Lambert eyes survival after Villa down Reading
READING, United Kingdom (AFP) –
Paul Lambert believes Aston Villa have taken a huge step towards ensuring their Premier League status for another season after Gabriel Agbonlahor’s stunning strike clinched a 2-1 win over fellow strugglers Reading at the Madejski Stadium.
The victory lifted Villa out of the bottom three as they seek to avoid relegation for the first time since 1987, with another crucial clash to come at home to QPR next week.
Christian Benteke’s equaliser less than two minutes after a disastrous own goal from Nathan Baker gifted Reading the lead was vital as Brian McDermott’s side slipped to a sixth successive defeat in all competitions.
But it was England international Agbonlahor who settled a tense clash with a fine finish in first half stoppage-time and Lambert is confident his players can build on the momentum in another vital showdown against QPR next weekend.
“It was a massive game, a big pressure game and everybody knew that,” Lambert said.
“There was a long way to go when Nathan scored the own goal but the players kept on fighting and I thought we deserved the victory.
“I thought the move for Gabby’s goal was brilliant and the finish was just world-class.
“The performances he’s turned in have been big, big performances for us. The players don’t look like a team that’s lacking in confidence that’s for sure.
“Our crowd were absolutely fantastic. They were right behind us driving us on so they’ll come next Saturday full of support for us which we’re going to need. If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll be alright.”
Reading started strongly but wasted two great opportunities to take an early lead through Adam Le Fondre and Hal Robson-Kanu.
A horrendous sliced own goal from Baker after a clever backheel from Hope Akpan was the last thing Villa needed but, to their credit, the response was immediate as Benteke rounded off a great cutback from Andreas Weimann.
Agbonlahor’s smart finish after Barry Bannan had hit the post proved decisive.
But Reading came close to equalising when Noel Hunt had the ball in the net 10 minutes into the second half, only for his effort to be ruled out for offside.
Robson-Kanu and Nick Blackman both had decent opportunities to snatch a draw for Reading, but after shipping 19 points from winning positions this season, this time Villa stayed firm.
After QPR’s win over Sunderland, Reading only avoided slipping to the foot of the table due to a superior amount of goals scored.
“We’re very much hurting but now we have to pick ourselves up and turn it around,” he said.
“You have a choice, you either give up or get back on it so we’ll try to get over this disappointment and carry on.
“Once March is out of the way we’ll have seven games left. It’s not over until the middle of May so we’ll see where we finish.”