Football: Barrett propels Villa past tired Tottenham: Houghton injects life into Villa's season

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ASTON VILLA rescued what threatens to become a season of disappointment in the League by advancing to the last four of the Coca- Cola Cup last night when goals from Ray Houghton and Earl Barrett installed them in today's semi- final draw for a record ninth time.

Tottenham were the better side for more than half the game, with Darren Anderton a livewire creator, but their young team tired in the mud, and Villa's old sweats took charge in the last half-hour.

For Spurs, sinking fast in the League, defeat was a major blow. With just one home win in the last three months, they are dependent on a good run in the FA Cup to bolster both morale and the dwindling bank balance which is preventing Ossie Ardiles from strengthening a threadbare squad.

For Villa, the old League Cup could be the last hurrah for the ageing side who fell at the final hurdle of the championship last season. If they have the look of a team growing old together, Spurs are a bunch of youngsters, lacking an experienced focus.

Neither of them are a match for Manchester United, but they were a good match for each other in a real mudlark on a rain-soaked pitch.

Tottenham were first out of the traps and might have had an early goal to reward their assertive start.

Anderton, always dangerous, was put away by Justin Edinburgh after a quarter of an hour and accelerated through the middle before unleashing a powerful shot which rebounded out off Mark Bosnich's right-hand post.

The eager winger made good ground to retrieve the ball and put over a cross which demanded a better finish than Sol Campbell's inaccurate header.

Anderton was soon back, setting up Jason Dozzell for a skimming shot which brought a smart save from Bosnich, reaching low to his right.

Villa dug in, then hit back and with play switching from end to end in time-honoured fashion Dean Saunders demanded an impressive save from Thorstvedt with a scorching free-kick.

Water is not Paul McGrath's strong point, but that most sociable of Irishmen is still the best centre- half in the country and, after going AWOL at the weekend, he returned with a storming performance.

On the rare occasions when his authority was challenged, Bosnich was more than equal to the task, denying Dozzell and Samways with sprawling interventions.

Spurs were already showing signs of fatigue when Campbell withdrew after 52 minutes, complaining of cramp.

Worse was to follow, Villa scoring five minutes later when Dalian Atkinson dispossessed Vinny Samways to set up Houghton, who drilled the ball low into Thorstvedt's right-hand corner from 15 yards.

Darren Caskey equalised after 63 minutes when his 12-yard shot was deflected past Bosnich by Shaun Teale's lunging leg, but parity was shortlived. Villa were ahead again within five minutes when the Spurs defence melted before a Garry Parker corner, leaving Barrett to head past Thorstvedt from negligible range.

There was no way back. Kevin Richardson now had a stranglehold on the midfield, and it was Villa who came closest to adding to the score when Saunders beat the offside trap, only to make a hash of taking the ball round the goalkeeper.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-1-2-1-2): Thorstvedt; Kerslake, Calderwood, Sedgley, Edinburgh; Samways; Anderton, Caskey; Dozzell; Campbell (Hendry, 53), Barmby. Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Austin.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Bosnich; Barrett, McGrath, Teale, Staunton; Houghton, Richardson, Parker, Townsend; Atkinson, Saunders. Substitutes not used: Spink (gk), Cox, Daley.

Referee: T Holbrook (Walsall).

(Photograph omitted)

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