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O´Neill seeks reinforcements for Villa push into elite

SoccerNews in English Premier League 30 Nov 2008

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Martin O'Neill has confirmed he will be looking to strengthen his squad in January as he seeks to drive Aston Villa into England's exclusive club of Champions League participants.

A 0-0 draw with Fulham at Villa Park on Saturday ensured O'Neill's side missed a golden opportunity to consolidate their place in the top four of the Premier League.

The Northern Irishman described the result as “disappointing” and admitted he would need reinforcements if Villa are not to run out of steam as he targets silverware in both the UEFA and FA Cups, as well as the top four finish that would bring Europe's elilte to Villa Park next season.

“If we are to genuinely compete we will have to try and do something in January,” the former Celtic boss admitted.

“We could be in the last 32 of the UEFA Cup, the FA Cup and also chasing the Holy Grail in terms of the Premiership.”

A priority for O'Neill is likely to be a striker.

With Norwegian John Carew currently sidelined through injury and not expected to return for at least another two weeks, Villa looked short on options in attack against a dogged Fulham rearguard and their best chance fell to midfielder Gareth Barry, who hit the crossbar with a second-half header.

The Villa boss confirmed Marlon Harewood would lead the attack in Thursday's UEFA Cup tie against Slovakian side MSK Zilina at Villa Park — one of a number of changes.

Goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who made a record 167th consecutive Premiership appearance and whose late save from Clint Dempsey prevented Fulham pinching their first away league win of the season, will also be rested with Brad Guzan his likely replacement.

O'Neill admitted he would have liked to have had Carew available to throw on as Fulham battened down the hatches in the second-half.

He said: “When we lost him six or seven weeks ago we thought it would cause us some concern. We have got through that, but I think he would have given us something that we lacked.

“It was a disappointing result for us. We went into the game with high hopes and high on confidence and there was no lack of effort.

“There was an opportunity there for us to go into third place, even if only until tomorrow (Sunday), but we did not gasp it.

“We have some really good players in their early twenties. They are still learning, although I still genuinely think they can grow into something.

“I wouldn't say they choked, but teams coming here and sitting back is something they have to learn from.”

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson was delighted with another impressive point away from home following their 0-0 draw at Liverpool seven days earlier, although he still refuses to rule out another battle against relegation.

He said: “It's a dogfight, and it would be foolish of me to say because we have had two decent results away from home that we will not be involved this season. We may still be.

“But I think this time we have a better chance of being safe with one or two games to go.”

Hodgson went on to pay tribute to the influence of Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

“We were under siege in the second-half, the most under-seige we have been for a while,” said Hodgson.

“We knew Villa were going to come out and throw everything at us. If we are talking about chances created then we have to say they deserved to win.

“But Mark Schwarzer proved once again that we can rely on him when the going gets tough.

“I am proud of our last two performances. They brought only two points, but the difference between a draw and defeat is massive in footballing terms and we deserve to give ourselves a pat on the back.

“I would like to think we are a better team than last season — we are solid and more organised.”

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