Aston Villa recorded another vital point in their survival bid after holding in-form Stoke to goalless draw at Villa Park.
The stalemate extended Villa’s unbeaten run to four games and keeps them two points clear of the relegation zone as Paul Lambert prepares for a tough festive fixture list starting with a trip to Liverpool next week.
Potters boss Tony Pulis will be concerned that his side failed to break down the home side, who’ve also struggled in front of goals this season, and push themselves into contention for a European place.
Once again the talking pre-match point talking points were dominated by Lambert’s decision to leave Darren Bent out of the starting lineup despite coming up against a side renowned for their defensive strength.
Christian Benteke was again lead the line for Villa but couldn’t continue his recent goalscoring form although that was in large part down to Stoke skipper Ryan Shawcross, who produced a stunning block to stop the Belgian’s stinging volley from beating Asmir Begovic in the 12th minute.
Frustrations threatened to spill over when Ciaran Clark barged into Glenn Whelan just before the interval, sparking a slight skirmish that was quickly diffused by referee Roger East.
Both teams struggled to fashion any clear cut chances in the first half and it wasn’t until after the break that Benteke threatened again, but he could only shoot tamely at Begovic from Matthew Lowton’s knock down.
The visitors continued to look impotent in attack and their chances of leaving the Midlands with all three points were extinguished when Ryan Shotton was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 90th minute.
Shotton became the first player to be shown yellow card for back chatting an official, before being sent for an early bath after hacking down Fabian Delph.