Aston Villa 1-1 West Ham: Draws aren’t enough…

Date published: Saturday 26th December 2015 6:25

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Jordan Ayew rescued a point Aston Villa against West Ham, but draws won’t keep them up.

Remi Garde is still searching for his first win as Villa boss despite coming from behind to close the gap to safety.

Aaron Cresswell ended the Hammers’ goal drought with their first strike in 388 minutes but Ayew’s second-half penalty levelled.

Villa huffed and puffed without real quality and Rudy Gestede wasted two golden chances while Jordan Veretout was denied by Adrian.

A draw means they will have to win half of their remaining 20 games to meet boss Garde’s survival target of 10 victories.

They remain bottom and sit nine points from safety while the disappointing Hammers are on course for a season of mediocrity in mid-table.

Slaven Bilic’s side are now winless in eight games and they were second best for most of the afternoon and Villa came closet to opening the scoring on 17 minutes.

They had already begun to test the visitors problems before Gestede, back for Scott Sinclair, directed Veretout’s brilliant cross wide from eight yards.

Villa produced their most consistent half in the league this season and stretched the visitors with some snappy football.

Garde’s influence, almost two months after arriving, was evident with the manager trying to grant his players freedom in their dire situation.

Adrian saved Leandro Bacuna’s drive and then Gestede’s follow up as Villa pressed without making a dent.

In contrast the Hammers were limp going forward and it was easy to see why Bilic’s side had failed to score in their previous three matches.

Mauro Zarate had seen an early drive turned wide by Brad Guzan but it remained their sole chance as they continued to waste openings.

The Hammers were dangerous on the break but continued to falter in the final third with Enner Valencia and Michail Antonio guilty.

Antonio blazed over two minutes before the break but the Hammers did strike in first-half stoppage time to stun the hosts.

First, Valencia was given time on the edge of the box and, although he scuffed his shot, Cheikhou Kouyate deflected it onto the top of the bar.

It was a let-off for Villa but one they failed to heed when, a minute later, Cresswell was given time and space to unleash a rasping 20-yard drive which flew low past Guzan.

But Villa should have levelled four minutes after the break when Gestede planted a header over from seven yards.

He was then denied by Adrian, who had already saved well from Veretout, on 58 minutes as Villa pressed.

The keeper was finally beaten in the 62nd minute, though, after the hosts deservedly levelled.

Gestede managed to wriggle ahead of Angelo Ogbonna in a sprint to the ball and the West Ham man dragged him down inside the box.

Ayew sent Adrian the wrong way from the spot to breathe life into Villa Park.

Desperately searching for their first win since the opening day Villa continued to boss the game with the Hammers soaking up the pressure.

And the hosts came close to a winner with 15 minutes left when James Collins nodded Alan Hutton’s header off the line.

But Guzan had to ensure a point at the death when he turned Valencia’s deflected free kick wide.

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