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Bristol Rovers 1 Aston Villa 3: Three and easy for Alex McLeish"s men

Bristol Rovers 1 Aston Villa 3: Three and easy for McLeish's men

Aston Villa survived a late rally from Bristol Rovers to advance to the fourth round of the FA Cup at the Memorial Stadium.

Marc Albrighton gave the Premier League visitors a first-half lead before Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ciaran Clark struck after the break to put them in complete control.

Rovers, with caretaker boss Shaun North in charge following the midweek departure of Paul Buckle, battled gamely and pulled one back in added time through Scott McGleish, but the veteran then missed the chance to set up a thrilling finale as his penalty was saved by Brad Guzan.

Easy does it: Gabriel Agbonlahor celebrates the second goal

Easy does it: Gabriel Agbonlahor celebrates the second goal

MATCH FACTS

Bristol Rovers: Poke, Woodards, Downes, Bolger, Sawyer, Anyinsah, Stanley, Dorman, Carayol (McGleish 28), Zebroski, Richards (Brown 79).
Subs Not Used: Cronin, Smith, Anthony, McLaggon, Goddard.

Goal: McGleish 90.

Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Dunne, Collins (Gardner 74), Warnock, Albrighton, Ireland, Petrov (Bannan 82), Clark, Bent, Heskey (Agbonlahor 46).
Subs Not Used: Marshall, N'Zogbia, Delph, Weimann.

Goals: Albrighton 35, Agbonlahor 64, Clark 78.

Referee: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).

Attendance: 10,883

While his side are in the draw for the
next round, Villa boss Alex McLeish has injury worries over Emile Heskey
and James Collins who were forced off.

McLeish had named a strong side but, with a passionate full house behind
them, the League Two strugglers, who lie 74 places below Villa in the
league pyramid, made an encouraging start in their hunt for an upset.

Chris Zebroski raced past Stephen Warnock down the right and followed
that up with a strike from the edge of the area that was comfortably
saved by Guzan.

Villa did not help themselves by misplacing a number of passes on a
heavy surface, but they soon began to take a stranglehold on the game
without ever looking particularly impressive.

Chances soon followed as Heskey steered Stephen Ireland's inviting cross
over the bar before goalkeeper Michael Poke, making just his second
appearance since joining on loan from Brighton, made an excellent save
from the striker as he tipped his firm header to safety.

Albrighton rocks: The Villa winger (left) scored the opener

Albrighton rocks: The Villa winger (left) scored the opener

Aaron Downes was then forced into a wild sliced clearance after Stiliyan Petrov had headed beyond the goalkeeper moments later.

With the pressure building on Rovers it was no surprise when Villa's
first goal duly arrived in the 35th minute, Petrov's lovely pass
allowing Albrighton in behind the defence on the right side of the area
to fire through Poke's legs.

Warnock should have doubled their advantage three minutes later when
Ireland's cheeky dummy left the full-back in acres of space, but he
could only fire wastefully over.

Captain marvel: Stiliyan Petrov impressed for the visitors

Captain marvel: Stiliyan Petrov impressed for the visitors

Heskey was withdrawn at the interval after a recurrence of an Achilles problem, with Agbonlahor his replacement.

Rovers finally carved out their first genuine effort on goal early in
the second half as Joe Anyinsah found space on the right, but substitute
McGleish flashed wildly at his pull back.

That proved costly as Agbonlahor, who had looked lively since his arrival, gave Villa a two-goal cushion in the 64th minute.

Icing on the cake: Ciaran Clark scored a brilliant solo goal

Icing on the cake: Ciaran Clark scored a brilliant solo goal

The striker took advantage of a defensive slip by Cian Bolger to run in
on goal and calmly guide the ball into the bottom right-hand corner for
his sixth goal of the season.

Anyinsah, who was by far the home side's most threatening attacker, pushed an effort wide as Rovers continued to toil.

Villa suffered another blow when Gary Gardner replaced Collins, with the
Wales international limping off with what appeared to be a calf
problem.

Penalty miss: McGleish was denied a second goal by Brad Guzan

Penalty miss: McGleish was denied a second goal by Brad Guzan

It did little to upset Villa's comfort as Clark seemingly sealed the win
with 12 minutes to go as the Republic of Ireland international cut in
from the right to curl home a low left-footed shot.

But the home side got a goal back in stoppage time when Richard Dunne's
woeful pass only succeeded in finding the loitering McGleish, who lofted
the ball over Guzan.

Hopes of the most unlikely of comebacks were raised when Warnock capped
his poor night by handling in the area seconds later, but McGleish's
weak spot-kick was simple for Guzan to keep out and the chance was gone.

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Bristol Rovers v Aston Villa live

FA CUP LIVE: Bristol Rovers v Aston Villa – follow the action from the Memorial Stadium as it happens

Follow Sportsmail's coverage of the FA Cup as Bristol Rovers host Aston Villa at the Memorial Stadium to conclude Saturday's third round action. The odds are stacked against the managerless League Two side as they prepare to take on Alex McLeish's Premier League outfit. Email me your thoughts on the match at dan.ripley@dailymail.co.uk or contact me on Twitter @Ripinho.

Bristol Rovers 0-1 Aston Villa (5.30pm)

Click here for live goals as they go in

Bristol Rovers: Poke, Woodards,
Downes, Bolger, Sawyer, Anyinsah, Stanley, Dorman, Carayol (McGleish 28), Zebroski,
Richards.
Subs: Cronin, Smith, Lee Brown, Anthony, McLaggon,
Goddard.

Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Dunne,
Collins, Warnock, Albrighton, Ireland, Petrov, Clark, Bent, Heskey.
Subs: Marshall, N'Zogbia, Agbonlahor, Delph, Bannan, Weimann, Gardner.

Goals: Albrighton 35.

Referee: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire)

35min: GOAL! Bristol Rovers 0-1 ASTON VILLA

Excellent goal this and it's fitting Marc Albrighton scores it as he has been superb. Petrov plays a superb through ball, and the winger on the edge of the box ghosts behind the defence before firing low and hard past Poke.

33min: Heskey is rubbish! Doesn't deserve the ball!! #avfc #brfc

Keri-Ann Rotheroe, twitter

I still think booing him for that is harsh, but you do have agreement from colleagues surrounding me.

31min: It's quietened down on and off the pitch in the last five minutes. McLeish's side still seem to have control of the game on a whole though.

28min: Rovers have been forced into an early change as veteran Scott McGleish replaces the injured Mustapha Carayol.

26min: Villa are playing much better now and are unlucky not to be ahead. Stiliyan Petrov beats Poke to a long ball but his knock-on for Heskey is cleared by a a defender at the last possible moment.

23min: And from that corner Villa nearly score as Michael Poke tips over Heskey's powerful header.

22min: And now Stephen Warnock is having joy down the left as after running unmarked into the box, he plays a low pass across goal for Heskey.

The striker's shot is blocked before the visitors win a corner.

19min: The away side are having a big say on proceedings now as another excellent Albrighton cross is cut out at the far post with Darren Bent waiting to tap home.

17min: Villa's best chance. Ireland chips a delicate ball into the box but Heskey is put under just enough pressure to clip a first-time chance over the bar. That's a warning for the League Two side.

15min: Villa's best player so far has been Albrighton, who has delivered a couple of dangerous balls from the right flank where he is finding time and space.

No hungry strikers to gobble them up at the moment though.

13min: Ah, why not Eliot Richards finds space 25 yards out, and with his boyhood cup dreams inside his head, has a crack at goal.

It doesn't go to plan though as he slices his effort well wide.

12min: While chances are low, I will throw this one out into the open.

Every time Emile Heskey gets the ball he is getting booed…why

10min: Richard Dunne's header from it fails to trouble the goal and Rovers clear. Plenty of home fans in the ground and they are making fantastic noise.

9min: Rovers still having the better of this game but Villa have a chance here after Marc Albrighton's cross is blocked for a corner.

6min: Good effort, but Chris Zebroski's side-foot effort from 23 yards is easily taken by Brad Guzan.

3min: It's not a great pitch and that's one excuse for Villa who have started slowly. Bristol Rovers dictating this game so far.

Kick-off: Aston Villa get us going.

17.30: Before we kick off there will be a minutes' applause for Denis Dunford, the Bristol Rovers President and former Chairman who passed away this week aged 89.

17.27: And just before kick-off, please read this piece from Sportsmail's Michael Walker on how the City of Bristol can have some glory years ahead in its two football sides.

17.24: Fair play to McLeish, that's a very respectable squad he has put out and it's good to see a mid-table manager taking this competition seriously.

Too many sides outside the top six in the Premier League don't put enough focus in this competition when it presents a brilliant chance of success.

Six of the best: Bristol Rovers were too strong for Totton in the last round

Six of the best: Bristol Rovers were too strong for Totton in the last round

17.21: From the Memorial Satdium:

Bristol Rovers v Aston Villa
Bristol Rovers: Poke, Woodards, Downes, Bolger, Sawyer, Anyinsah, Stanley, Dorman, Carayol, Zebroski, Richards. Subs: Cronin, Smith, McGleish, Lee Brown, Anthony, McLaggon, Goddard.

Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, Albrighton, Ireland, Petrov, Clark, Bent, Heskey. Subs: Marshall, N'Zogbia, Agbonlahor, Delph, Bannan, Weimann, Gardner.

Referee: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire)

17.18: Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish makes three changes to his starting line-up for this evening's FA Cup third-round tie against Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium.

Carlos Cuellar's thigh injury means a recall for Alan Hutton at right-back, while Emile Heskey gets the nod ahead of Gabriel Agbonlahor in attack and Marc Albrighton relegates Charles N'Zogbia to a place on the bench.

Rovers caretaker manager Shaun North, in charge for the first time following the departure of Paul Buckle in midweek, makes just one change from the side beaten against Barnet as an injury to leading scorer Matt Harrold sees Joe Anyinsah come in to midfield.

17.15: Talk about going from one extreme to the other. In the last round Bristol Rovers were the big guns when they defeated Totton 6-1, but the mood has changed a bit since then with the club's struggles in League Two resulting in the departure of manager Paul Buckle.

As minnows today, in theory this should be easy meat for Aston Villa but Alex McLeish's side have been so inconsistent this season I won't be placing a stake on them to win this evening. Team news coming up.

No slip ups: Aston Villa's Stiliyan Petrov (left) will hope to avoid an embarrassing defeat at Bristol Rovers

No slip ups: Aston Villa's Stiliyan Petrov (left) will hope to avoid an embarrassing defeat at Bristol Rovers