It was a goal that would have graced the greatest teams in the greatest competitions. But for Aston Villa, Matthew Lowton’s 87th minute strike could prove to be one of the most important of their recent history, as his superb goal set the club on their way to a 3-1 victory over local rivals Stoke, who now look to be in danger of relegation themselves.
It was a scrappy game which Villa shaded throughout, but with Stoke equalising through substitute Michael Kightly with just 10 minutes remaining, most Villa fans would have feared the worst, especially after seeing their side lose so many games from winning positions. Thankfully the outcome would be different this time, and Villa manager Paul Lambert was very impressed with what he saw from his young side – especially Lowton‘s world class effort.
Lambert said: “The second goal, I don’t think you will see a better goal in Europe, let alone Britain. He’s not missed one minute for us this season. He’s come from Sheffield United and is still learning.”
Lambert also praised the rest of his battling side, lauding the options available to him on Saturday.
He continued: “We didn’t play with any fear. There are some really terrific footballers here at the club. A lot of them are still young and improving. Even the lads that came off the bench, Charles N’Zogbia, Darren Bent and Yacouba Sylla, it’s a really good side.”
It was the first time Darren Bent had been involved for Villa since injuring his foot at the end of January, but with the continued goal-scoring form of strikers Gabriel Agbonlahor and Chrsitan Benteke, as well as the effort and determination put in from Andreas Weimann, it is hard to see where Bent may fit in for the rest of the campaign.
This fact may well support the point made by Lambert as to the strength of his squad, but it is the defensive side and not the attacking side which has looked their weak point this campaign.
But against Stoke City on Saturday, a steel and resolve seemed to be present in Villa’s defence; a determination not to lose this crucial game. Villa have played teams in and around them three times out of the last four games, and have won every match, something which they struggled to do at the start of the campaign.
With Paolo Di Canio losing his first match in charge of Sunderland, and Wigan failing to get all three points against QPR on Sunday, it was a very good weekend for the Midlands club; a weekend that has seen them rise to 16th in the table, just four points from 11th placed Southampton, who are another team that have been on a good run lately.
With Fulham up next, and Sunderland following that in the next home game, as well as away trips to struggling Norwich and Wigan, safety is still a strong possibility for Aston Villa.
They will also face Manchester United and Chelsea before the season comes to a close next month, but for now the Villa players can look at the Premier League table and see that they have a two point cushion above the bottom three. That is all that will matter to Paul Lambert as they head into the final six fixtures of what has so far been a rollercoaster of a season.
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