Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert was full of praise for centre-backs Jores Okore and Ciaran Clark following his side’s 1-1 draw with Southampton at Villa Park.
Villa were forced into three changes at the back due to injuries to captain Ron Vlaar, Philippe Senderos and Nathan Baker.
But after taking the lead in the 29th minute through Gabriel Agbonlahor they almost held out for a 1-0 win until Nathaniel Clyne levelled eight minutes from time to rescue a point for Saints.
“I thought we played well,” Lambert told Sky Sports. “We have got six players out, three of them centre-backs, and [Christian] Benteke, [Libor] Kozak and [Fabian] Delph. Those are big players for this club and a lot for us to carry, but I have to say I think the two centre-backs tonight were outstanding.
“Jores has been out for 14 months and he was fantastic. Ciaran grew up in there, he took the lead role and was outstanding.”
While the late equaliser denied Villa a much-needed victory, it is their second draw in a row and moves them up to 16th in the Premier League. It also provides a decent platform ahead of a crucial December that sees them face Crystal Palace, Leicester, West Brom and Sunderland.
“It’s a big point,” said Lambert. “You have to give Southampton credit, they have swept everyone before them and won a lot of games, but the way we played I thought we deserved a lot of credit.
“It’s a key period really from now to May, every game, every weekend is a challenge. It’s a challenge you have to rise to. I have dealt with pressure all my life, as a footballer and manager, that’s part and parcel of the game. You have problems and the secret is to find a solution."
The game was watched by Villa's lowest Premier League crowd since 1999, but Lambert defended the club's supporters.
"People paid hard-earned money and they are still getting behind you, that's what this team needs," he said. "They have been great, I've got nothing but compliments for the supporters here."