Tuesday 25 April 2017

O'Neill praises Dunne impact

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill has hailed the impact Richard Dunne has made at Villa Park ahead of today's Premier League clash against West Ham.

O'Neill pulled off one of the transfer coups of the season after he raided Manchester City during last summer's transfer window to snap up the Republic of Ireland central defender.

Dunne has already become a popular figure among the Villa fans and has helped the team reach the Carling Cup semi-finals and push for a place in next season's Champions League.

Praising Dunne's performances, O'Neill said: "Dunne's contribution to the football club has been immense and consequently his help to the other players has been terrific.

"I think of one header in particular from a corner kick in Thursday's game at Blackburn. He headed from right under the bar with Chris Samba in close attendance.

"He got up above Samba, who is six inches bigger than him, to head the ball.

"It was magnificent and it epitomised his performances since he has arrived."

Fulham focus for Allardyce

Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce is determined to ensure his players are focused for the visit of Fulham today and do not dwell upon their Carling Cup disappointment.

Rovers' hopes of reaching Wembley look slim after they were beaten 1-0 by Aston Villa in the first leg of their semi-final encounter at Ewood Park on Thursday night.

As well as putting Villa firmly in the driving seat for next week's return leg, the result also means Rovers have gone nine games in all competitions without a win and Allardyce knows his players must quickly get their minds back on the job of picking up points in the Premier League.

"They were relatively down on the fact they thought they had done enough to at least get a draw (from the Villa match)," Allardyce said.

"We can ponder over that game for a short time and have a little look at what was good and what was not so good, but really we need to put that to one side and focus totally on Fulham."

Samaras saves Bhoys' blushes

Celtic were left with a nine-point deficit on on SPL leaders Rangers after a much-changed side was held to a 1-1 draw at home by bottom club Falkirk.

Carl Finnigan gave the visitors a 19th-minute lead and Celtic struggled before Georgios Samaras levelled five minutes before the break.

The home side failed to impose themselves until the final quarter but, other than an excellent free-kick from debutant Ki Sung Yeung, they could not trouble Falkirk goalkeeper Robert Olejnik.

Elsewhere, Nacho Novo grabbed a late winner as Rangers defied adversity to take maximum points from Hamilton.

The Ibrox side were without several key players and it showed as the home side carved out the best chances.

Dundee United job still unfilled

One-time Pat Fenlon suitors Dundee United are finding it increasingly difficult to line up a new manager after caretaker boss Peter Houston again distanced himself from the job after their 1-0 victory over Hibernian.

Despite leading United to their third victory in a week, Houston again insisted he does not want the job on a permanent basis.

"We will let him (the chairman) take his time and see what happens. I'm quite happy to take it game by game," said Houston.

"I did make a stance and I'm not going to change it just because we have won three games in a row.

"I just want the club to make sure they get the right man. I know these things can take time but that can be OK as long as you keep winning."

Late scare for Tractor Boys

Pablo Counago fired a dramatic 97th-minute 3-2 winner for Ipswich just 80 seconds after Richard Wood looked to have grabbed a point for in-form Coventry.

It was nothing less than Town deserved but the nature of the winner left Sky Blues manager Chris Coleman fuming at full-time after referee Michael Oliver had signalled for a minimum of four minutes' stoppage-time.

Clinton Morrison's well-taken strike handed the visitors a dream start after just two minutes but almost exclusively from that moment onwards it was the home side who dominated.

On-loan Crystal Palace marksman Stern John headed home his first goal for the Suffolk outfit just before the break to level matters, while fellow loanee Jack Colback lashed home in the 52nd minute. Both sides threatened to add to the scoreline and Wood looked to have nicked a point with his stoppage-time header but substitute Counago stole the show even later when he struck from 12 yards.

Sunday Independent

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