Richard Dunne's own goal five minutes from time gave Sam Allardyce a measure of revenge for Rovers' Carling Cup semi-final defeat as a well-used game-plan by visitors to Villa Park once again worked a treat.
As so often has been the case, this match emphasised how incapable Villa are at breaking down sides who are content to sit back. O'Neill had kicked off his campaign in similar fashion against Wigan.
Richard Dunne handed Rovers victory at Villa Park
And, after another home loss, he accepted that their form in frontof their own supporters has seen them fall short. Indeed, their recordat home was the worst in the top half of the Barclays Premier League.
That, though, is a problem for the summer months. On a matter ofmore immediate importance, the Irishman hinted at his intentions forthis week's meeting with owner Randy Lerner.
He said: 'It would be nice to have another year with you all.' Theirmeeting now looks less dangerous to O'Neill's professional wellbeingthan it was a few weeks ago. In the wake of a seven goal thumping atChelsea, feelings were running high.
Eyes on the prize: Aston Villa defender Stephen Warnock
All sorts of rumours flourished. But after O'Neill signalled lastFriday that he wanted assurances that he could 'improve' his falteringsquad, the club's owner will have to take decisive action if he is tosack a boss who has come as close to ending Villa's 14-year wait forsilverware as any of his predecessors.
He has also garnered the most points of any Villa manager since1993. The hosts' relative weakness on their own turf, however, shouldtake nothing away from Allardyce's side yesterday.
Prior to this meeting they had conceded nine goals already at VillaPark this season following two trouncings in cup competitions. Butwith a five-man midfield and David Dunn causing havoc by running fromdeep in the second ha l f , the winning g o a l was little more thanRovers deserved although Paul Robinson certainly had to be alert on anumber of occasions.
Tussle: Villa midfielder James Milner is tackled by David Dunn
For the hosts, yesterday's match was important only in as much thatit determined how early the club would be competing next season in theEuropa League. The answer was mid-August instead of late July, and thatpartly because of Liverpool's inability to beat Hull.
'It was a disappointing result but we have finished sixth, which wasthe aim this morning,' said O'Neill. 'We have been beaten eight timesthis season, twice in the last two games, but I agree, the home form issomething we need to improve next season.'
'If we could win one or two more at home, who's to say that we can'timprove our position because our away record is up there with the verybest.' Allardyce was pleased with his team after securing 10th place.
MATCH FACTSASTON VILLA (4-4-2): Friedel 6; Cuellar 5, Collins 6, Dunne 6, Warnock 6 (L Young, 41min 5); A Young 7, Milner 6,Petrov 6, Downing 5; Agbonlahor 5,(Delfouneso 78), Carew 5 (Heskey 76).
Booked: Dunne, A Young.
BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-5-1): Robinson 7; Salgado 6, Hanley 7, Samba 8, Givet 6 (Jones 63, 6); Olsson 6, Linganzi 5 (Pedersen 46, 6), Dunn 8, Andrews 6, Hoilett 6; Roberts 6 (Emerton 85).
Man of the match: David Dunn.
Referee: Steve Bennett.
'It's a fantastic finish for us,' he said. 'We have to be satisfiedwith that, victories over Arsenal and Aston Villa (in successivegames). It makes a big difference to us on our budget. We moved up fourplaces. That's four times £800,000 a big difference.
'I have to say it is a great dressing-room. It borders on what Ihad at Bolton Wanderers. I never thought for one minute we would getthat kind of unity in 18 months.'
In the game itself, Steve Bennett erred twice, failing to award penalties at either end for fouls on Dunn and John Carew.
'I heard someone on the radio saying Spurs and Manchester City arebetter than Aston Villa,' said O'Neill. 'I don't know about that. Butthis remains a remarkable football club.'
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