Crumbs of comfort? Or same old thing...?

I want to say straight away that I wasn't at the game on Saturday. Although I do try to get to as many away games as possible, I got stuck in Germany and the half-baked plans to get up to Wearside fell apart. So what I write about Saturday's game is, I admit, only a set of reflections on TV highlights, bits of Radio 5 comment caught via the internet, and the Sunday papers.

I doff my cap unconditionally to those Villans who were at the Stadium of Light: one fantastic thing about following Villa has always been the awesome away support. Respect. And if I've called it wrong, you can set me straight.

Sunderland is no easy place to go, and to that extent a point is a decent result. And from what I've seen and heard, the performance wasn't bad either. McLeish seems to have got the boys up for it, we seem to have played some decent stuff and actually gone out to win, and Petrov's goal was a peach, wasn't it?

I am still struggling to come to terms with the idea of Gabby out wide on the left and Heskey in midfield, but both seem to have had decent enough games. Gabby in particular seems to be starting to show himself a better creator of chances than a finisher of them. But surely there is no long-term future for a midfield structured around reconstitited strikers?

I'm sure McLeish loves the power and strength of Agbonlahor and Emile in midfield, but when we come to the big games and the big opponents, surely they will just get blown away? I watched Spurs' movement against QPR yesterday, and there's no way our midfield could cope with that.

But fair is fair: McLeish took the side to Sunderland and got a point. So I agree with Damian - at the very least it's a stay of execution.

For me, though, that's where the positives end

First of all, apparently the statistics show that Villa have now surrendered more leads than any other Premier League side. That says something to me about belief, and about confidence. To me, that's the manager's job. If McLeish can't instill belief in the players, then who can?

Beyond that, there is a tactical argument. With not much of the game left, McLeish brought on Marc Albrighton, for crying out loud. Is that the way to see a game out? All back to front for me, I'm afraid: even moving Emile Heskey back as a third central defender would have made greater sense (not that I'd advocate it). Whatever, these are worrying signs.

The other increasingly worrying statistic is Villa's woeful record in defending set pieces. We are conceding game after game from corners and free kicks. And there was I thinking that the selection of the beer boys, Dunne and Collins, week in week out at centre back was all about their experience and solidity. They look clumsy and clueless to me, and I think more and more of us are going to start wondering why we have decent footballers like Carlos Cuellar and Ciaran Clark getting splinters in their backsides from their time on the bench.

It's sod's law now - if they go straight into the side, they'll have had so little game time that they too will look clumsy. But I'd still go for it.

One more thing: why the hell are we persisting with Warnock at left back? Yes, Alex, he's big and strong and experienced too. But so is the bloke who plays left back for the Bear and Staff, my local pub, on a Sunday morning. The only thing is I think Andy has better positional sense than Warnock. Warnock gets caught in no-mans-land every weekend, but still we persist.

Not a bad result. And credit to McLeish for that. But I remain a Villa fan who hates our back four and hates the way our midfield is being set up. Still, on we go. Up the Villa.