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Mark Pougatch reports
"The lucky losers won't get another chance now"
 real 28k

Saturday, 11 December, 1999, 18:16 GMT
Carbone lights up Villa Park

Carbone leapt into John Gregory's arms after scoring

Click here for Saturday's football results.

Aston Villa 2-1 Darlington

Benito Carbone delighted Villa Park with a classy goal, a day after saying he was prepared to sign a long-term contract with the Premiership strugglers.

This week the Italian dismissed speculation linking him with Chelsea and Italian club Reggina, saying he would happily agree a three-year deal whenever Villa wanted him to.

Match facts
Villa nerves dominate first half hour
43 mins: Carbone's dipping shot beats Samways
63 mins: Dublin header - his 12th of season
71 mins: Heckingbottom scores on the rebound
And with those words providing a welcome boost to the club, the Italian was restored to the side for this FA Cup game with the "lucky losers" restored to the competition in place of Manchester United.

With two minutes remaining of a tepid first half, a long clearance from David James was flicked on by Dion Dublin to the Italian 25 yards from goal.

He turned, flicked the ball up and produced a glorious volley which looped past Darlington keeper Mark Samways and into the right hand side of his goal.

Dublin doubled the advantage with a second half header, before Paul Heckingbottom netted the rebound after James had brilliantly saved a Peter Duffield penalty.

Tepid first half

Carbone's opening goal had lifted a subdued Villa Park, where the home fans watched the familiar sight of their team giving the ball away and playing with the sort of nerves only a bad run can produce.

I thought the scoreline flattered them a little bit. It should've been four or five
John Gregory
Like Carbone, Paul Merson and Alan Thompson were recalled to the starting line-up and all three came close with early long range efforts.

Leading scorer Dublin was the main early threat for the home side, but a series of headers were either wide or straight at Samways.

Meanwhile Gareth Barry missed the ball after a corner caused mayhem in the Darlington box.

But Villa also had James to thank for two excellent saves which denied the visitors in the opening half.

Before Villa's first goal, the keeper reacted smartly and bravely to deny Duffield after parrying a 30-yard drive from Neil Heaney straight to the Darlington striker.

And the same player's free header was athletically pushed just after Carbone's strike.

We had no right to be in this competition after being knocked out in the last round.......every single one of my players was a credit to the club
Honest 'lucky loser' Dave Hodgson
The second half saw Villa produce more direct football than the neat passing of the first half, which had allowed Darlington to get men behind the ball.

Accurate early crosses, particularly from right-back Mark Delaney started to turn the defence, and set up opportunities for Thompson and Ian Taylor.

Just after the hour Dublin doubled Villa's lead by cleverly pulling away from goal at Thompson's right wing corner and heading into the far corner.

Alan Thompson fends off Brian Atkinson
A brief flashpoint then saw Taylor and Martin Gray booked after the Villa man retaliated to a nasty flying challenge from the Darlington man.

A number of players briefly became involved in a scuffle, but the referee chose to limit his reaction to the two yellow cards.

Merson's powerful drive forced a good save out of Samways, but the next significant action was at the other end in front of the Darlington fans.

The referee had no hesitation in giving a penalty after an incident in the box.

Duffield put it to James' right, with the keeper guessing right, but the rebound fell to Heckingbottom, who fired into the opposite corner.

The goal briefly caused Villa's bad nerves to return, but a couple of substitutions helped settle the Premiership side, and they hung on reasonably comfortably.


Aston Villa: James, Ehiogu, Southgate, Barry, Delaney, Thompson, Taylor, Merson, Wright, Dublin, Carbone. Subs: Joachim, Vassell, Stone, Calderwood, Cutler.

Darlington: Samways, Heckingbottom, Liddle, Tutill, Aspin, Gray, Oliver, Heaney, Atkinson, Duffield, Nogan. Subs: Reed, Brumwell, Hiorth, Leah, Finch.

Referee: P Richards (Preston)

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See also:
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Links to other FA Cup stories are at the foot of the page.