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Gerard Houllier targets unbeaten finish for Aston Villa


Houllier hails 'massive win'

Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier has challenged his team to remain unbeaten until the end of the season after they defeated Newcastle 1-0.

The victory means that Villa are now five points clear of the relegation zone, with games against West Ham, Stoke, West Brom and Wigan to come.

"We need as many wins as we can," Houllier said. "We've started a league of eight games and have four points.

"We want to keep going. Why not stay unbeaten until the end of the season?"

Before the game against Newcastle, Villa had picked up only six points from their previous seven matches but the 2-2 draw at Everton on 2 April, plus the triumph at Villa Park courtesy of James Collins' headed winner, has given Houllier's side an impetus going into the final six fixtures.

Although Alan Pardew's side only really tested the Villa goal at the start and end of the game, the hosts were unlucky that Magpies goalkeeper Steve Harper was in inspired form, denying Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young on several occasions.

Villa were also denied a Darren Bent goal after he was ruled offside, even though replays showed the decision was marginal.

"It's a massive win, we have to be honest about that," Houllier added. "There's a lot of pressure on all of us and the players responded very well [with] their effort, their work for each other, their commitment and desire to get three points for each other.

"Newcastle did not play as well as they usually do, maybe because we didn't allow them to. When we had to defend we did it well, and when we had to attack we did it swiftly. James Collins was well on the move for the goal, which was a fantastic goal.

Pardew blames injuries for defeat

"There are three positive things about this: it was a win, we kept a clean sheet, and we moved up the table because we want to get out of the danger zone. It will give them more confidence for the future and make them more aware of what we can do.

"Relief was the overriding emotion [at the final whistle] because we felt we deserved a second goal. But at the end of the day it's the three points that matter. I am aware that at times it was not the best football but in terms of effort we were fantastic - and the fans noticed that."

Pardew highlighted the fact his side were missing key players and, while he does not consider the Magpies to be completely safe, he is relaxed about his team's league position.

Despite the defeat, Newcastle are ninth in the Premier League with 39 points, which is seven above the relegation zone.

"For us, we probably had too many core players missing today so it was a lucky day for them," Pardew reflected. "Kevin Nolan was out, Shola Ameobi, Cheik Tiote, but we still put in a committed performance and had one or two chances at the end where we could have got something.

"We have to get ourselves back together. We have a 10-day break now before Manchester United at home and we can look forward to that and make sure we get one or two players back.

"I don't think we're conscious of anything [in terms of a points total]. We just want to win as many games as we can and finish as strong as we can. I think [other clubs] would feel a little bit safer with 41, 42 points but it will be what it'll be.

"For us we've got some tough games [coming up] but we've got some good games too. Every one of them is winnable. We're fully committed and everyone's pulling together. We were very short today [in terms of players] and the bench reflected that."

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see also
Aston Villa 1-0 Newcastle
10 Apr 11 |  Premier League
Everton 2-2 Aston Villa
02 Apr 11 |  Premier League
Houllier 'nervous' about relegation fight
19 Mar 11 |  Aston Villa
Houllier wants fans to back Villa
19 Mar 11 |  Premier League
Villa chief executive backs Houllier
11 Dec 10 |  Aston Villa

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