DARREN BENT CAME off the bench to clinch a hard-earned 1-1 draw for Aston Villa against West Bromwich Albion.
Both teams cancelled each other out in a scrappy first half but the contest came alive after the break as Paul Lambert’s side fought back after the visitors got their noses in front.
Shane Long put the visitors ahead in the West Midlands derby at Villa Park early in the second half before Bent earned his team a point on 80 minutes.
Long had the best of the early chances and should have done better with a free header from six yards after James Morrison towered above a static Villa defence to pick out the Irishman with a headed pass.
Fabian Delph was fortunate to escape with just a booking after a dangerous lunging challenge on Chris Brunt but Villa gradually took a foothold in midfield and Australian attacker Brett Holman was finding plenty of space just outside West Brom’s penalty area.
Ben Foster was forced into action as he tipped Holman’s 30-yard thunderbolt just over the bar and, soon after, the Aussie screwed another effort wide of the target after good work from Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Injuries to captain Brunt and Billy Jones before the break did not help Steve Clarke’s men as both were substituted prior to half-time.
West Brom came out firing after the interval and gave a warning of what was to come when Long netted, but his effort was ruled offside.
Villa failed to heed the warning and on 51 minutes they were punished when Morrison beat the offside trap to send in a cross that Ron Vlaar could only divert into the path of Long, who scored from close range.
Lambert made three substitutions in five minutes soon after and two of them were involved in the leveller.
Barry Bannan’s cross was headed on by Vlaar and then Ciaran Clark’s volley was blocked – only for Bent to strike from close range.
In a grandstand finish, Bent almost claimed the points for Villa but he scooped a 20-yard effort just wide. West Brom emerged from being under pressure to almost to grab the spoils but Romelu Lukaku’s angled drive was blocked by Brad Guzan as the sides took a point each.