BIRMINGHAM: Darren Bent came off the bench to rescue a point for Aston Villa in their 1-1 Premier League draw at home to Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
Bent, Villa's club record signing, was among the substitutes as Paul Lambert started with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke up front.
The England striker, with national manager and ex-Baggies coach Roy Hodgson watching from the stands at Villa Park, had only been on the pitch 11 minutes when he cancelled out Shane Long's opening goal.
“Obviously it would have been nice to play from the start, but I managed to score the goal to get a point,” Bent told Sky Sports.
“It's obviously been a difficult couple of weeks, losing the captaincy first off, then finding out I wasn't playing today. But we battled all the way through and we got the point.
“The start of the season's been up and down. Obviously we had a good result against Swansea, but then we got beaten 4-1 by Southampton before getting a great result against Manchester City (in the League Cup).
“Today we showed signs that we are heading in the right direction and we've all got faith in the manager.”
The under-pressure Lambert added: “Darren's a big part of (this squad) – everybody knows he's a goalscorer.
“I decided on the lads up front but I don't value anybody higher than anybody else. To do well we need everybody.”
Sunday's result left Villa two points clear of the bottom three.
Long missed a chance to give West Brom – who have lost just once in their first six league games this term – an early lead when he headed wide from close range.
But Villa eased their way into the match and it needed a finger-tip save from Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster to divert Brett Holman's long-range shot over the crossbar.
Foster then made another good save when he turned away a Holman shot that deflected off Billy Jones.
However, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock in the 51st minute when Long turned in James Morrison's low cross for his fourth goal of the season.
Bent came on mid-way through the second half, in place of Benteke, and 10 minutes from time the striker turned in a loose ball after Ciaran Clark's volley from a Barry Bannan corner was blocked.
Albion almost won the match late on when substitute Roman Lukaku twice went close to regaining the lead for the Baggies.
The striker, on loan from Premier League leaders Chelsea, first saw a shot deflect off Clark onto a post and then saw another effort come off the legs of Villa keeper Brad Guzan.