Newcastle v Aston Villa: Paul Lambert pleased with improvements in defence

The Villains have matched last season's number of clean sheets

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The Independent Football

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert is pleased by his side's balance this season, having already picked up more clean sheets than they managed in the whole of the last campaign.

A goalless draw in their last outing away to Cardiff was their seventh clean sheet this term, compared to five in total last year.

While the Scot was disappointed not to win that fixture in Wales, he was at least pleased by their improved resilience after a notoriously leaky backline last season.

"Keeping clean sheets gives you a chance," said Lambert.

"If you can start games on the front foot and don't concede then it certainly gives you a base.

"One thing about our side is that we can certainly create things. We just need a bit of a break in front of goal that someone will take one.

"If you keep a clean sheet then it certainly gives you that base to go and win a game."

Villa go to Newcastle on Sunday, hoping to increase the gap between themselves and the bottom three and knowing away games have tended to be yield more points this season as they have struggled at home.

Of Villa's 28 points, 17 have been collected on the road. But Lambert said their reliance on picking up results on the road did not add pressure to trips around the country.

"I don't think there's pressure there because they've done it all year, they've picked up that amount of points away from home," he said.

"It's an incredible amount of points to pick up away from home, especially in this league, it's the toughest league ever.

"To get those points away from home, they seem to have that freedom and be more relaxed for some strange reason. I think the pressure is always there at home and away, I don't think that ever changes."

After a free weekend due to their early FA Cup exit, Lambert is eager to return to action at St James' Park.

"I'm looking forward to us playing again because it's been a long week off from action," he said.

"We're going up to a stadium which is a terrific place to play football. Last year we drew. Ciaran Clark scored and we lost a goal to draw it. It's a good place to be."