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The team could not quite mark the 50th Premiership game in charge for Martin Jol - in the week of his 50th birthday - with a win over Aston Villa at the Lane on Saturday.

The team could not quite mark the 50th Premiership game in charge for Martin Jol - in the week of his 50th birthday - with a win over Aston Villa at the Lane on Saturday.

Against a team unbeaten in their last five away outings, the boys strived to make a breakthrough but came up against some resolute defending in numbers from the visitors. It made it a frustrating 90 minutes for the 36,243 in the ground and the cause was not helped by injuries over the course of the game depriving us of the services of Jermaine Jenas and Edgar Davids.

Jermain Defoe was back in the starting XI for the visit of David O'Leary's side in place of the absent Mido - who reminded us of what he is all about with the opening goal in the African Cup of Nations on Friday - while there was also a recall for Stephen Kelly, who stepped in for the suspended Paul Stalteri.

The boys were bright in the opening exchanges and Defoe gave Thomas Sorensen an early feel of the ball with a low drive from the edge of the area. An earlier chance for Robbie Keane was the direct result of superb and quick-thinking distribution from Paul Robinson, while Davids rattled the side netting. All this before the 10-minute mark.

There followed a couple of superb, jet-heeled raids down the right flank from Jenas, with his chief over-lapper Kelly even taking on a shot from distance. Villa will have been pleased to reach the 20-minute point without suffering a deficit against what was looking a confident and composed group of players.

The scoring came very close to being opened just before the half hour mark when Michael Carrick brilliantly picked out the run of Teemu Tainio to the right of the penalty area. Tainio attempted to dink the ball over Sorensen and so nearly succeeded but the Dane just managed to tip the ball over the bar.

Moments later Jenas broke and attempted to play in Keane, the ball spun away and looked like it was going to sit up nicely for Tainio to take advantage, but there was a timely interception from a Villa perspective. It was an enterprising first half and the boys kept pressing, but Villa were defending deep and in significant numbers. Keane stretched Sorensen before the break after being found by Lee Young-Pyo, although the goalkeeper was always favourite.

There followed a clash of heads between Jenas and Juan Pablo Angel, which signalled the end of the England man's afternoon on the pitch as he was stretchered off in stoppage time. Aaron Lennon received the call to enter play.

Twice the Villa gate was nearly unlocked in the opening minutes of the second period. The most telling when Carrick's radar located a Davids dash to the left of the area, but lines were cleared again. Then a Tainio downward header caused momentary confusion and the scoreboard remained static.

Davids had the bit between his teeth and was driving forward at every opportunity - Angel got booked attempting to halt one such sortie. Sadly, following a hefty collision with Gavin McCann, he left the field giving Michael Brown the opportunity to make the 300th senior appearance of his career on 63 minutes.

Defoe then fizzed in an effort from distance before Lee and Keane carved out an opening for Lennon, but the claret and blue wall held firm again.

Grzegorz Rasiak was summoned on 76 minutes, taking the place of Defoe before our next chance turned out to be a screamer from Carrick which Sorensen did very well to direct away from goal.

There was drama on 83 minutes when Gareth Barry blocked Lennon in his tracks and received a second yellow card from referee Mr Poll. Carrick failed to secure profit from the free-kick and the question was whether numerical advantage would be made to count.

A Brown drive again drew a fine save out of Sorensen in added time, while it is worth noting that Paul Robinson was literally a bystander for virtually all of the game. Villa appeared to come for a point - and got what they came for.