West Brom missed the chance to clinch a first Premier League double over Aston Villa in a dour 0-0 draw at The Hawthorns.
Despite bottom-of-the-league Villa enduring a rotten campaign, Tony Pulis’ side have been lacking goals this season and they failed to register a shot on target in a derby they were expected to win.
The likes of £12million signing Salomon Rondon, who has just three goals to his name since arriving from Zenit, could not find a way past a Villa defence whose frailties are a major factor in their recent demise.
Villa are now unbeaten in five matches in all competitions, but manager Remi Garde must start to pick up wins if they are to stand any chance of avoiding relegation.
West Brom have now won just once in 2016 and their performances, particularly in attack, are very much those of a side who could yet get sucked into a relegation dogfight.
Idrissa Gueye, who came off the bench to score Villa’s second in the FA Cup win over Wycombe Wanderers, was restored to the starting line-up, but his industry in midfield went to waste as neither side mustered a shot on goal in the opening 20 minutes.
The first test for Ben Foster in the West Brom goal came when Jordan Ayew broke through and fired a low shot from the edge of the box that was well saved.
Villa pressed again and Carles Gil delivered a dangerous cross, only for Craig Dawson’s superb defensive header from underneath his own crossbar to prevent Leandro Bacuna from grabbing the opening goal.
In a first half that offered very little by way of attacking threat, Villa looked marginally the more likely to take the lead, with Ayew, Bacuna and Gil combining to good effect but Libor Kozak struggling to have an impact as a lone frontman.
Dawson flashed a header over the crossbar from James McClean’s free-kick early in the second half, before Stephane Sessegnon’s 20-yard drive flew wide as the home side began to turn up the heat on their local rivals.
Rondon started to probe at the Villa defence, and he should have hit the target when he met Craig Dawson’s cross at the near post and sent a first time shot well wide.
West Brom manager Pulis sent on Saido Berahino and Victor Anichebe to try and turn the game in the final half hour, but it was Villa substitute Rudy Gestede who almost opened the scoring, sending a header just wide from Ashley Westwood’s cross.
Gestede limped off clutching his hamstring moments later, before Westwood tested Foster himself with a low drive from outside the box, and Micah Richards sent a header just wide from the ensuing corner in the game’s final clear chance.
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