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Aston Villa youngsters must respond bravely against Tottenham, says Paul Lambert

Villans to heroes! Lambert demands thrashed kids to show their heart against Spurs after Chelsea humiliation

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 25 December 2012

Paul Lambert has ordered an instant response from his wounded youngsters as the Aston Villa manager attempts to banish memories of a crushing defeat at Chelsea.

Villa are at home to Tottenham on Boxing Day, three days after losing 8-0 at Stamford Bridge – the heaviest defeat in the club’s 138-year history.

‘They know my feelings on it,’ rapped Lambert. ‘You don’t need to be Einstein to tell them what went wrong. We told them they have a few days to get over it and then get going again.

Feeling Blue: Aston Villa were 'beaten up' by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

Feeling Blue: Aston Villa were 'beaten up' by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

I eight Christmas: Villa's thrashing was the biggest in their long history

I eight Christmas: Villa's thrashing was the biggest in their long history

‘They’ll come out of the traps against Spurs, I know. I expect a reaction. Whoever’s playing, we have to atone for that.

‘They’ve done it before. They were
beat heavy at Man City (5-0 in November) and then went on that little
run. You take the criticism and you bounce back.

'There’s no point feeling sorry for
yourself. There are too many people coming to watch on Boxing Day. So we
have to bounce back.’

It looks like the players who were
crushed by Chelsea will be given the chance to redeem themselves, but
only because Lambert has no choice.

Charles N’Zogbia and Darren Bent are out with knee injuries, and there is still no return for Gabby Agbonlahor.

And with Karim El Ahmadi having
joined Morocco ahead of his country’s Africa Cup of Nations campaign,
Lambert is short of options.

Must do better: Paul Lambert has demanded a reaction next time out

Must do better: Paul Lambert has demanded a reaction next time out

His first job is to ensure his young
players are not scarred by their experiences this season, which
culminated in the thrashing by Chelsea.

Villa have conceded 32 goals in 18
Premier League games and are just three points clear of the relegation
zone. Dion Dublin, on BBC’s Match of the Day 2, branded it ‘the worst
performance in the history of the club, ever’.

‘I’ve been absolutely tonked before, as player and manager,’ said Lambert. ‘You just try and win the next game.

‘It’s about how they react. That’s
the mark of good players and a good team. I don’t think it will affect
them long-term. It’s up to myself and my back-room staff to ensure it
doesn’t.

'I won’t have a problem doing that, because they’re really hurt. None of them will be feeling great. I know how to handle it.’

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Aston Villa aim to ruin Harry Redknapp"s Loftus Road welcome party

Lambert ready to act the Villain for Harry's Loftus Road welcome party

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UPDATED:

20:51 GMT, 30 November 2012

Paul Lambert has warned Harry Redknapp that his Aston Villa side are happy to play party-poopers, saying: ‘We want to keep QPR down there.’

A narrow win over Reading on Tuesday has lifted a little pressure from the Scot’s own shoulders as the Birmingham club jumped out of the bottom three this week.

Three more points will lift Villa to within sight of mid-table and Lambert said that while he knows QPR will be boosted by Redknapp’s arrival, he has no intention of joining in the merriment.

Preparations: Gabriel Agbonlahor and Aston Villa in training at Bodymoor Heath on Friday

Preparations: Gabriel Agbonlahor and Aston Villa in training at Bodymoor Heath on Friday

‘Harry going in there will automatically give them a lift, as he is a brilliant manager,’ said Lambert. ‘It’s an extremely tough game for us. But we would be happy to win and keep them down there.’

He revealed Richard Dunne may have played his last game for Villa, given his mystery groin and hip problem. He is out of contract in the summer, so may move on in January.

Talking tactics: Harry Redknapp (left) at QPR training on Friday morning

Talking tactics: Harry Redknapp (left) at QPR training on Friday morning

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Paul Lambert to listen to offers for Richard Dunne, Shay Given, Stephen Warnock and Alan Hutton

Lambert happy to listen to offers for Dunne, Given, Warnock and Hutton

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UPDATED:

01:17 GMT, 10 November 2012

Paul Lambert will listen to offers for several of Aston Villa's old guard as he looks to rebuild in the new year.

Out-of-favour players will be moved on in order to free up room in his budget.

Bids will be considered for Shay Given, Richard Dunne, Stephen Warnock and Alan Hutton in a drive to remove high earners from the books.

Listening type: Paul Lambert (centre) will consider offers to a number of his old guard

Listening type: Paul Lambert (centre) will consider offers to a number of his old guard

Stoke had been strongly linked to Dunne, who also had an offer from Malaga in Spain before the transfer window shut in August.

Villa would be reluctant to part with injured striker Darren Bent, who joined the club only two seasons ago.

He remains a consistent scorer and Lambert, despite dropping the forward last month, remains short of goals.

The Scot will give Gabriel Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke licence against Manchester United at Villa Park this evening, with Lambert predicting big things from the former in particular.

The England striker is second only to
Liverpool's Steven Gerrard in scoring against the Old Trafford side in
the Premier League.

Lambert said: 'Gabby's a handful because he has incredible speed. I wouldn't like to race him.

'I could see him getting back with England. He's in top form and enjoying where he is playing.'

On his way Richard Dunne (centre) could be leaving Villa Park

On his way Richard Dunne (centre) could be leaving Villa Park

Lambert also revealed that record signing Darren Bent will not require further surgery to overcome the ankle problem which first flared up nine months ago.

Bent was sidelined for the final three months of last season with a ligament injury suffered against Wigan in February which also ended his hopes of being part of England's Euro 2012 squad.

He is currently struggling with the injury again but, after seeing a specialist on Wednesday, Lambert believes rehab work should help Villa's 18million man recover, rather than another operation.

Lambert said: 'Darren had a scan on Wednesday on the ankle that he hurt and there's still little things in there that need to be cleared up.

'I think that's the problem. It's from the last injury but he doesn't need surgery now.

'I don't know how long he will be out but it's about the healing….rehab really.

'It's not floating bone, and he is getting there, but there's still a wee bit to go.

'It's a blow because we need any goalscorer and strikers.'

No more: Darren Bent (right) will not require further surgery on his injured ankle

No more: Darren Bent (right) will not require further surgery on his injured ankle

Prior to his latest injury Bent had already lost his place to 7million summer signing Christian Benteke, who has quickly become a favourite with the Villa fans.

Lambert said: 'I think Christian has built up a good relationship with them because of the way he plays and the way the big guy's been.

'I think at every club you go to there's always somebody the fans really like.

'For somebody as young as he is, once it sinks it what he's doing, I think he'll be a really big player.'

Villa have now half a dozen players on the injury list but Lambert is still looking forward with relish to games against United, Manchester City and Arsenal in the next fortnight.

He said: 'The injuries are mounting but that's the game of football, you have to trust the ones that go out for you.

'We've got Manchester United and we'll go to try and win it. The players will relish the next three games.

Next up: Robin van Persie and Manchester United visit Villa Park hoping to remain at the top of the Premier League

Next up: Robin van Persie and Manchester United visit Villa Park hoping to remain at the top of the Premier League

'Nobody's expecting us to do it, but we've earned the right to play them and we'll go and try and win.'

Lambert can sense a feeling of goodwill towards him from Villa fans that never existed when Alex McLeish was at the helm last season.

But he admits he is still under pressure and is driven on by the fear of failure.

He said: 'I do sense that people want you to do well, I really do.

'I wasn't part of what happened last year. It must have been extremely difficult.

'I think being a football manager there is always pressure on you. There's always people who want to have a go at you and praise you. I think you need a thick skin.

'The fear of losing drives you, that's what keeps you going, that you don't want to lose.'

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Sunderland 0 Aston Villa 1: Match report

Sunderland 0 Aston Villa 1: Agbonlahor ends drought to hand Lambert timely boost

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UPDATED:

17:15 GMT, 3 November 2012

Gabriel Agbonlahor's first Barclays Premier League goal of the season was enough to see off shot-shy Sunderland as Aston Villa ruined former boss Martin O'Neill's day.

The striker fired home from close range 12 minutes after the break to claim just a second league victory of the season for the midlanders on an afternoon when the Black Cats mustered only a single notable effort on target, and that six minutes from time.

It was no more than Villa, who headed north without former Sunderland striker Darren Bent, deserved after turning in a display which belied their lowly position with striker Christian Benteke bullying the home defence and Barry Bannan enjoying plenty of space in midfield.

Winner: Gabriel Agbonlahor scores the only goal of the game as Aston Villa beat Sunderland

Winner: Gabriel Agbonlahor scores the only goal of the game as Aston Villa beat Sunderland

Match facts

Sunderland: Mignolet, Bardsley (Campbell 81), O'Shea, Cuellar, Colback, Larsson, Cattermole, Gardner (McClean 67), Johnson, Fletcher, Sessegnon (Saha 67).

Subs not used: Westwood, Rose, Kilgallon, Vaughan.

Booked: Bardsley, Fletcher

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Bennett, (Lichaj 11 (Stevens 71)) Weimann (Holman 85), Ireland, Westwood, Bannan, Agbonlahor, Benteke.

Subs not used: Given, Albrighton, Delph, Bowery

Booked: Clark, Lichajm Benteke

Goal: Agbonlahor 67

Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire)

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But where the visitors were dynamic, their hosts once again laboured with dangerman Steven Fletcher effectively shackled as Adam Johnson, Sebastian Larsson and Stephane Sessegnon failed to provide meaningful service for long periods.

The response from the locals among a crowd of 41,515 on the final whistle was predictable with O'Neill's men having now won just one of their last 17 league games.

Those who turned up at the Stadium of Light did so hardly expecting a classic with neither side going into the game with any great confidence.

Sunderland's midweek Capital One Cup exit at the hands of npower Championship Middlesbrough provided further ammunition for those unhappy with a toothless run of form in the league, while Villa's paltry return of just six points before kick-off told its own story.

But it was the visitors who enjoyed the better of an opening 45 minutes which did little to disabuse the spectators of their misgivings.

The Black Cats had the ball in the net after just five minutes when Fletcher, the only Sunderland player to have scored a league goal so far this season, lifted the ball over the advancing Brad Guzan from Sessegnon's through-ball, although he did so from an offside position.

But from that point onwards, the visitors settled and largely dominated possession with Bannan and Ashley Westwood making the most of the space they were afforded in the middle of the field to bring the pacy Agbonlahor and the combative Benteke into play.

Eyes on the ball: Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon and Aston Villa's Ashley Westwood battle for the ball

Eyes on the ball: Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon and Aston Villa's Ashley Westwood battle for the ball

The Belgium international headed a 13th minute Bannan corner over and then looped another into compatriot Simon Mignolet's hands nine minutes later.

In the meantime, Mignolet was well protected by full-back Phil Bardsley, who dived in to block Agbonlahor's 18th minute shot after Benteke had headed down substitute Eric Lichaj's cross.

The home side had gone into the game having mustered only 12 efforts on target all season, and they could not improve on that damning statistic as Craig Gardner dragged a 24th minute effort wide and Ciaran Clark blocked Sessegnon's shot after the Benin international had exchanged passes with Johnson.

Chance: Sunderland's Louis Saha heads wide as the home side fall to defeat

Chance: Sunderland's Louis Saha heads wide as the home side fall to defeat

However, they might have taken the lead on the half hour when Sessegnon picked out Johnson wide on the right and he pulled the ball back for Lee Cattermole to curl a shot just over with keeper Guzan rooted to the spot.

Mignolet had to get down well at his near post to turn away Andreas Weimann's 38th minute strike, but Larsson might have done better a minute before the break when he fired across the face of goal from a promising position.

Even Fletcher was unable to trouble Guzan when, three minutes after the restart, he turned neatly and made his way to goal before slicing a 30-yard effort well wide.

Gutted: Saha is stunned after failing to hit the target with his header

Gutted: Saha is stunned after failing to hit the target with his header

There was at least a greater sense of urgency from Sunderland as the second half unfolded, and Larsson headed over after reacting smartly when Guzan only just got his fingertips to Bardsley's 53rd minute cross.

But it was Villa who took the lead four minutes later as Benteke once again climbed high above Bardsley at the far post to knock down Matt Lowton's right wing cross into the six-yard box and Agbonlahor pounced ahead of Carlos Cuellar to volley into the roof of the net.

O'Neill looked to inject fresh impetus into his team when he sent on James McClean and Louis Saha for Gardner and Sessegnon with 23 minutes remaining, and the Frenchman went close within six minutes wen he got to Larsson's free-kick ahead of Guzan, but headed just over the crossbar.

Tussle: Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson and Aston Villa's Eric Lichaj fight for the ball

Tussle: Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson and Aston Villa's Eric Lichaj fight for the ball

However, Mignolet kept the Black Cats in the game with a 76th minute save from Weimann after Stephen Ireland had found space on the right to set him up.

Cattermole came close to snatching a point when he took aim from distance with 84 minutes gone, but Guzan, who was initially wrong-footed, saved at the second attempt to ensure his side left Wearside with the points despite substitute Fraizer Campbell heading just wide in injury time.

Happy days: Villa celebrate their narrow win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light

Happy days: Villa celebrate their narrow win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light

Paul Lambert backs Martin O"Neill to end Sunderland slump

Lambert backs O'Neill to end slump after Villa overrun Black Cats

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UPDATED:

18:53 GMT, 3 November 2012

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert backed Sunderland counterpart Martin O'Neill to get it right after inflicting a demoralising defeat on his side.

The Scot, who still refers to the Ulsterman as 'the Gaffer' after their time together at Celtic, was a happy man after seeing Villa claim just their second Barclays Premier League win of the season with a 1-0 victory at the Stadium of Light.

Winner: Gabriel Agbonlahor scores the only goal of the game as Aston Villa beat Sunderland

Winner: Gabriel Agbonlahor scores the only goal of the game as Aston Villa beat Sunderland

In the process, he piled further
pressure on O'Neill, whose team have now won only one of its last 17
league games and managed just a single notable effort on target.

However, Lambert is convinced the former Villa manager will turn things around on Wearside.

He said: 'It's a tough, tough job, it really is a tough job. But if there's one person who will turn it around, it will be him.

'I have got the utmost respect for the Gaffer. I am not in a position to sit here and say I have got one over him or anything.

'It's a game of football I had to win and Aston Villa had to win, and we did it. It's a good three points.'

In a contest between two sides who
have found the going difficult in recent weeks, one goal was always
likely to be enough to claim the points, and it was Villa who snatched
the advantage 12 minutes after the break.

Christian Benteke, who had caused
problems all afternoon, climbed above Phil Bardsley at the back post to
head down Matt Lowton's cross and Gabriel Agbonlahor pounced to volley
into the roof of the net from close range.

Eyes on the ball: Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon and Aston Villa's Ashley Westwood battle for the ball

Eyes on the ball: Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon and Aston Villa's Ashley Westwood battle for the ball

It was scarcely more than the
visitors deserved after largely containing their hosts throughout, and
it was telling that the man who came closest to registering for the
Black Cats was skipper Lee Cattermole, who has never scored for the
club.

Cattermole's 84th minute effort was
Sunderland's only serious attempt on goal on another frustrating
afternoon for O'Neill's men.

Lambert, who had to withdraw
left-back Joe Bennett after just 11 minutes and then saw replacement
Eric Lichaj limp off 19 minutes from time, said: 'I thought we deserved
it.

Chance: Sunderland's Louis Saha heads wide as the home side fall to defeat

Chance: Sunderland's Louis Saha heads wide as the home side fall to defeat

'I thought we were excellent today
considering the knockbacks we took with the left-backs and Ashley
[Westwood] making his debut. I thought we were excellent.'

Benteke in particular caught the eye
with a powerful display which left Sunderland bruised and battered and
his manager searching for superlatives.

Lambert said: '”He could be anything he wants. He could be one hell of a player.

Gutted: Saha is stunned after failing to hit the target with his header

Gutted: Saha is stunned after failing to hit the target with his header

'I have always said he is playing in a Belgian national team at the minute that is top class, and he is in there on merit.

'He is playing extremely well and since he has come to this football club, he has been a revelation for us.'

O'Neill was still able to take
positives despite hearing his players booed from the pitch for the
second time in five days, but admitted the responsibility for finding a
solution lies with him.

Tussle: Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson and Aston Villa's Eric Lichaj fight for the ball

Tussle: Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson and Aston Villa's Eric Lichaj fight for the ball

He said: 'It's me, I'm the manager, I'm the manager of the football club, absolutely.

'Yes, it's difficult, it's been a difficult week for us, obviously, losing against Middlesbrough and then not scoring here.

'It's been a difficult week, but we will come through.

Happy days: Villa celebrate their narrow win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light

Happy days: Villa celebrate their narrow win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light

'We threw just about everything at them to try to get on the scoresheet, but it eluded us today again. But it will turn.'

The Black Cats thought they should
have been awarded a second half penalty for handball against Benteke,
but referee Mike Jones was not impressed, to O'Neill's obvious surprise.

He'll get it right: Martin O'Neill (right) receives the backing of Paul Lambert (left)

He'll get it right: Martin O'Neill (right) receives the backing of Paul Lambert (left)

He said: 'All the players around said it was a penalty. The referee has chosen not to give it, that's his prerogative.

'Interestingly, we did have a meeting
at the beginning of the season where referees came to speak to us to
tell us that if you have your arms in the air, even it's to avoid
something hitting your face, then there's the likelihood that they will
be giving a penalty.

'It wasn't today.'

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Darren Bent to be left on Aston Villa"s bench again

Villa boss Lambert will drop 24m man Bent to the bench again for Norwich clash

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UPDATED:

22:23 GMT, 26 October 2012

Paul Lambert will take the biggest gamble of his Aston Villa career so far by once more relegating Darren Bent to the substitutes’ bench for Saturday's crunch clash with Norwich City.

The Scot is set to exclude Villa’s club record 24million signing, plumping instead for Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor as his first-choice strike pairing as he sets about improving a return of just one victory in eight Premier League fixtures.

Lambert recalled Bent to his starting line-up for the game at Fulham last week but is ready to resume his cool stance towards a forward who has been the club’s most prolific scorer in the past two seasons.

Gamble: Bent in training on Friday, ahead of a game he isn't expected to start in

Gamble: Bent in training on Friday, ahead of a game he isn't expected to start in

The Scot first sprang a surprise when he left Bent out of the side to face West Brom in a West Midlands derby three weeks ago. Bent came off the bench to rescue a point for Villa with only his third touch of the ball but again found himself surplus for a trip to Tottenham one week later.

That game ended in defeat and although the England forward was included for Villa’s last outing at Craven Cottage, he again cut an anonymous figure.

Lambert has been at pains to quell any talk of a rift between the pair but it is clear that something is amiss. Villa’s boss has also scotched any talk that Bent’s alienation is part of a long-term plan to rid the club of its high earners.

Under pressure: Paul Lambert needs a result against Norwich

Under pressure: Paul Lambert needs a result against Norwich

The backdrop to Saturday's fixture — with existing contractual disputes to resolve between the two clubs following Lambert’s defection to Villa Park during the summer — only adds to the intrigue.

But with Villa already looking like they are in for a relegation fight, defeat against the Canaries will leave Villa’s boss with serious questions to answer.

Lambert has tried to play down any personal significance about the game but knows it is one they must win.

The 43-year-old has had a tough time at Villa Park since his acrimonious departure from Carrow Road at the end of last season.

‘The Norwich game only has spice because I left,’ he said. ‘But football moves on and it’s a massive game. We have to win.’

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Joe Bennett cuts leg similar to Wayne Rooney injury – picture

That's a slice of bad luck: Bennett injury reminiscent of Rooney's horror cut

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UPDATED:

20:03 GMT, 7 October 2012

Aston Villa's Joe Bennett was taken to hospital for treatment on a nasty gash on his leg – much like the injury which recently ruled Wayne Rooney out for a month.

The defender was left reeling in agony after colliding with an advertising hoarding following a tussle with Gareth Bale during the match at White Hart Lane.

Game over: Bennett was taken off on a stretcher after gashing his leg

Game over: Bennett was taken off on a stretcher after gashing his leg

Enlarge

Ouch: Bennett suffered this injury after colliding with the advertising hoardings

Ouch: Bennett suffered this injury after colliding with the advertising hoardings

Villa boss Paul Lambert confirmed his player had been taken to a local hospital to have the wound treated.

He said: 'I think he has gone to hospital to get stitched up. It was quite a nasty cut.'

The deep wound on the shin of his left leg was reminiscent of the horror-injury sustained by Rooney after Hugo Rodallega's studs sliced into his thigh in August.

The Manchester United striker was sidelined for four weeks after undergoing surgery to to stitch the cut back together and revealed the studs of Rodallega's boots missed slicing a major artery by just milimetres.

The news comes following another defeat
for Villa and manager Paul Lambert felt Christian Benteke's miss proved
crucial in the defeat, which saw the visitors drop to 16th in the table.

The striker, signed from Genk this
summer, missed a free header from Gabriel Agbonlahor's cross early in
the second half after Villa intercepted Lloris' mis-directed throw.

Cut above: Rooney suffered a similar injury earlier this season

Cut above: Rooney suffered a similar injury earlier this season

Cut above: Rooney suffered a similar injury earlier this season

'That was a big moment,' Lambert said.

'When you have chances like that at a place like this you have to put them away.'

Lambert's decision to field Benteke ahead of Darren Bent was a surprise one given that the England striker had come off the bench to score a crucial equaliser against West Brom last week.

The Scot defended the decision tonight, saying: 'Christian gives you a different option.

'Darren's threat is going in behind. That was the only reason why we did it.

'Tottenham's full-backs are going to bomb on at every opportunity so that's why I went with that decision.

Darren has been fine about it.'

Heart of the action: Bennett's team lost 2-0 in the clash at White Hart Lane

Heart of the action: Bennett's team lost 2-0 in the clash at White Hart Lane

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Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert: No Darren Bent fall-out

Lambert hails world-class Bent as Villa boss insists he's had no fall-out with star

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UPDATED:

08:19 GMT, 1 October 2012

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert insists there is no fall-out with axed striker Darren Bent who came off the bench to score a 'world-class' equaliser against West Brom at Villa Park.

Record signing Bent was left out of the starting line-up against Albion with Lambert using Gabriel Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke upfront.

But it was the arrival into the action of Bent midway through the second half which sparked a Villa revival before his 80th-minute close-range effort salvaged a point from a 1-1 draw.

Point proved: Darren Bent came off the bench to rescue Aston Villa

Point proved: Darren Bent came off the bench to rescue Aston Villa

The England striker admits it has been a difficult couple of weeks with losing his England spot plus the Villa captaincy to Ron Vlaar before Sunday's setback.

But, when asked if Bent was upset at being axed, Lambert said: 'No, he was great. There was no problem. I just named the team and that's the team I picked.'

He joked: 'It was a world-class substitution. I need everyone, it's a collective thing, I never look at individuals. The goal was brilliant, it was a world-class finish.

'He was fine at full-time. I spoke to him in the dressing room as well. He was totally fine, totally, no problem, none.'

Lambert added: 'Everyone is as important as anyone else. I explained the captaincy thing was to do what he did there – to score. That's the only reason I did it.

'I need everyone. If we can keep the collective thing and have the crowd with us, we'll be fine.'

Lambert was full of praise for the way his players responded to going behind to a Shane Long goal after playing 120 minutes against Manchester City in the Capital One Cup win in midweek.

He said: 'The goalkeeper (Ben Foster) has made two world-class saves and when you go behind, especially in a derby, it puts you on the back foot.

'I thought the response was great, especially after playing 120 minutes on Tuesday. It was a big, big ask but the response was excellent.'

Baggies boss Steve Clarke was disappointed to concede a late goal but hailed an outstanding performance from Foster.

Mixed feelings: Villa manager Paul Lambert and West Brom boss Steve Clarke

Mixed feelings: Villa manager Paul Lambert and West Brom boss Steve Clarke

The former Manchester United player bounced back from his poor showing against Liverpool in midweek with several fine saves.

Clarke said: 'Having been in that position I'm a little bit disappointed we didn't go on and win it.

'But Ben Foster was excellent. I said the other night when he made the mistakes there was nothing to worry about – and he proved that today.

'He's a top goalkeeper and made one save in the first half off the deflected shot which was unbelievable.

'You need your goalkeeper to make saves in the Premier League to help you get the points. He's up there with the best of them.'

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Aston Villa 1 West Brom 1: Match report

Aston Villa 1 West Brom 1: Super sub Bent cancels out Long's opener to earn point

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UPDATED:

17:01 GMT, 30 September 2012

Record signing Darren Bent came off the substitutes' bench to rescue a point for Aston Villa in a pulsating Barclays Premier League derby with West Brom at Villa Park.

Bent was axed by Villa boss Paul Lambert with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke preferred upfront.

But he had only been on the pitch 11 minutes when he fired the equaliser in front of England head coach Roy Hodgson to cancel out Shane Long's opener.

That'll do it: Bent scores late on for Villa

That'll do it: Bent scores late on for Villa

Match facts:

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Bennett, Albrighton (N'Zogbia 66min), Holman, El Ahmadi, Delph (Bannan 71min) Agbonlahor, Benteke (Bent 68min).

Subs not used: Given, Westwood, Weimann, Lichaj.

Goal: Bent 80

West Brom: Foster, Jones (Tamas 45+2min), McAuley, Olsson, Popov, Morrison, Mulumbu, Yacob, Brunt (Dorrans 39min), Gera, Long (Lukaku 72min).

Goal: Long 51

Subs not used: Luke Daniels, Rosenberg, El Ghanassy, Fortune.

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All square: Aston Villa striker Darren Bent scores to make it 1-1

All square: Aston Villa striker Darren Bent scores to make it 1-1

Opening up: Shane Long puts the Baggies ahead

Opening up: Shane Long puts the Baggies ahead

Making no mistake: Shane Long scores for West Brom from close range

Making no mistake: Shane Long scores for West Brom from close range

Going close: Gabriel Agbonlahor has a shot for Villa

Going close: Gabriel Agbonlahor has a shot for Villa

High jump: Matthew Lowton competes for the ball with Chris Brunt

High jump: Matthew Lowton competes for the ball with Chris Brunt

Taking a tumble: Karim El Ahmadi tackles Yousuff Mulumbu

Taking a tumble: Karim El Ahmadi tackles Yousuff Mulumbu

Battle for the ball: Aston Villa's Brett Holman challenges Billy Jones

Battle for the ball: Aston Villa's Brett Holman challenges Billy Jones

Midfield battle: Chris Brunt tries to win the ball from Marc Albrighton

Midfield battle: Chris Brunt tries to win the ball from Marc Albrighton

Frustration: Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert sees a chance go wide

Frustration: Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert sees a chance go wide

Warm embrace: Paul Lambert and Steve Clarke shake hands before the game

Warm embrace: Paul Lambert and Steve Clarke shake hands before the game

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Aston Villa v West Brom LIVE Premier League action

PREMIER LEAGUE LIVE: Aston Villa v West Brom – as it happens from Villa Park

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UPDATED:

14:47 GMT, 30 September 2012

Follow Sportsmail's coverage of the Barclays Premier League as Aston Villa host Midlands rivals West Brom at Villa Park in Sunday's only match. Both sides have new managers this season but there has been a contrast in how they have enjoyed the opening few weeks.

Paul Lambert has struggled to get his side firing but Steve Clarke has had no such trouble. Who will emerge on top today Kick-off is at 4pm.

Sportsmail's Alex Horlock takes you through all the action at Villa Park.

MATCH FACTS

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Bennett, Albrighton, Holman, El Ahmadi, Delph, Agbonlahor, Benteke.

Subs not used: Given, Bent, N'Zogbia, Westwood, Bannan, Weimann, Lichaj.

West Brom: Foster, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Popov, Morrison, Mulumbu, Yacob, Brunt, Gera, Long.

Subs not used: Luke Daniels, Rosenberg, El Ghanassy, Dorrans, Lukaku, Tamas, Fortune.

15.44: Villa have failed to beat their Midlands rival in the last three meetings. BUT, until last October, West Brom had not won at Villa for 32 years.

I'm struggling to predict this one, but I am leaning towards a West Brom win given the slick attacking football Clarke has installed since his arrival.

Don't worry though Villa fans, I've been wrong plenty of times before…

15.40: It's Lambert v Clarke. Both these bosses have gone some way to winning over their respective fans already, but a victory here will surely catapult them into the 'fans' favourite' category.

15.35: The full teams are in. Check the green box at the side!

Interest selections from both managers up front.

Paul lambert has opted to leave Darren Bent on the bench in place of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke.

Steve Clarke has dropped Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku after some bullish performances for Shane Long.

Bold moves, people. Will they pay off

15.30: With yesterday's Premier League action yielding an exceptional goal haul, I'm hoping this one can add a few more to that tally.

West Brom have had an excellent start to the season, whereas Villa have looked a little erratic.

Mind you, they did see off the champions Manchester City in the Capital One Cup in midweek. This one could go either way!

15.25: Good afternoon everyone, and thanks for joining us for our coverage of what is sure to be a hotly contested Midlands derby.

First up, here's Aston Villa's starting XI: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Bennett, El Ahmadi, Delph, Albrighton, Holman, Agbonlahor, Benteke.

West Bromwich's team to follow…

Ready Gabriel Agbonlahor starts up front for Aston Villa

Ready Gabriel Agbonlahor starts up front for Aston Villa