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Wolves 1 Villa 0 - Report and pictures

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[gallery]Joe Mason's early goal gave Wolves the three points as they beat Villa 1-0 in a tight West Midlands derby.

Mason netted in the 15th minute as Paul Lambert engineered a victory against the club that sacked him in 2015.

Villa created few chances and suffered back-to-back league defeats for the first time this season.

It was Wolves' first clean sheet at Molineux since August as they moved to within three points of Steve Bruce's side in the table.

Analysis

Graham Taylor oversaw a few classics during his brief time at Molineux, plus plenty more at Villa, write Tim Spiers and Matt Maher at Molineux.

On the day the two teams paid an emotional tribute to the manager who served both clubs with distinction, this was no classic, but it was an occasion befitting of the great man, played out in front of a fervent atmosphere.

Ironically Wolves enjoyed more dominance, or at least created far more chances, in the reverse fixture at Villa Park which finished one-apiece.

But they were still good value for the three points, given to them by Joe Mason's early strike. Astonishingly it was the first goal scored by a Wolves striker since August 20.

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Wolves were more potent in the first half and faded after the break with many tired legs sluggishly seeing them through.

It wasn't pretty. But the three points were all that mattered and the wild celebrations at full time reflected what it meant to the home supporters and, of course, to Paul Lambert on the day he faced his former club for the first time.

For Villa, this was another hugely underwhelming away performance and the need for boss Steve Bruce to find some January reinforcements is becoming more and more glaring by the match.

Villa failed to register a shot on goal and have now netted just seven goals in 14 away league games this season.

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Meanwhile, the one player Bruce has added this month, goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, was at fault for Mason's opener, weakly palming Dicko's cross into the path of the striker.

This was also another game in which Bruce's team missed the impact of Jonathan Kodjia in the final third. Without its talisman, his team looked desperately short on ideas with Ross McCormack and Gabriel Agbonlahor again failing to convince they can be effective replacements. Not even the second half introductions of Jack Grealish and Andre Green could provide the necessary bite in the final third.

Kodjia, who is away at the Africa Cup of Nations, may not return until early next month and there is a real danger that by then Villa's hopes of reaching the play-offs could be all but gone. This defeat left them ten points adrift of the top six and on this evidence it is difficult to make the case for them making up the ground over the remaining 20 games.

For the second week running Lambert sprang a couple of surprises in his team selection, although this time it was more around who wasn't playing rather than who was, with FA Cup heroes Mike Williamson and Lee Evans left out of the squad.

There were seven changes from the team that beat Stoke as Lambert reverted to the same back four that had kept a clean sheet at Sheffield Wednesday in the league, while Mason and Nouha Dicko were chosen ahead of Bright Enobakhare and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson.

As for Villa, Steve Bruce made one change to the team beaten 2-0 at Tottenham in the FA Cup last Sunday, with Ross McCormack replacing Jack Grealish in the starting XI.

But Villa suffered a blow before the game began when Nathan Baker was injured in the warm-up. Tommy Elphick came in and Villa were reduced to six subs.

After a stirring and thunderous minute's applause for Taylor, the game kicked off in a rambunctious Molineux atmosphere.

It was Wolves who started the better of the two sides with Dicko and Mason seeing shots blocked before Dave Edwards sent an acrobatic kick over the bar.

Wolves were full of confidence going forward...Villa, perhaps rocked by Baker's absence, didn't look comfortable in defence. And so it was that Lambert's team took a 15th-minute lead when Costa fed Dicko whose low cross was palmed by keeper Sam Johnstone into Mason's path. He couldn't miss from eight yards and finally ended Wolves' striker drought as a result with his fourth of the season.

Wolves were playing with swagger - but on 25 minutes Villa should have levelled with their first attempt on goal.

Jordan Amavi's electrifying burst down the left was finished with an even better cross, yet Ross McCormack somehow headed over from six yards.

After their poor start Villa were improving, but they were indebted to James Chester for a goalline clearance after Mason rounded Johnstone following Elphick's failure to deal with a cross.

It was a deserved half time lead for Wolves, with Edwards, Danny Batth and Mason the standouts through the spine of the team.

Villa, though, were generally laboured in possession and looked devoid of attacking inspiration, particularly from McCormack and Gabby Agbonlahor.

The pattern of play continued at the start of the second half. Wolves should have doubled their lead when Costa broke brilliantly at pace and played through the back line for Dicko, but not for the first time he went for goal when a return pass looked the better option, and the goal-shy frontman's shot was too close to Johnstone.

Wolves, for whom Edwards had to briefly leave the field for three stitches to a head wound, looked the more likely scorers but lacked a clinical touch or pass.

The teams traded subs - Jack Grealish came on to a chorus of boos owing to his stamp on Conor Coady in the reverse fixture, while Wolves' Bright Enobakhare replaced the ineffective Ivan Cavaleiro.

With 20 minutes of the second half gone Villa had yet to muster an attack of note, with a couple of ambitious penalty appeals all they had to show for themselves.

In fact the second half was becoming a bit of a non-event, with precious little goalmouth action to keep the big crowd entertained.

Wolves looked more and more fatigued as the game wore on but Villa created next to nothing.

Substitute Bright Enobakhare went close for Wolves late on but neither goalkeeper was kept busy as Wolves saw out the win.

Key moments

8 A spell of good pressure from Wolves ends with Dave Edwards hooking an acrobatic attempt over the bar.

11 Hutton has Villa's first effort, a shot from distance which comfortably clears the bar.

15 GOAL Wolves lead as Mason stabs home. Villa keeper Sam Johnstone is at fault, pushing Nouha Dicko's cross right into his path.

27 - Ross McCormack squanders a glorious chance to level for Villa. Heading over from six yards out after a great run and cross by Jordan Amavi.

41 James Chester saves Villa from going further behind, getting back to hack off the line after Mason pushes the ball past Johnstone.

42 Villa break from a Wolves corner. Adomah beats Ikeme to a through ball and lifts the ball over the keeper, only for Conor Coady to head clear.

46 Wolves are immediately onto the attack as the second period gets underway. Dicko fires over from a tight angle.

56 Dicko shoots straight at Johnstone after being played in by Costa, who ran with the ball 50 yards from his own half.

80 Substitute George Saville tries his luck from distance. Straight at Sam Johnstone.

89 Bright Enobakhare almost adds a second for Wolves but drives just wide from the edge of the box.

Teams

Wolves (4-2-3-1): Ikeme; Coady, Batth (c), Stearman, Doherty; Price, Edwards (Saville, 74); Costa, Mason, Cavaleiro (Enobakhare, 63); Dicko (Bodvarsson, 77). Subs: Burgoyne, Iorfa, Hause, Gibbs-White.

Goal: Mason (15)

Villa (4-4-1-1): Johnstone; Hutton, Chester (c), Elphick, Amavi; Adomah (Green, 67), Jedinak (Davis, 90), Tshibola (Grealish, 60), Bacuna; McCormack; Agbonlahor. Subs: Bunn, Westwood, Gardner.

Attendance: 27,255 (4,195 Villa fans)

Referee: Tony Harrington

Positions in the table

Wolves - 16th (32 points from 26 matches)

Villa - 13th (35 points from 26 matches)

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