Young hails Villa Park's deadly duo

Defender admits fitness of attacking pair is crucial to club's hopes this season

The Aston Villa defender Luke Young believes it is vital that key attacking duo Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young stay fit for the second half of the season to sustain a push for domestic and European success.

Agbonlahor and Ashley Young were among eight players rested for the final Uefa Cup group game away to Hamburg on Wednesday and were sorely missed as Villa went down 3-1, although they had already qualified for the knockout rounds.

Agbonlahor's pace and Young's trickery have been vital components in maintaining a challenge for a top-four finish in the Premier League. Luke Young, one of only three regular first-teamers to play in Germany, said: "It is crucial people like Gabby and Ashley stay fit for the remainder of the season. Definitely. You have a few players in the squad who are irreplaceable.

"With some players, one can come in for another but, when you've got the likes of Gabby up there with his pace, it is hard to bring someone else in like that. It is not the biggest squad and, up front at the moment, with big John Carew being out, if Gabby was to get injured, we would be a little bit light with only Marlon [Harewood] and young Nathan [Delfouneso] left.

"Then we also have Ashley at the minute who is really on fire. You need to keep everyone fit in the squad, especially your top players. Gabby and Ashley are causing problems and causing havoc together."

Young, speaking before tomorrow's league game against West Ham United at Upton Park, admits Villa's attacking power means they can still win games even when the side is not firing on all cylinders. He said: "At the minute, even if we are not playing well, we can have a 10-minute spell where we can score a couple of goals and put games to bed with the way Ash, Gabby and James [Milner] are breaking.

"Sometimes it frightens teams and perhaps that is why some are coming to Villa Park and playing defensively. I've been in teams before, like at Charlton, [when] we were looking for a spark and someone to break teams down and probably didn't have it.

"Now we've got the lads up front that make life easy for you. If you are doing your job at the back, you know you are going to score goals."

Young has been impressed by 17-year-old Delfouneso, who scored his second goal in two Uefa Cup games against Martin Jol's side.

And the ex-England full-back feels that the way the Villa manager, Martin O'Neill, encourages his flair players to perform without fear is a big factor. Young said: "Nathan scored another goal, which can only be good for his confidence, but it is the way he approaches the game as well. He gets the ball and he just takes people on.

"We see it in training every day. He has got quick feet, is lightning quick, can beat a man and score a goal.

"Sometimes when you come into a side you are a little bit safe in what you do but Nathan has come in and wants to make his mark."

17

Total goals Ashley Young and Villa team-mate Gabriel Agbonlahor have scored this term.

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