Aston Villa ended their four-game losing streak - and established some damage-control at the end of a troubled week – with a goalless stalemate against Southampton.
But it was another unconvincing display from Paul Lambert’s under-fire team which brought him only a temporary respite from the troubles encircling his regime.
Villa were a step closer to safety at the finish with Fulham losing and Cardiff failing to gain any ground on the teams above them.
That will be something at least to ease the anxieties that have been rising around Villa Park which this week continued with the suspension of two coaches following a rallying call from the club’s hierarchy.
But Villa were the more fortunate of the two teams after failing to seriously trouble keeper Artur Borac after another redundant performance from the team going forward.
And had the Saints taken their chances they could have been two-up inside five minutes and won the game at a canter.
There were big let-offs in those opening moments, however, from Rickie Lambert who was set up first by the excellent Luke Shaw and then Steven Davis. But Lambert failed to connect properly with a header from the first opportunity before clipping his second chance wide.
Villa escaped again just after the half-hour when Nathan Baker ducked out of making a clearing header under a call from Guzan who then failed to come for the cross. Lambert headed the ball back for Davis who should have finished – although the save from the Villa keeper which prevented him doing so was certainly top draw.
Great chunks of the game passed Villa by as they chased after the visitors’ dominant possession-game and apart from Andi Weimann coming close to latching on to a Gabby Agbonlahor set-up, they had little to stir them.
But if this was a test of their feelings towards the current manager then Lambert could have no complaints about the patience and perseverance of the home fans.
A brief spark of brighter form was inspired by Marc Albrighton midway through the second-half, the popular winger registering his team’s best effort with a long-range drive which Boruc palmed up before saving.
But the only other incident of not came in the 80th minute when playbacks confirmed that Ryan Bertrand had got away with a handball in cutting out a Nathaniel Clyne cross.
“It was a clear penalty,” claimed Saints manager Mauricio Pochettinoi and he had a valid point.
But so did Villa at the end of a bewildering week.Subscribe to our Newsletter