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Page last updated at 23:21 GMT, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Martin O'Neill tells Aston Villa stars to stay focused

O'Neil delighted with winning run

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill urged his players to keep their feet on the ground, despite moving up to third in the table with a 2-0 win at Sunderland.

Villa followed up Saturday's victory over Manchester United by moving above Arsenal in the Premier League.

O'Neill, who already has one eye on Saturday's game against Stoke, told BBC Sport: "No-one's getting carried away in the dressing room.

"We need to rest up and prepare for the next game. That is now massive for us."

Villa play host to Stoke knowing that victory would move them on to 35 points from their opening 18 matches.

As things stand, they are only five points off the top of the table and, having beaten each of last season's top three already this season, are many people's tips to break into the top four come the end of the campaign.

"Naturally, I'm delighted with the result and the performance," stated O'Neill.

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"The result is the most important thing but the display was excellent as well.

"On back of what was a very good win at Manchester United, this was a vital match for us and we've shown a lot of determination and ability to get a deserved win.

"We had to work exceptionally hard. We got two great goals but it was just nice to see performance and result go hand in hand."

O'Neill also singled out James Milner for praise after watching the midfielder score a stunning 30-yard drive as well as setting up Emile Heskey for his goal.

"Milner has just been fantastic since he arrived at the football club," enthused O'Neill. "He has come into the middle of midfield now and he has just been colossal for us, colossal.

"From midfield, it is his third goal in five games. He is certainly enjoying it. It doesn't mean that he hasn't put in a lot of hard work.

"He has just been wonderful. He deserves it as well because he is an exceptional fella."

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce, on the other hand, was left bemoaning his side's finishing, with the Black Cats winning only once in eight Premier League matches.

"We can't keep relying on Darren Bent to get us goals, someone has to step up and help him out because we're missing a few chances at the moment and it is costing us dear," commented Bruce.

"The defining moment of the match was Andy Reid missing an excellent chance at the start of the second half when we were 1-0 down.

Bruce rues missed chances

"Had that gone in, we've got a lifeline and we could have gone on and won it.

"There was nothing in the match in the first half, apart from a very sloppy goal, and only after a wonder strike for their second did it become a difficult evening for us."

A silver lining for Sunderland was the return of Lee Cattermole as a second-half substitute following his recovery from a knee injury.

But the late dismissal of Lorik Cana for a second booking means the Sunderland skipper faces a suspension - and Bruce believes that is typical of the Black Cats' recent luck.

"We've not been able to get a settled side for five or six weeks," he bemoaned. "Now, just as we get Cattermole back, we lose Cana.

"Hopefully that sort of thing will change around for us soon."

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see also
Sunderland 0-2 Aston Villa
15 Dec 09 |  Premier League
Man Utd 0-1 Aston Villa
12 Dec 09 |  Premier League

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