Michael Turner's late header gave Norwich a deserved point against 10-man Aston Villa
Preamble Meeting the ex for the first time is a strange experience. On the one hand, the prospect can be intimidating, uncomfortable, painful, regretful, nostalgic. On the other the actual experience can be weirdly emboldening. Whether you're the dumper, the dumpee or you split by "mutual consent", the desire to win the unspoken battle of who has gone to pot the least can bring out an arrogant side in even the meekest characters. It's like you borrow a different personality for the night: more confident, assured and, in theory, desirable. People also go to the trouble of dressing up, wearing a minimiser if they are a man and a maximiser if they are a woman. Here, my stupid little former lover, is what you could have won. There are even suggestions – although the Guardian has not been able to verify these – that some people even splash on a bit of cologne and spend much longer than usual in front of the mirror.
So long as you don't inadvertently shout "I NEVER LOVED YOU ANYWAY, THE BLOODY ZERO 7 CDs WERE MINE AND YOUR BEEF STROGANOFF PALPABLY NEEDED MORE SALT!" it should go reasonably well and you can go away feeling better about yourself. That's what Paul Lambert and Norwich hope will happen at Villa Park today. Both have looked a little lost without each other in the early part of the season: Norwich, like Lambert's Villa, have won only one out of eight league games.
There is a burgeoning sense that Lambert, who seems to have all the tools to become what Jamie Redknapp's even more excitable alter ego would call a top, top, top, top, top, top, top manager, might just have taken a wrong turn by going to Villa. This may just be London-based-media ignorance – and apologies if so – but it does seem a bit of a nothing job at a club which is stuck in no team's land: too mediocre to go down, too mediocre to make an impression. It would be interesting to know what Lambert thinks he can achieve. He'll be fine in the medium term – it would not be at all surprising if he were the next British manager to get one of the big jobs – but it might get worse before it gets better.
The first Premier League meeting between these sides came at Villa Park in November 1992, a minor classic that Norwich won 3-2. Look at the league table after that game. How much better football was when smaller teams could be seen and heard.
Prediction on which you are advised not to stake your last Rolo, never mind your mortgage: Villa 1-1 Norwich
Team news Darren Bent has been dropped again. Remember when scoring goals was a virtue?
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Guzan, Lowton, Herd, Vlaar, Bennett, Albrighton, El Ahmadi, Delph, Holman; Agbonlahor, Benteke.
Subs: Given, Ireland, Bent, Westwood, Bannan, Weimann, Lichaj.
Norwich (4-2-3-1): Ruddy; R Martin, Bassong, Turner, Garrido; Tettey, Johnson; E Bennett, Hoolahan, Pilkington; Holt.
Subs: Rudd, Snodgrass, Howson, Jackson, Morison, Barnett, R Bennett.
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)
"I'm a Villa fan," apologises Danny Marsh. "I am also planning my first meeting with an ex next week. How about some advice for me to come out on top? I should wear a clean jumper, right? A Villa 2-1 today!"
We'll get the crack MBM team on it. First we need to knew a few things. Was it an acrimonious split? Who dumped who? Did she cook Beef Stroganoff?
1 min Norwich kick off from right to left. They are in canary yellow; Villa are in claret y blue.
2 min "Asking the MBM followers for advice on exes is an futile one," says Alex Netherton. "To have an ex you'd have to have had a relationship."
That reads suspiciously like banter, Alex.
3 min It's been an urgent start from Norwich, who are snapping the ball around confidently. Villa look a bit tentative.
4 min "It was sort of mutual but she was the one that actually ended it," says Danny Marsh. "On the phone. Haven't seen her since. She never cooked anything. Ever."
Anyone got any advice for Danny's big night?
5 min There's a nice autumn sunshine over Villa Park, although I suspect it's still bloody freezing. The game isn't really going anywhere at the moment, Norwich having regressed towards the mean after their smart start.
7 min Gabby Agbonlahor, who at 26 is Villa's senior Premier League player today, wins the first corner of the match down the left. It's drilled deep and Benteke's looping header goes gently over the bar.
8 min Holman comes infield from the left and plays a crisp angled pass into Benteke on the edge of the area. He is dispossessed but the loose ball comes to Holman, who was following up the play, and he hits a gentle 20-yard pass that is comfortably saved by Ruddy.
10 min "Advice for Danny Marsh," says Naman Vijay. "Take a super hot date with you." I think I may just have spotted one tiny flaw in your plan ...
11 min "Just sipping on a coffee in the south of France," says my colleague Ian McCourt, aka the nicest man in journalism, "and thought I'd email into the MBM and say hi." You just wanted to let us know you're in the south of France, didn't you?
13 min Hoolahan, the best player on the pitch so far, invites a long-range shot from Tettey. He scuffs it and it's blootered clear.
14 min Why the hell doesn't Wes Hoolahan get in the Ireland team? He's an actual footballer.
15 min A long spell of Norwich possession with a tame long-range shot from Elliott Bennett. Norwich have certainly been the better team thus far.
16 min "How to deal with meeting the ex?" says Craig Smaaskjaer. "Don't turn up. It is the only answer to the thief's dilemma that is meeting the ex. The questions you have posited that will remain unanswered are surpassed only by the questions this non-attendance (with no prior warning given! – this is pivotal) creates. You might say this is a fairly mean spirited thing to do. I say yes, MBM. Yes it is. Don't think it would work for Norwich today though."
17 min Norwich might have had a penalty there. It looked completely innocuous, as Vlaar and Elliott Bennett ran to meet a ball by the left edge of the box, but on reflection I think Vlaar did trip Bennett. I'm not sure Phil Dowd had the best view.
18 min Villa win a free kick on the right. Albrighton takes his time, an age in fact, considering his options. He's practiced this skill so many times in his life, surely he's mastered it now? Surely he'll do something special now.
He curves it straight onto a Norwich head. Dear oh dear.
19 min Villa fans, as always in the 19th minute of home games, break into a minute's applause for Stan Petrov.
22 min Guzan makes a vital save from Hoolahan. That was the first big chance of the game. Holt and Hoolahan reversed their usual roles, with Holt providing for Hoolahan. A long goal kick broke to him just outside the area, and he flicked an excellent short-range through pass for Hoolahan, who had run beyond the defence. He took a touch and then tried to sweep a left-footed shot into the right corner, but Guzan deflected it wide for a corner. That's an excellent save, although Hoolahan should probably have scored.
24 min "Danny...here is an idea," says Alan McDonald. "Got a smartphone? Change the names of two male contacts to females. Then add smoking hot pics to the contacts, leave your phone on the table and have them call 45 minutes or so apart. When she inevitably asks who they are, hesitate slightly and say 'friends' then move the subject quickly on. You are welcome." Have you been watching Magnolia?
25 min Norwich continue to look much the better side. Hoolahan clips an angled pass to Holt, beyond the far post, and his header back across the face of goal is claimed by the diving Guzan.
GOAL! Aston Villa 1-0 Norwich (Benteke 27) What an excellent goal from Christian Benteke. The scoreline may be almost scandalous, given Norwich's dominance, but he took the goal beautifully. Agbonlahor did well with his back to goal, holding off Bassong and playing the ball wide to Holman on the left. As he did so, Benteke pulled away from the two centre-backs to find space near the penalty spot. Bennett's low cross came straight to him, and he took a touch before placing a lovely, calm shot into the far corner as Ruddy dived the other way. Expert stuff.
30 min "Is the nicest man in journalism in Marseille for tomorrow night's 'Olympico'?" says Phil Booth. "And re: meeting the ex – if there's any chance either of you might cry, arrange to meet in a quiet place, preferably with potplants etc to hide behind, and a quick route to the toilets."
32 min Villa have been awful in possession.
35 min A summary of the memorable action of the last five minutes:
38 min An excellent angled pass from El Ahmadi leaves Benteke one on one with Garrido (I think) to the right of the box. He cuts back infield and hits a left-footed shot that is deflected wide for a corner. The corner is claimed easily by Ruddy.
40 min A nice move from Norwich. Hoolahan wins a 50-50 with Delph 25 yards from goal and then plays a good ball down the outside for the onrushing Martin. He smashes a low cross along the face of the six-yard box which Herd, facing his own goal, does very well to hoof away for a corner.
42 min "If she's never cooked and dumped you on the phone, you're better off alone," says Martin Wills. "Sort of like being an admitted Villa fan this season."
45 min There will be one additional minute of this confused nonsense. Even Alan Parry, one of the most optimistic commentators of modern times, sounds bored and vaguely disgusted as another aimless pass disappears into touch.
Half time: Aston Villa 1-0 Norwich City A low-heartrate finish from Christian Benteke separates the sides. See you in 10 minutes.
"Best league in the world," says Silver Fox. "What. Oh."
46 min Villa kick off from right to left. Having seen a replay of Hoolahan's chance, it seems I was more than a little generous to Holt. It wasn't a through pass, just a mishit shot. Anyway, Norwich have made a half-time substitution, with Ryan Bennett replacing the injured Russell Martin.
46 min Villa almost score inside 40 seconds. A rubbish square pass from Hoolahan allows Albrighton to break down the right. He runs 45 yards and then dumps over a deep cross beyond the far post, where Benteke gets above his man to thump a downward header that is smothered by the sprawling Ruddy. It was a pretty comfortable save.
48 min "If you've been together long enough she'll see through the pretense, Danny," says Dr Phil Podolsky. "And besides you probably have enough mutual friends to keep her informed that you're holed up in that grimy one-room apartment, screaming abuse at your neighbours in four languages whenever they complain about your habit of blaring Captain Beefheart records at night. So drop that passing yourself off as a functioning member of society lark out of the windae, son, you're not fooling anyone."
49 min Alan Parry is so bored that he has just observed that we have three Bennetts on the field. He didn't add that none of them are called Gordon, but there's plenty of time yet.
50 min A shout of "Oh for f-" is audible on the commentary, presumably from someone at pitchside. I don't know how those pitchside microphones work but that was some quick editing, and with lovely comic timing as well.
52 min: JOE BENNETT IS SENT OFF FOR ASTON VILLA Joe Bennett gets his second yellow card for a cynical block on Elliott Bennett, who tried to play a one-two down the right. I missed his first yellow card – oh, me – but there's no doubt the second was a fair decision. Elliott Bennett was getting away from him and Joe Bennett pulled him back.
54 min Elliott Bennett's overhit cross almost sneaks in at the far post, with Guzan shovelling it away. Villa have made a substitution, bringing on the left-back Eric Lichaj for Gabby Agbonlahor.
56 min "If a certain Mr. Suarez committed an outrageous dive like that just perpetrated by good old Grant Holt a few minutes ago," says Roy Allen, "he'd be run out of the country." Yeah but Grant Holt isn't a foreigner, so what's your point?
59 min It seems Joe Bennett was booked shortly after the Villa goal for taking a shortcut through Elliott Bennett.
60 min This is utter rubbish I'm afraid.
61 min If this match was a cat it would be set to make the acquaintance of a bag of bricks.
62 min Johnson plays a good angled pass to Elliott Bennett, who has run off the left-back Lichaj. A good first touch will take him in on goal. He chests it out for a goal-kick.
63 min Chris Herd is booked for putting his person about Grant Holt.
64 min Guzan makes another vital save from Hoolahan. A diabolical pass from Vlaar went straight to Hoolahan, 30 yards from goal. He played the ball wide to Pilkington, ran into the area for the return and then, from a tight angle to the left of the six-yard box, smashed a shot that hit Guzan and went away for a corner. Before it is taken, Norwich replace Elliott Bennett with Robert Snodgrass.
66 min Norwich have had almost Barcelona levels of possession since the dismissal of Bennett (J), but they still aren't really getting behind Villa. They've had only two shots on target all game.
68 min Great defending by Vlaar! Snodgrass's deep cross from the right was headed back across the face by Holt. Hoolahan was about to head it in from a few yards when Vlaar jumped in to head the ball away. Moments later he does just enough to put off Holt, who heads Garrido's cross wide.
70 min A substitution per side: Steve Morison replaces Bradley Johnson, and Darren Bent comes on for Christian Benteke.
71 min Villa's defending is getting more desperate by the minute, with Herd diving towards his own goal to head a cross away for a corner. When that's half cleared, Snodgrass's 20-yard shot is blocked by the backside of Lowton. A Norwich goal isn't just in the post; it's been sent by recorded delivery.
73 min "I've genuinely seen better quality football over the park on a Sunday morning," says Silver Fox. "You understand now why I'm concerned about us going down this season?"
Villa won't go down. Have you seen some of the other sides? Since money ruined the Premier League, there are usually enough poor teams that you are never too bad to stay up.
74 min The Anglia tiki-taka continues, although Villa have limited Norwich to very few actual real-life chances. The two centre-halves, Vlaar and Herd, are putting a serious shift in now.
75 min "I've always wondered exactly how tedious it must be to be a Villa fan," says Johny Bennett. "All those years of mediocrity stretching back decades, the football equivalent of the loveless, sexless, duty-bound marriage. Many of them must secretly pray for relegation for a change of scenery."
76 min Andreas Weimann replaces Brett Holman.
77 min Guzan makes a crucial save from Holt to keep Villa ahead. Holt played a one-two near the halfway line with the excellent Hoolahan and ran through on goal, muscling Delph aside almost disdainfully. He ran into the area and tried to sidefoot the ball under Guzan, who flew from his line to make a vital saved with his legs.
GOAL! Aston Villa 1-1 Norwich (Turner 79) That, it's fair to say, was coming. Snodgrass's shot was blocked desperately by Vlaar at the expense of yet another corner on the right. With Villa sleeping and/or catching breath, Snodgrass took the corner short to Hoolahan, who clipped over a lovely, inviting cross towards the near post. Michael Turner got a run on Herd and flicked an accomplished header that clattered off the inside of the far post before bouncing into the net.
80 min If Norwich relax now, and are content with a draw, they should be shot.
81 min "Will Danny be providing a MBM report of his forthcoming date?" says Lynne Hyland. "I for one will be glued."
82 min Norwich are bombing Villa now. A long angled free-kick is nodded down by Morison towards Holt, who spins and is about to shoot when Vlaar smashes the ball away.
84 min Herd is struggling with injury, and Villa have used all their subs. They are almost out on their feet after being pummeled incessantly for 25 minutes solid.
85 min Alan Smith has just pointed out on Sky that Herd should have been sent off. When Hoolahan played that return pass for Holt's chance in the 77th minute, he was clattered by Herd, who has already been booked. That was a stunningly inadequate piece of refereeing from Phil Dowd. There was no reason at all not to give Herd a second yellow card once the ball went dead.
86 min "We've defended directly in front of the keeper, given the ball away with virtually every pass of the game and since going down to 10 men we've subbed off any forwards we've got who can defend," says Anthony Hull. "I just don't know where we've gone wrong?"
88 min A moronic foul by Delph on the outstanding Hoolahan gives Norwich a free-kick 25 yards from goal. It's a fair way right of centre, so Snodgrass will swing it in. He swings it in and miles over the head of everybody for a goal-kick.
89 min Norwich's intensity has dropped a bit since the goal. On the one hand that's human nature; on the other it's just not good enough. A win is so obviously there for the taking.
90 min Morison's header hits the arm of Vlaar in the penalty area, but there were only around 2.1 millimetres between the two players and it would have been a desperately harsh penalty decision.
90+1 min There will be four additional minutes of oxygen-gulping for Aston Villa. On Sky, Alan Smith gives Wes Hoolahan the Man of the Match award; he is such a classy footballer.
90+2 min Ryan Bennett misses a great chance! Pilkington's cleared was deflected across the box to Bennett, 15 yards out, but he was leaning back and slashed a half-volley high over the bar.
90+5 min Another chance for Norwich. A driven, left-to-right pass is headed down by Ryan Bennett towards Snodgrass, only a few yards from goal, and his attempted volleyed lob drifts onto the top of the net. It wasn't an easy chance, because he was under pressure and also running away from goal.
Full time: Aston Villa 1-1 Norwich City It's hard to know what to make of that game. Norwich will be happy that they were the better side but will know they should have won it; Villa will be happy they got a point after being outplayed but know they have some very tough fixtures to come. On this evidence they are a poor side. Thanks for your emails; bye.