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Villa boss has praise for forgotten man Ciarán

IRELAND international Ciarán Clark has been hailed by Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert after the defender came out of cold storage and helped Villa earn a point against Southampton last night.

Clark, who impressed in defence for Ireland in last week's win over the USA, made only his third Premier League start of the season for an injury-hit Villa last night, Villa playing out a 1-1 draw in front of a poor crowd at Villa Park. The 25-year-old has struggled to get game time with Ireland and Villa this year but he made his mark last night even though Villa's struggles go on, Lambert's side without a win in eight games.

"The two centre-backs, the young ones were outstanding. Jores Okore has been out for 14 months and I thought he was fantastic. I thought Ciarán grew up last night and took the lead role and he was outstanding," said Lambert.

"I thought we played well. We had six players out - three centre-backs and (Christian) Benteke's out, (Nathan) Baker and (Fabian) Delph's out - big players for this club and it's a lot to carry. I though Gabby was a threat the whole night," he added, as Gabriel Agbonlahor scored to give Villa an early lead, only for a late goal by Nathaniel Clyne to give Shane Long's side a draw.

Lambert believes Southampton deserve credit for their equaliser after wasting a number of earlier chances to score.

He added: "You're expected to get the opening goal, especially at home - there's a massive expectancy level on everybody so to get the goal with Gabby's pace - it was a well-taken goal.

"You have to give Southampton credit, the the way they played the deserved a lot of credit."

Villa have battled relegation for the past four seasons, two under Lambert, and they were winless in seven games in the Premier League ahead of last night's draw.

But, when asked of any added pressure, he said: "I've dealt with pressure all my life really through being a football and being in management - it's part and parcel of the game. It's a great job, you have problems and the secret is to find the solution. That's the secret. t's a key period from now until May. Every weekend we play is a challenge, but it's a challenge we have to rise to."