Villa manager O'Neill hails Agbonlahor

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The Independent Football

Martin O'Neill hailed another crucial contribution from Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor which enabled his side to avoid more Carling Cup misery.

Villa had crashed out of the competition four times in the previous five seasons to lower league opposition in the form of Burnley, Doncaster, Leicester and QPR.

But Agbonlahor's deft third minute flick ensured Villa overcame the challenge of visiting Cardiff in a third round encounter and the England player has now netted in four successive matches.

O'Neill said: "Gabby is playing brilliantly for us and it is great to see a player with that sort of confidence.

"It was another superb goal and he is going great. The crowd are pleased with him and everybody else is.

"Gabby loves to play, wants to play, and there is a thought that three quarters of the way through last season he might not have attempted that sort of goal.

"There is really great belief there now and he is playing brilliantly for us."

O'Neill was relieved to see Villa avoid further humiliation in the competition particularly with Cardiff boss Dave Jones convinced Jay Bothroyd's last-gasp strike should not have been ruled out for offside.

The former Celtic boss said: "I think that Cardiff were never out of it, and played some nice football, but we seemed to be in reasonable control, and I am delighted to have won and avoided another defeat in the competition.

"That was a very close decision at the end and I was grateful that the linesman flagged. I have seen it back but it is pretty tight."

Villa have now chalked up six successive victories and were again without midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker after his training ground spat with O'Neill.

O'Neill said: "There is no update regarding Nigel. I have nothing more to add."

Jones admitted his pride in Cardiff's performance tempered his anger at being denied the chance to take the game into extra-time after Bothroyd's effort was ruled out.

He said: "I spoke to the referee. I've asked the linesman. I've tried to help them and I was well behaved. It's a goal. It is onside.

"But I'll get many decisions for me and many against me and, maybe because of the way we played, I was being more diplomatic than I normally would be.

"It is a fine line he has made his decision on. We could have had 10 referees around the pitch today and some would have said the goal was onside and some would have said it was offside.

"I hope he looks at the decision. I hope he learns from it but it doesn't help me and I can't be any more diplomatic than that."

Jones added: "I was very pleased with our performance, particularly after going a goal down after only three minutes.

"It was a big blow to us, but we recovered from that and passed the ball better than at the weekend, and overall everyone on my side did well."

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