Downing: Rollicking revved us up

Villa looked out of sorts during the opening 45 minutes and needed

a fortuitous goal from Ashley Young to cancel out Steven Fletcher’s

opener. But O’Neill’s “kick up the backside” worked wonders and

Villa responded with four goals in 13 minutes from Downing (two),

Emile Heskey and Gabriel Agbonlahor in running out 5-2 winners. It

kept Villa on course for a Champions League spot via a top-four

finish in the Premier League as they put their recent goalscoring

problems – just three in the previous seven league games – behind

them. Downing said: “The manager wasn’t very happy at half-time. It

took a gee-up from him and a few other players to get us going

because it wasn’t acceptable really. “It worked wonders because in

the second half we looked a different team and played some great

football. “The manager is a great man motivator and half-time was

the perfect example with a kick up the backside. “He demanded more

of us as players and there are some big characters in the dressing

room and a few things were said and it worked. “It was a slow game

for a long time and once we got the second goal, it gave us a bit

of confidence and we played some great stuff in a 15-minute spell

and killed the game off.” Downing missed the first half of the

season after his £12million move from Middlesbrough in the

summer after breaking his foot in April, in a challenge with Villa

skipper Stiliyan Petrov. But he has quickly made a big impression

with O’Neill. He said: “I think Stewart has done wonderfully well

for us. “He’s had no pre-season, he came straight into the side

from injury and has been excellent. “He did some wonderful things

in the game against Burnley. I think he is just getting really

properly fit. “Sometimes the crowd get a bit anxious when he goes

10 yards and then checks back. “But the first goal he stuck in

brilliantly and you can immediately see a lift of confidence – and

his second goal came because the confidence was up.”