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Daws earns deserved point

Captain Michael Dawson won a point with a thumping leveller as we came from behind to secure a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa on Saturday evening.

Captain Michael Dawson won a point with a thumping leveller as we came from behind to secure a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa on Saturday evening.

Dawson, who had an inspired game at the back, made the difference at the other end on 77 minutes with his smash into the top corner after Gabriel Agbonlahor had bundled his side into a first half lead.

Harry Redknapp was forced into one change from the 9-1 win against Wigan with Jonathan Woodgate ruled out with a groin problem and Sebastien Bassong back in the line-up.

Brad Friedel had his palms stung as early as the fourth minute when a sortie forward by Benoit Assou-Ekotto resulted in the ball falling invitingly at the feet of Niko Kranjcar. The Croatian unleashed a rasping drive that the keeper saw late and did well to divert over the crossbar.

It was Villa who seized the lead though with nine minutes on the clock. A combination of Assou-Ekotto and Heurelho Gomes prevented Carlos Cuellar's header crossing the line, but it was Agbonlahor who was quickest to pounce on the loose ball and managed to steal in first despite the attentions of Assou-Ekotto again and Dawson.

It was certainly Villa on the up and a flurry of crosses and corners were delivered on a regular basis until a period of possession offered a foothold in the contest, illustrated by Dawson having his goalbound effort cleared off the line by Cuellar after Friedel had saved well from Jermain Defoe following a deflected Tom Huddlestone free-kick.

A dipping deflected effort from Huddlestone was then tipped over by Friedel before Defoe spun on a Vedran Corluka ball and flashed just over the bar.

It was, however, a patchy first half performance lacking in cohesion and sustained pressure - the home side's use of width was providing a greater threat.

A spell before the break brought about some slick passing football, which did not lead to Friedel being troubled, but offered signs of a potentially improved second half.

Kranjcar, like at the beginning of the game, forced a superb save from Friedel in the opening moments of the half after clever play from Defoe and Wilson Palacios.

Villa were now playing on the counter attack and there were a couple of hairy moments when their pacy forwards created a numerical advantage but thankfully they proved to be just scares.

Half-chances came and went at the other end, while Dawson was forced to launch into a superb challenge to prevent Agbonlahor sprinting through on goal.

Palacios made way for Jermaine Jenas on 65 minutes and it nearly paid dividends when he was involved in a move that led to Corluka being presented with a chance at the far post that was deflected wide.

Defoe had the ball in the Villa net on 73 minutes after a Friedel save from Huddlestone looped up in his direction. Unfortunately, he used an arm in bringing the ball under control and referee Mr Dowd, after appearing to initially award the goal, then gave a home free-kick.

We did not have to wait much longer and it couldn't have come from a more deserving player. After Defoe was denied by Luke Young the team came again and a loose ball was smacked into the top corner by Dawson followed by a frantic celebration in front of the travelling thousands.

The team kept pouring forward and the home sections of Villa Park fell silent, a Lennon cross to the near post was so nearly converted by Defoe - the same player drilling just wide in stoppage time.