Villa forced to settle for point
Gerard Houllier witnessed at first hand Aston Villa's strengths and weaknesses after they failed to provide caretaker-manager Kevin MacDonald with the perfect send-off in their 1-1 draw with Bolton.
New Villa boss Houllier, with assistant Gary McAllister joining him in the directors' box after the Scot was confirmed in the role just before kick-off, will believe he has plenty of talent to work with but will be concerned that it only shows itself in patches.
With MacDonald taking charge of his final game, Ashley Young scored in his fifth successive match against Bolton to give Villa an early lead, only for captain Kevin Davies to net a deserved equaliser for the visitors.
In a lively opening, Marc Albrighton curled in a cross-shot from the right with pace that forced goalkeeper Adam Bogdan into a fingertip save.
The 20-year-old then dragged narrowly wide a right-foot shot four minutes later, but the deadlock was broken after 13 minutes. After being fouled by Fabrice Muamba, Young picked himself up to curl a 24-yard free-kick around the wall.
But the early intensity soon waned before a lapse of concentration at the back allowed the visitors a route into the game.
Stuart Holden's flick to the far post was collected by Martin Petrov, who played a quick pass into an all-alone Davies standing just outside the six-yard box. With Villa's defence nowhere, Davies was allowed to turn and rifle into the roof of the net.
After a half-shout for a penalty when Johan Elmander appeared to be clipped by Richard Dunne, the Villa defence parted again just before the break. Collecting a through ball from Paul Robinson, Holden was given time and space to advance before rifling in a low 20-yard drive that was only a few inches away.
Villa responded after the interval with Stephen Ireland grazing the left-hand post with a flicked effort and Bogdan collecting a stinging drive from Stewart Downing at the second attempt.
At the other end, Brad Friedel saved well from Elmander and Holden, before brilliantly blocking a 22-yard free-kick from substitute Matthew Taylor.