Villa, Stoke in goalless stalemate
Aston Villa, featuring for the first time since October out-of-favour striker Darren Bent, and Stoke played out a goalless draw at Villa Park on Saturday.
Villa boss Paul Lambert kept the same line-up that drew 1-1 at Queens Park Rangers with Bent taking up position on the bench.
His Stoke counterpart Tony Pulis made one change from the 1-0 win over West Brom, with Dean Whitehead replacing the suspended Charlie Adam.
Peter Crouch, who had two teeth knocked out against Newcastle recently, was named as a sub against his former club.
Villa were the stronger in the goalless first half, with captain Gabriel Agbonlahor leading the attacks against Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic, the holder of more clean sheets this campaign - eight - than any of his Premier League rivals.
Begovic was fortunate to escape though when Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross somehow managed to block a volley from Villa striker Christian Benteke, the only decent effort of the half.
Barely quarter of an hour after the restart Villa were pleading for a penalty after Agbonlahor appeared to be pushed by Stoke defender Ryan Shotton but the referee turned a deaf ear.
In an attempt to break the deadlock Lambert sent on Â£24 million striker Bent for the first time since October to provide some added venom in attack alongside Benteke - Agbonlahor making way.
Bent's appearance was greeted with vociferous approval by the Villa fans.
Shortly after Pulis introduced Crouch.
With two minutes remaining Stoke were reduced to 10-men when Shotton was sent off after picking up a second booking following contact with Fabian Delph.
The stalemate left Stoke, unbeaten now in their last six Premier League outings, in ninth while Villa, who had enjoyed the bulk of possession here, slipped down a place to 16th - just two points above the relegation zone.
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