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O'Neill refuses to give up on fourth
Published : 04 Apr 2010 16:29:00
Martin O'Neill has hailed the character of his Aston Villa players and refused to accept they are out of the race for a Champions League spot. After three games without a win, and especially after last week's 7-1 drubbing at Chelsea, any win was going to be welcome for Villa. That came on Saturday and, although the 1-0 success over Bolton was not thoroughly convincing, it kept their Champions League hopes just about alive. It also gives the Villans a platform on which to base their revenge mission against Carlo Ancelotti's side in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final. Many will suggest Villa's season now hinges on that game as a top-four finish is likely beyond them, but O'Neill knows his players have the stomach for a fight. "It's not too often the players have had regrets this season," said O'Neill, in reference to the debacle at Stamford Bridge. "But occasionally you have to put things in perspective. "A wretched last half hour at Chelsea should not take the gloss off a brilliant season and the effort the team have put in week in week out, month in month out, which is there to be admired. "I don't think we would be in our position this season, after the games we've played and things we are going for, and the effort and determination of the side, without having something about us. "This game was important for us because we showed people we have character, that it's there, that we have possessed it all season." Villa will need such character in abundance against Chelsea if they are to avoid a double dose of Wembley heartache after their Carling Cup final loss to Manchester United in February. Defeat there, combined with a Manchester City victory over midlands rivals Birmingham on Sunday, and Villa could easily find themselves eight points adrift of fourth and their season fast fizzling out. But a defiant O'Neill added: "There will still be plenty of twists and turns. "Of course, we lost ground with the Chelsea defeat, and the draws before that against Sunderland and Wolves. "But at this stage of the season it's about ekeing out the results, and we deserved to win this game. I don't think anybody could doubt that. "This was an important win, for pride and other things, but to give us the three points again, so there's plenty to play for. "We've always been in the fight, and we're battling on."