Match Report: Forgotten striker Darren Bent proves point to Paul Lambert as Aston Villa fight back to overcome Ipswich Town
Aston Villa 2 Ipswich Town 1: Weimann sends Villa through after England
man emerges from shadows to show his sharpness
For a game he really had to win to reduce
the heat generated by Villa's disastrous Premier League form, Paul Lambert
looked to have chosen a risky path when he revealed seven changes to his
regular line-up, but in the end it all worked out rather well as a banana skin
was avoided at the start of the most critical period so far in the young Scot's
It just leaves two legs of a Capital One Cup semi-final against Bradford City – conquerors of Arsenal – and critical League matches against likely relegation rivals Southampton and upwardly mobile neighbours West Bromwich Albion to think about before the next round of the FA Cup on 26 January.
The problem now facing Lambert is what to do about Darren Bent after Villa's £18 million record signing, whose part in his plans has been in question for much of the season, displayed his seldom- questioned finishing ability with an equaliser against the first of his five clubs 45 seconds into the second half.
Bent, who had not played since suffering a hamstring injury at Norwich in early December – and had not started a home match since mid-September – returned from injury alongside £9.5m winger Charles N'Zogbia, another recent absentee, to infuse Villa with some of the experience and class they have conspicuously lacked.
The two combined to set Villa back on track after Michael Chopra, with the aid of a substantial assist from Eric Lichaj, had given Ipswich the lead against the run of play after 30 minutes, capitalising on a mistake by Nathan Baker that must have set Lambert's nerves on edge after 17 goals conceded in his last four Premier League games.
N'Zogbia, deployed in a central role just behind Bent with Christian Benteke rested, supplied the through pass and Bent drove a crisp right-foot shot wide of goalkeeper Scott Loach. It was only his fourth goal this season.
"That was Darren to a tee," Lambert said. "His finish was top class but I was impressed with his work ethic too, his whole general game. Considering that he had not trained until Friday it was a big, big effort from him.
"Darren and Charles have been out a length of time. Charles did not train until Friday either after I think about six weeks out and he always looked a threat. You just want them now to stay clear of injury and I think you'll see the best of them."
There was a major role, too, for another figure from the Villa Park shadows in the veteran goalkeeper Shay Given, whose frustration at a lack of games had bothered him so much he has considered coming out of international retirement.
Given, who has been reduced to playing second fiddle to Brad Guzan despite the deluge of goals flying past the American lately, showed himself to be as sharp as ever with a crucial 79th-minute save from Ipswich substitute Aaron McLean, which would have given the Championship side the lead.
Four minutes later, Villa's substitute Andreas Weimann headed Lambert's side in front with a wonderful effort from a Joe Bennett cross but it needed another Given save, from the full back Aaron Cresswell, to preserve the advantage.
"He has been unfortunate, Shay, that Brad Guzan has played so well," Lambert said.
Weimann was the other important figure for Villa. The midfielder has been another who Lambert felt was in need of a rest but an injury to Marc Albrighton required his involvement before half-time. Always busy, with plenty of clever passes up his sleeve, he gave Villa an extra measure of energy that made them look the better side in the second half.
Not that they had not in the opening half as Ipswich, whose manager, Mick McCarthy, had made six changes, reflecting the relegation struggle a division below that is his priority, survived an opening barrage in which Jordan Bowery, on his full debut, made a bright impression on the left.
Bowery almost converted a Bent cross and then drew one of two fine saves from Loach, who also kept out a strong header by Ciaran Clark that bounced awkwardly at his feet.
McCarthy rued the manner of Villa's second goal – "I'm stewing about the goal we conceded just after half-time to bring them level – but did not seem too dismayed not to have a Cup run to think about. "I would have liked to have won but staying up is my remit and that has not changed," he said.
Aston Villa (4-2-3-1): Given; Lichaj, Clark, Baker, Bennett; Bannan, Delph; Albrighton (Weimann, 42), N'Zogbia (Ireland, 71), Bowery (Agbonlahor, 62); Bent.
Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Loach; Hewitt, Kisnorbo, Smith, Cresswell; Emmanuel-Thomas (McGoldrick, 60), Reo-Coker, Hyam, Martin; Chopra (McLean, 74), Murphy (Edwards, 70).
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Man of the match: Weimann (Aston Villa)
Match rating: 6/10
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