EPL: More misery for Aston Villa
(Charlie Austin 17, 69)
ASTON VILLA 0
While one struggling team pull away from the foot of the table, another begins to plummet.
Queens Park Rangers' victory yesterday morning (Singapore time) was a reward for a second consecutive performance of great spirit and ambition. Aston Villa's defeat only deepened the misery in the Midlands.
Harry Redknapp is on the up. Paul Lambert's side are in serious trouble.
This wasn't just a defeat - it was Aston Villa's fifth successive defeat. Worse than that, it was the fifth successive game in which the Villans have failed to score.
For this arid drought, there are some acceptable explanations. Star striker Christian Benteke missed the start of the season and, though he made his second league start of the campaign yesterday, he was obviously short of match fitness.
But Benteke was not aided by his flanking forwards, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann, neither of whom managed to provide adequate support.
Behind him, Carlos Sanchez was energetic but limited, while Tom Cleverley completed 89 per cent of his passes, only three of which were long and the majority of which were either backwards or square.
In short, Villa lacked the imagination to find a way through a rearguard that had conceded 18 goals in the last eight games.
Lambert chose to blame his defence for the defeat, which was a fair point given how many problems they had dealing with Bobby Zamora and Charlie Austin, hardly the most dynamic or prestigious front line in the English Premier League.
The problem for Lambert is that he has had over two seasons with this squad and they don't seem to be improving.
He has worked in difficult circumstances, cutting a dangerously inflated wage bill and working for an owner who has obviously lost his enthusiasm for the club.
It's not as if he can spend his way out of trouble. The problem is that Villa's supporters wouldn't trust him even if he could.
The Facebook page of the Birmingham Mail was swamped yesterday with furious supporters venting their spleens about Lambert's many perceived failures.
As well as mounting discontent with tactics and style, there is a growing anger about the way the limited transfer funds have been spent.
Summer-signing Joe Cole was a second-half substitute and looked exhausted within minutes of crossing the white line.
Neither Philippe Senderos nor Kieran Richardson played, but neither could be said to have taken the team forward. Sanchez certainly put a shift in, though his touch looks heavy.
But, of all the players Lambert has recruited, only Ashely Westwood, Ron Vlaar and Benteke can be said to have been successes.
There are scores of players, lured in from all over the world, who have fallen well short of expectations.
The common belief at the start of the campaign was that Roy Keane had been installed as a manager-in-waiting for when Villa hit a sticky patch, but Keane is a highly unconventional individual with entrenched views on the concept of loyalty.
This isn't to say that he definitely wouldn't take the job, but his ascension is certainly not as simple a solution as it seems.
Indeed, nothing is simple at this club any more. They have an owner who wants to leave, limited resources, a furious fan base, a sub-standard squad and a managerial duo whose credibility is beginning to fade.
Villa may not have achieved much in recent years, but they are one of the most storied clubs in the Premiership.
They are former European champions and they reside in the timeless elegance of Villa Park, a stadium that used to be a regular choice as venue for the FA Cup semi-finals.
They are also one of only seven clubs never to have been relegated from the EPL. That may change if they can't get out of this miserable run of form.