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Aston Villa v Newcastle United half-time update

A first-half header from James Collins eases some of the pressure around Villa Park and gives Aston Villa a 1-0 lead over Newcastle United.

It could be classed as a must-win game at Villa Park as the home side need points to pull themselves away from the relegation places. Three points for Newcastle could virtually secure their Premier League status for another season - it was of course at Villa Park two years ago where Newcastle's relegation to the Championship was confirmed.

Gerard Houllier made four changes to the team that drew 2-2 at Everton last time out, with Stiliyan Petrov replacing Nigel Reo-Coker. For Newcastle (14/1 to win the game), Alan Pardew has been forced to make three changes from the win over Wolves, with Kevin Nolan, Shola Ameobi and Shane Ferguson making way for Nile Ranger, Steven Taylor and the now-fit Jose Enrique.

With the knowledge the four teams below Villa (1/4 to win the match) have all lost this weekend you would expect the home team to have come out all guns blazing, but neither side managed to take grip on the game for the opening periods and the first chance finally came for Newcastle on 13 minutes, when Joey Barton put a relatively simple header over the bar.

Nile Ranger missed a great chance minutes later but with 23 minutes on the clock Villa took the lead, as a whipped free-kick into the box from Ashley Young was diverted by Collins into the net to bring the Villa Park crowd to their feet.

With the crowd brought to voice following the opening goal it seemed inevitable that Villa would turn the screw on their opponents however, barring a few optimistic long-range efforts, Newcastle continued to hold firm in midfield despite missing Nolan and Tiote in the centre of the park.

Darren Bent (5/1 to be next goal scorer) missed a guilt-edged chance to put Villa 2-0 ahead on 37 minutes. Stewart Downing picked him out with a great ball but the England striker headed over the bar from only a few yards out, when a striker of his quality really should have hit the target.

Bent thought he had made amends on 44 minutes when he put the ball in the net only to be flagged offside when replays showed he could actually have been on. It was a very close call for the linesman.

There seems very little between the two teams so it promises to be a nervy second-half affair for Villa fans. With the attacking potential the home side has compared to Newcastle their support could be confident of adding to their advantage in the second 45 minutes.


Aston Villa: Friedel, Walker, Dunne, Collins, Luke Young, Downing, Petrov, Makoun, Ashley Young, Agbonlahor, Bent

Subs: Marshall, Pires, Albrighton, Heskey, Reo-Coker, Clark, Cuellar

Newcastle: Harper, Simpson, Steven Taylor, Williamson, Jose Enrique, Barton, Guthrie, Coloccini, Gutierrez, Ranger, Lovenkrands

Subs: Krul, Ryan Taylor, Ferguson, Donaldson, Tavernier, Richardson, Kuqi

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