Martin O’Neill admits Aston Villa still lack the ruthlessness to kill off opponents despite seeing his team hold on to defeat West Bromwich Albion.
With a 2-0 half-time advantage Villa looked to be heading for a rout in Saturday’s derby at Villa Park until Albion pulled a goal back just after the break.
It set up a tense finale, with Tony Mowbray’s bottom-placed side having two penalty claims rejected in stoppage time at the end of the game.
Villa, who recovered from what O’Neill branded a “stodgy” start, wasted several chances to put the match out of their neighbours’ reach.
“I thought it was a really tough game and I expected it to be that,” said O’Neill.
“Even at 2-0 I never thought that West Bromwich Albion were out of it, in fact they might have considered themselves a bit unlucky to have been 2-0 down.
“They scored just after half-time and put us under a lot of pressure. We’ve done brilliantly to win the game and obviously I’m delighted.
“Great credit to them, but then again, I think that’s the way West Bromwich Albion have played for most of this season, even against better teams than us. They’ve had lots of possession in matches.
“It was great to win and I also thought there were times ourselves, although they might not have been sustained periods, where I thought we were exhilarating.”
Other than Villa’s slow start, which saw Albion dominate the opening exchanges, the pattern of Saturday’s game came as no surprise to O’Neill.
The Villa boss admits his team find all Premier League games tough, regardless of whether the opposition are near the top or the bottom of the table.
He accepts that Villa may face more frantic moments seeing games out because they are not yet in a position to beat teams by convincing margins.
“We were at home so the onus is on us to try to attack,” said O’Neill.
“The game actually panned out much as I thought. It still doesn’t legislate for us making a very stodgy start to the game and allowing West Bromwich Albion to come and settle.
“And so it was much against the run of play the first goal, but when we got that we started to settle down again.
“But the games are tight. We’re not going to be runaway victors at this moment.
“We had a couple of chances to make it 3-1 in the match and had we have been able to have done that we might have seen the last 10 minutes through a wee bit less frantically.”
O’Neill paid tribute to Gabriel Agbonlahor, whose goal via the aid of a deflection off former Villa goalkeeper Scott Carson just before half-time, proved to be the winner.
The Villa boss was full of praise for Villa’s top scorer, especially as Agbonlahor hardly trained in the run up to the game because of illness.
“Great credit to Gabby Agbonlahor for playing the whole game when he was pretty poorly,” added O’Neill.
“I’m really pleased and if anybody says to me it’s an own goal then I’ll say that Gabby deserves it.
“He deserves it for being on the field. He’s been ill all week.”