Martin O’Neill attributed Aston Villa’s failure to climb to third in the Premier League to their profligacy in front of goal after the goalless draw with Fulham.
The Cottagers followed Newcastle and Middlesbrough in frustrating Villa, who once again were unable to overcome one of the division’s lesser lights.
A victory for Villa on Saturday would have temporarily lifted them up to third with none of the Premier League’s established ‘Big Four’ playing until Sunday.
O’Neill’s ambitious team have now failed to win in their last three home matches with a defeat to Middlesbrough and draws against Manchester United and Fulham.
Although Villa had ample opportunities to score against Roy Hodgson’s team on Saturday, they failed to find the net for the second successive match at Villa Park.
Gareth Barry was the chief culprit spurning three presentable headed chances, while fellow midfielder Steve Sidwell was also wasteful in front of goal.
“It was eventually very disappointing for us,” said O’Neill. “We’ve come with real high hopes today with confidence high from the performances and results of previous weeks.
“We always knew it was going to be difficult and it was perhaps just carving out a real opportunity or taking one of the chances.
“To be fair we had maybe three opportunities. It would have been great if we’d
have taken one of them, but at home maybe we should have carved out more.
“I thought there was no lack of effort in the team. It was an opportunity for us and we didn’t grasp it, but it’s a tough old season.”
Hodgson felt that Ashley Young and James Milner were Villa’s main threats and the Fulham manager praised his defence for they way they coped with the wingers’ constant supply of crosses.
He was also pleased with the way Fulham shackled Gabriel Agbonlahor to earn an away point which continues an encouraging run after a draw at Liverpool and wins over Tottenham and Newcastle.
“Luckily the back four were strong and in particular the goalkeeper, Mark Schwarzer, who is good in those areas,” said Hodgson.
“He proved once again that we can rely on him when the going gets tough.
“With Villa’s five in the middle and of course Agbonlahor’s ability to latch onto anything, even clearances that go to the back of defenders, you’ve got to be on your mettle all the time because you’re never sheltered where he’s concerned.
“We knew that Young and Milner would hug the touch-lines and give them the opportunity to spread things out so it was important for us to try and get out and get the blocks in.”