London: Aston Villa ended a difficult week with a 0-0 draw at home to Southampton on Saturday that inched them closer to safety in the Premier League.
Villa suspended assistant manager Ian Culverhouse and head of football operations Gary Karsa earlier this week, following a run of four successive defeats that had seen Paul Lambert`s side slither towards the bottom three.
They snapped the sequence by avoiding defeat against an enterprising Southampton team, but they are not safe yet as the result left them only five points clear of the relegation zone with four matches to play.
Despite Villa`s pressing need for points, it was eighth-place Southampton who made all the early running at Villa Park, dominating possession in trademark fashion.
In the fifth minute Luke Shaw hared down the left flank and crossed for Rickie Lambert, who put his header straight at Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan, and moments later the England striker saw a shot deflected wide.
Mid-way through the half, Steven Davis was presented with a clear sight of goal after Nathan Baker inexplicably left James Ward-Prowse`s cross, but the Northern Irishman`s shot was brilliantly saved by Guzan.
Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc, back in the team after a back problem, was a virtual spectator during the first half, with Villa failing to muster a single attempt at goal.
The hosts corrected that statistic early in the second half, but Karim El Ahmadi`s effort was tame and Boruc fielded it comfortably.
Southampton captain Adam Lallana then squandered a good opportunity when he completely miscued from a Shaw cross and Marc Albrighton almost punished him, only for the Villa winger`s shot to be saved at the second attempt by Boruc.
Moments later Lallana had the ball in the net after neatly controlling a long ball, but the goal was ruled out for a clear offside.
Southampton coach Mauricio Pochettino sent on Sam Gallagher for Ward-Prowse and the teenage striker almost made an immediate impact, stabbing a cross from Lambert towards goal, but Guzan saved.