Football: Yorke strikes twice as Villa ease through

Aston Villa 3 Notts County 0
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The Independent Online
The return of Dwight Yorke and Sasa Curcic, who had missed the goalless draw at Meadow Lane, proved decisive as Aston Villa eased through this FA Cup third-round replay at Villa Park to ensure that Notts County can go back to concentrating on Second Division survival.

Yorke, having recovered from a foot injury, scored twice to take his tally to 15 in 19 appearances. Curcic, absent last week because of an attitude problem, played a part in both goals, though he was also fortunate not to be sent off after sparking a brawl in the closing minutes.

For the Serb to take it upon himself to avenge a heavy challenge on Lee Hendrie, the teenaged Villa substitute, was the height of folly. Not only were Villa cruising by then, courtesy of a third goal by Ugo Ehiogu, but the referee, Paul Durkin, is not noted for his leniency.

In the event, Mr Durkin showed Curcic only the yellow card, allowing Villa to look ahead to Saturday's tie at Derby without any fresh distractions concerning their troubled midfielder. Since this year marks the 40th anniversary of the last time they won the Cup, their followers will travel across the Midlands in a state of heightened anticipation.

Villa opened like a side who had gone six matches without a win; County, under the new managership of Sam Allardyce, as if buoyed by a run of four unbeaten games.

Tommy Johnson, later to depart injured, was closest to an early breakthrough against his first club. Darren Ward beat aside his fierce shot and the County contingent brayed mockingly as Savo Milosevic lofted the loose ball high into their midst.

Curcic was making his first home appearance since his Ravanelli-style outburst. His clever back-heeled pass to Alan Wright led to Villa's first goal in the 24th minute. The wing-back's cross was back-headed by Milosevic, whereupon Yorke's stab at the ball deflected off Gary Strodder to leave Ward wrong-footed.

Ably prompted by a Villa old boy, Phil Robinson, County ought to have equalised immediately. Ian Baraclough's deep centre picked out Sean Farrell at the far post, only for the striker to head over the bar.

Curcic's quest to win over the sceptics took a further turn for the better eight minutes after half-time. County were enjoying their most assertive spell when Villa worked the ball to him just inside the visitors' half. A typically jinking run against a retreating rearguard took Curcic to the edge of the penalty area before he spotted Yorke unmarked. The Tobagan's low drive defeated Ward's dive.

With 23 minutes remaining, and a 61-place disparity in League positions becoming increasingly apparent, Villa struck again. Following a short free-kick by Andy Townsend, Ward's fists again thwarted Johnson, but the ball reared up obligingly for Ehiogu to head home. County were spared further indignity when Hendrie, turning sharply, rattled their bar moments after appearing, but Villa had done more than enough.

Aston Villa (3-5-2): Bosnich; Ehiogu, Southgate, Tiler; Scimeca, Johnson (Hendrie, 70), Townsend, Curcic, Wright; Yorke, Milosevic. Substitutes not used: Joachim, Oakes (gk).

Notts County (4-4-2): Ward; Wilder, Redmile, Strodder, Baraclough; Finnan, Derry (Walker, 60), Robinson, Agana (Kennedy, 79); Farrell, Martindale (Battersby, 68).

Referee: P Durkin (Portland, Dorset).

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