The midlands outfit took the lead in the 33rd minute when Marc Albrighton prodded in Gabriel Agbonlahor's cross and Stiliyan Petrov doubled their advantage six minutes later with a strike that went in off former Villa man Gary Cahill.

Ivan Klasnic reduced the deficit 10 minutes into the second half but Wanderers could not salvage a point as the visitors held firm, demonstrating a resilience that McLeish was particularly pleased with.

"I'm delighted to get the first away win of the season," McLeish said.

"It's been a long time coming - we have thrown away a couple of opportunities, so well done to the players for digging deep at the end under a barrage of Bolton attacks.

"It is credit to their mental toughness, and hopefully that is improving after capitulating at a couple of other away venues."

Villa's 2-0 lead at half-time was fully merited after they dominated the opening 45 minutes.

Petrov and Darren Bent squandered good opportunities before the deadlock was broken, with the latter also being guilty of a glaring miss after the break.

Asked if he thought the victory should have been more comfortable, McLeish - whose side are now up to eighth in the Barclays Premier League - said: "I think so. Bolton were always in it, and certainly were when they got the early goal in the second half.

"We maybe switched off a wee bit in terms of the things we had been doing in the first half.

"But after they got that early goal, we were prepared for a battle.

"The first-half performance was very good. There were a couple of good goals, although we did miss two or three chances."

As well as being their seventh defeat in eight home league games, this was Bolton's 12th loss overall from 15 top-flight fixtures this term and they have slumped to the bottom of the table.

Manager Owen Coyle - who confirmed Klasnic had come off due to a twisted knee - bemoaned his side's defending and expressed his concern at the attitude they had shown in the first half.

"Disappointment is an understatement, because we were at home and looking to win the game and start moving up the league," Coyle said.

"It is a horrible feeling. I thought the game started evenly with two teams looking quite nervous, but then we conspired towards our own downfall.

"Aston Villa have some very good players, but we made four or five individual mistakes within the first goal - it was self-inflicted.

"Then you are looking for a reaction, for people to show a bit of guts, desire and hunger for the football club, but if the truth be told, for a few minutes, they looked as if they felt sorry for themselves, and that allowed Aston Villa to get a second goal.

"It is a good strike from Petrov which has hit Gary Cahill and spun in, but if we had been shutting down that wouldn't have transpired.

"At half-time I asked, if nothing else, for them to show that they care for the club in the second half, and they did that.

"There were still some mistakes, but it was a much better performance and much more like ourselves.

"But it is not good enough to just do it for the duration of a second half, it has to be for the entirety of a match.

"When we do that, we have shown we can pick up points and win games."