 league games this season in which they have gone ahead, seemed likely to take more than a point after an impressive first period.
The home side edged a gentle opening 10 minutes, probing and teasing the away defence but offering no goal threat.
Stoke looked compact, organised and comfortable and their power and discipline soon laid the platform for a serious spell of pressure which resulted in six corners and the first goal.
Villa keeper Brad Friedel was forced to pull off brilliant acrobatic stops to keep out Robert Huth's rasping strike following a Delap throw-in, and a point-blank Jones header.
But the American could do nothing to prevent Jones from heading the Potters ahead when the striker out-jumped Richard Dunne and sent his effort into the far post from another fizzing Delap throw-in.
Visiting boss Tony Pulis was barking instructions to his players at every opportunity and urging them to capitalise on their dominance.
I spoke to him before the kick-off and his main concern as always was the players. All the signs are encouraging
Stand-in Villa boss Gary McAllister on Gerard Houllier
The Potters may have an
FA Cup final date to think about
but Pulis looked like a man desperate to ensure their Premier League survival before their Wembley date in May.
Certainly Stoke had the look of a team playing for the places against a Villa side who, despite their promising first five minutes, were unable to get either of their wingers, Ashley Young and Stewart Downing, on the ball.
Stand-in-boss Gary McAllister, in charge following manager
Gerard Houllier's midweek health scare
would probably have been happy enough to be only one down after a tepid first half in which his side barely threatened.
Luke Young sent a low effort well wide after cutting in from left-back and Huth did superbly to stop Bent getting a shot away after a surging run from Stiliyan Petrov.
But that was as good as it got until a moment of inspiration from Bent drew Villa level two minutes before the break.
Stoke's ploy of dropping deep and relying on Huth and skipper Ryan Shawcross to deal with Emile Heskey and nullify Bent's pace seemed to be working a treat.
But the visitors backed off once too often and the excellent Walker was given bags of time to centre and Bent got in front of Shawcross to send a pinpoint header in off the post from just inside the 18-yard box.
That goal - Bent's fifth in six games - revitalised Villa after the break and they dominated possession and territory as Stoke seemed to tire.
Pulis thrilled with Stoke response
Young posed an increasing threat but the hosts did not have enough guile and could just not fashion any telling opportunities in the face of some dogged defending and clever delaying tactics.
There were a series of half-openings and plenty of decent approach play but no end product.
At the other end Jonathan Walters did almost nip in behind the home defence and substitute Ricardo Fuller - who was later carried off on a stretcher - had a goal correctly wiped out for offside.
The hosts seemed the more likely to find a winner but the sides had to settle for a point each.
74:22 Free kick awarded for a foul by Stiliyan Petrov on Glenn Whelan.
71:58 Substitution Dean Whitehead comes on in place of Matthew Etherington.
71:58 Close range shot by Emile Heskey goes wide of the right-hand upright.
71:02 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Ashley Young from the left by-line.
70:22 Corner taken by Ashley Young. Ashley Young crosses the ball.
68:48 Outswinging corner taken by Ashley Young from the right by-line.
66:42 Substitution Marc Albrighton comes on in place of Stewart Downing.
65:55 Matthew Etherington takes a inswinging corner.
63:11 Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Stewart Downing, save made by Asmir Begovic.
63:11 Booking Glenn Whelan goes into the book.
62:30 Stewart Downing takes a shot. Robert Huth gets a block in. Stewart Downing takes a inswinging corner from the right by-line
to the near post.
60:59 Jermaine Pennant is ruled offside. Richard Dunne restarts play with the free kick. Emile Heskey challenges Glenn Whelan unfairly
and gives away a free kick. Ryan Shawcross takes the free kick.
60:16 The ball is sent over by Matthew Etherington.
59:25 The referee blows for offside. Asmir Begovic takes the indirect free kick.
58:34 Kyle Walker produces a cross, clearance made by Marc Wilson.
Correction - 57:12 Stewart Downing challenges Kenwyne Jones unfairly and gives away a free kick. Marc Wilson takes the free kick.
57:12 Foul by Stiliyan Petrov on Kenwyne Jones, free kick awarded. Marc Wilson restarts play with the free kick.
55:26 Free kick crossed right-footed by Ashley Young, Marc Wilson makes a clearance.
55:26 Booking Booking for Marc Wilson for unsporting behaviour.
55:13 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Stewart Downing by Marc Wilson.
48:19 The assistant referee flags for offside against Ryan Shawcross. Brad Friedel takes the indirect free kick.
45:01 The referee gets the second half underway.
45:00+1:52 The ref blows to end the first period.
45:00+0:30 Centre by Stewart Downing, Andy Wilkinson manages to make a clearance. Corner from left by-line taken by Ashley Young.
44:21 Header from close range by Robert Huth clears the bar.
42:24 The assist for the goal came from Kyle Walker.
42:24 GOAL - Darren Bent:Aston Villa 1 - 1 Stoke Darren Bent grabs a headed goal from just inside the area. Aston Villa 1-1 Stoke.
41:54 Kyle Walker crosses the ball, clearance by Ryan Shawcross.
41:37 The referee blows for offside against Jonathan Walters. James Collins takes the indirect free kick.
40:13 Unfair challenge on Ashley Young by Robert Huth results in a free kick. Richard Dunne takes the free kick.
38:45 Unfair challenge on Glenn Whelan by Stiliyan Petrov results in a free kick. Rory Delap restarts play with the free kick.
35:23 Centre by Stewart Downing, Robert Huth makes a clearance.
33:46 James Collins gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Kenwyne Jones. Marc Wilson takes the free kick.
30:17 The ball is swung over by Kyle Walker, Headed effort from inside the area by Emile Heskey misses to the left of the target.
29:21 Luke Young has a shot on goal from outside the area which misses left.
26:50 Nigel Reo-Coker fouled by Glenn Whelan, the ref awards a free kick. Brad Friedel takes the direct free kick.
25:14 Free kick awarded for a foul by Jonathan Walters on Stiliyan Petrov. Stiliyan Petrov restarts play with the free kick.
21:47 Glenn Whelan handles the ball and concedes a free kick. Free kick taken by James Collins.
21:03 Darren Bent fouled by Rory Delap, the ref awards a free kick. Ashley Young takes the free kick.
19:11 The assist for the goal came from Rory Delap.
19:11 GOAL - Kenwyne Jones:Aston Villa 0 - 1 Stoke Kenwyne Jones scores a headed goal from inside the six-yard box. Aston Villa 0-1 Stoke.
17:28 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Jermaine Pennant by Luke Young. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Jermaine
Pennant from right wing, clearance by Stiliyan Petrov.
15:14 Foul by Marc Wilson on Stewart Downing, free kick awarded. Stiliyan Petrov takes the free kick.
13:19 Corner taken by Matthew Etherington. Corner from left by-line taken by Matthew Etherington. Inswinging corner taken by Jermaine
9:48 Robert Huth takes a shot. Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Matthew Etherington from the right by-line, Kenwyne Jones
takes a shot. Brad Friedel makes a save. Save made by Brad Friedel. Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Jermaine Pennant,
James Collins manages to make a clearance. Jermaine Pennant takes the inswinging corner, save by Brad Friedel. Corner taken
by Matthew Etherington.
8:08 Foul by Ashley Young on Jermaine Pennant, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Jermaine Pennant.
7:26 Stewart Downing has an effort at goal from just outside the penalty box which goes wide of the left-hand post.
4:47 Free kick awarded for a foul by Rory Delap on Stiliyan Petrov. Stiliyan Petrov takes the free kick.
3:16 The ball is sent over by Luke Young, clearance made by Marc Wilson.
0:00 The referee starts the match.
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