O'Neill calls on Aston Villa strikers to deliver

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The Independent Football

Martin O'Neill has challenged Gabriel Agbonlahor, John Carew and Emile Heskey to deliver enough goal-power in the final quarter of the season to keep Aston Villa on course for FA Cup glory and a Champions League spot.

O'Neill is hoping Agbonlahor will have overcome a virus in time for Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash at Stoke.

Agbonlahor missed Villa's 4-2 win at Reading in an FA Cup quarter-final on Sunday with a stomach bug and was also unable to train on Monday.

Carew seized his opportunity in the absence of Agbonlahor to score a hat-trick against Reading and inspire a second-half comeback.

O'Neill said: "We have scored a flurry of goals recently against Reading and Burnley. I think the players are improving in that aspect. They want to get into the penalty area to score.

"Gabby's record is very good this season and John will hopefully charge on and get that second wind for the last part of the season - and we have Emile too.

"I hope between that talented group of players we get enough goals to see us through. We are still in there fighting."

O'Neill added: "Because of the cup runs and because of the League Cup semis, a replay against Crystal Palace and the postponed Premier League games, it means it's going to be pretty hectic between now and the end of the season.

"But it's going to be pretty exciting if we can stay in there and hang in there.

"Saturday's game against Stoke will be extremely difficult, followed by an equally difficult away trip to Wigan in mid-week. But we've got to hang in, try and stay the course and stay with it."

Villa's players reported back for training today after being given a couple of days' break with O'Neill hoping Agbonlahor will be showing signs of recovery ahead of the meeting with Tony Pulis' side.

O'Neill said: "Gabby was pretty ill on Sunday and also missed training earlier this week. I am hoping it is one of those 48-to-72-hour viruses that will then clear up."