• Manager refuses to be despondent over draw
• Villa players battled to find a way back in first half
Paul Lambert described Aston Villa's 2-2 draw against Swansea as "a huge point for the future of the football club", after three successive heavy defeats over the festive period had deepened relegation fears. Although Danny Graham scored a stoppage-time equaliser to deny Villa a much-needed win, Lambert refused to be despondent and praised his players for the mental strength they showed to find a way back into a game that looked to be beyond them for much of the first half.
Swansea were rampant in the opening half hour, when they took the lead through Wayne Routledge and hit the woodwork twice, but Andreas Weimann's goal just before the interval gave a callow Villa team – the average age of 23 years and 120 days made it their youngest ever starting XI in the Premier League – renewed belief.
Christian Benteke put Villa ahead six minutes from time, when the Belgium international converted from the penalty spot, before Graham earned Swansea a point that was the least they deserved. "It's a huge point but we should have saw the game through with 30 seconds to go," Lambert said. "But it's a massive turnaround. The second half I thought we were very good, we looked threatening. The first half Swansea came at us from all angles and we had to weather that storm. There were some good saves from Brad [Guzan] and they hit the woodwork but we also had chances in the second half. To get the goal just before half-time certainly helped us.
Asked whether it felt like two points dropped because of the timing of Graham's equaliser, Lambert replied: "No, I've got to turn it around because we have been beaten heavily the last three games. It's a huge point for the future of the football club. The young lads that are in it at the minute have been excellent. When you get beat heavy, you learn a lot from people and today showed me that mentally they're really strong. The lads have taken so much criticism in the last three weeks but today they deserve a lot of praise for what they've done."
Lambert's decision to drop Stephen Ireland and Brett Holman to the bench meant that the oldest outfield player in Villa's starting lineup was 23. "People go on about not having any experience but we have got experience in the team – it's just the lads are injured at the minute," the Villa manager said. "The club has had two or three years of being in a position where this ain't new to them. Experienced players, young players... you earn the right to go up the league. The future of the club is really, really good."