Villa profit from Townsend's return

Football: Aston Villa 1 Queen's Park Rangers 0
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The Independent Online
MIKE ROWBOTTOM

Aston Villa 1 Queen's Park Rangers 0

Andy Townsend, the Republic of Ireland captain, marked his return to the Aston Villa side after a three-match absence with a foot injury by scoring the goal which put them into the last eight of the Coca-Cola Cup last night.

For Rangers, relegation candidates of late, it represented defeat with honour but, despite a late debut appearance from Mark Hateley, they never looked capable of winning.

Villa's manager, Brian Little, was happy enough with the way his side had performed, especially after the defeat at Manchester City on Saturday which had ended their five-match unbeaten run. "We did well to keep plugging away," he said. Townsend, who took the field with special insoles to support the arches of his feet, had been eager to play. "It was not a problem bringing him back," Little said.

QPR's player-manager, Ray Wilkins, had expressed the hope that his side would be encouraged by the mere presence on the bench of Hateley, who has been recovering from a cartilage injury.

However justified his sentiments, it soon became apparent to Wilkins that further inspiration would be required. After just five minutes Dwight Yorke's back-heel from near the right-hand byline presented the in-coming Tommy Johnson with a clear shooting chance but, as he teed the ball up, the balding figure of Rangers' 39-year-old boss arrived to make a saving tackle.

Ten minutes later the ginger-haired Johnson, whose tail was up after scoring three goals in four matches, tried again from a similar position. This time he flicked the ball up on his boot and knocked it back over his head. Tony Roberts, in for the cup-tied Jurgen Sommer, back-pedalled in alarm as the ball dropped on to the top of the net.

The pattern of the game was set, but Rangers' resilience at the back, where McDonald and Yates remained steady under fire, kept them in the running.

Trevor Sinclair, welcomed back into the team after injury, promised on occasions to discomfort the Villa defenders with his trickery. Within moments of the half-time interval he gave Rangers further cause for optimism by driving the ball narrowly over from David Bardsley's cross.

But it was all Villa - enlivened no doubt by their manager's half-time address - who took the initiative after the break, with Townsend, replacing the injured Ian Taylor, and Mark Draper the twin pistons in midfield, driving them forward.

They inevitably took the lead. Dwight Yorke, surrounded by white shirts, killed a long ball and laid it back temptingly for Townsend to thump it low into the far corner with his favoured left boot.

Five minutes later Yorke, finding space once again in a crowded box, almost made it 2-0 with an angled shot that took a deflection and flew off the bar. When Savo Milosevic knocked the ball back, Yorke put it over the line, but his effort was disallowed as Alan Wright was offside.

Aston Villa (3-4-3): Bosnich; Ehiogu, McGrath, Southgate; Charles, Draper (Scimeca, 89), Townsend, Wright; Johnson (Staunton, 80), Yorke, Milosevic. Substitute not used: Spink (gk).

Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Roberts; Ready, McDonald, Yates, Brazier; Bardsley, Barker, Wilkins, Impey; Sinclair, Gallen (Hateley, 66). Substitutes not used: Osborn, Maddix.

Referee: R Hart (Darlington).

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