GUS Poyet received further confirmation at the weekend that the patient, passing style of football he is incubating at Sunderland is starting to bear fruit.
And while he is aware it won’t set the pulses of the neutral fan racing, he also knows it will offer Sunderland’s best chance of escape from the Premier League relegation zone this season.
“I know some people say the way we play is slow,” he noted after securing his first away point as Sunderland head coach in the 0-0 draw at Villa Park.
“I apologise for that, if you want that, but it is our way.
“We need to play and maintain the pace of the game that we want, not the way the opposition wants.
“Sometimes it is slow, but it is a step for the players – we will play quicker when we get better, when we are in a better situation.
“It is our way of playing.
“I don’t know if you can say it is good or bad, it is just a way of playing.
“But in our position it is important that we control the game as much as we can and this way helps us do that.”
There was very little for the 33,036 present to get excited about, with Villa star striker Christian Benteke, now without a goal in seven appearances, largely anonymous in attack and even substituted before full-time.
The dour encounter proved a far cry from Villa’s 6-1 success in last season’s corresponding fixture in April.
Wes Brown took his place in Sunderland’s starting XI having seen last week’s controversial red card at Stoke rescinded upon appeal, manager Poyet making three changes from the 2-0 defeat at the Britannia Stadium.
Both sides enjoyed half-chances inside the opening five minutes, Agbonlahor heading wide at the back post while Andrea Dossena – one of those recalled for the Black Cats alongside Borini and ex-Villa midfielder Craig Gardner – fired into the side-netting at the other end.
However, the opening quarter of a cagey clash was dominated by a lack of quality in the final third with neither goalkeeper forced into a real save of note.
The hosts lived dangerously during a couple of Sunderland corners but the away side lacked the cutting edge to take advantage.
The first clear chance went the way of Villa in the 29th minute but an unmarked Benteke could only fire high and wide from 12 yards.
Sebastian Larsson curled a free-kick narrowly off target for the visitors while Delph let go of an effort from long-range.
Gardner had the ball in the net just prior to half-time but was rightly flagged for offside, before Giaccherini – in plenty of space – somehow put over the crossbar from four yards having been found by Phil Bardsley’s header.
Villa started the second half the brighter of the two sides but Vito Mannone was merely forced into a couple of routine stops.
The game’s closest opening came in the 66th minute as Borini header Giaccherini’s left-wing cross against the woodwork.
Poyet and Lambert made changes as they went of search of a late winner, Benteke being replaced by Libor Kozak, but neither side could find anything in the final third as both sides were forced to settle for a share of the spoils.