Encouraging signs

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A point at the weekend against Southampton was a positive step in the right direction in this relegation dogfight.

The Saints, who went into the game off the back of a 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Liverpool, were looking to put things right and I was fearful of a backlash against Villa on Saturday. It could easily have gone very wrong: Southampton created a variety of half chances against the visitors, especially in the first fifteen minutes.

The home side must have thought that the Villans were there for the taking as we looked very uncomfortable in midfield and were chasing the ball for a lot of the game, although we did have spells in the first half when we actually kept the ball very well and passed effectively.

While we pressed forward, we finally managed to win a corner right on the stroke of half time. Joleon Lescott, a player I have recently criticised because he has been at less than his best since signing for us, finally produced a goal for Villa, which put us into the lead.

The second half was a different story; the goal seemed to rejuvenate Villa. Movement off and on the ball was good and we looked like a side that seemed confident rather then shaky.

The Saints finally took their chance when a corner was stabbed in by an unlikely goalscorer in Oriol Romeu. It was a bitter blow as Villa had a firm hold on the game at the time and the players were starting to hit Southampton on the counter-attack as the home side pushed forward to equalise.

By the end, the game was extremely stretched and both sides looked like they might be able to nick the win but when the referee finally blew the whistle they had to share the spoils.

What were the positives?

With Garde having to make three changes to the defence because of injury, Jores Okore had a very good return to first team football after undergoing surgery a few months ago. In my opinion, the prospect of having Micah Richards and Jores Okore in partnership in the middle of defence is promising. Both players are right-footed, however, but Okore did play with Vlaar last season and was in a similar situation then.

A point against Southampton at St. Mary’s is a positive result, no matter where you are in the league. It’s usually a very tough place to go. Luckily, they seem to have hit a bad patch and, although I was wary of being on the end of a hiding, we actually played well. That gives me hope for the rest of the season. A repeat result against the Gunners, who will no doubt give everything to qualify for the later stages of the Champions League this week, minus a few of their best players, would be welcome.

Leandro Bacuna also came back into the squad at left back, with his versatility playing a big part in the game. He kept Sadio Mané relatively quiet for most of the game and he did get forward to support Jordan Ayew down the right.

The results did go against us at the weekend, with A.F.C. Bournemouth picking up an unlikely win against Chelsea and Newcastle United also enjoying a smash-and-grab victory against Liverpool. These results mean what we are now seven points off safety but, as was the case before the Southampton match, only two wins will change our whole outlook.

UTV!

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