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The academy graduate believes that his side have learned a great deal from what has been a challenging year in the Premier League and tips them to improve further next term

Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor has praised his young team-mates for their perseverance after back-to-back wins boosted their survival hopes.

Saturday's 2-1 win over Norwich City saw the Villans rise to 13th in the Premier League table, five points off the relegation zone with two games left to play, and the forward, who scored a double at Carrow Road, hailed his side's maturity in coping with the threat to their top-flight status.

"It's been hard. Especially with the players we've lost over the last three seasons, it was always going to be tough," Agbonlahor told reporters. "The young lads who have come in and stuck with it deserve credit. They've not crumbled, they've carried on game by game and are still improving.

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"They've had some bad things said about them when things haven't gone so well but they've stuck at it and have performed week-in, week-out and tried their hardest to improve.

"They've had a lot of pressure on them and, great credit to them, they've stuck through. They've not complained, they've carried on playing and fighting in big games. They've come back and they deserve credit for that. Long may it continue."

Agbonlahor also emphasised that the team are keen to build on this season and move up the Premier League table, insisting that the club's current predicament is not in keeping with Villa's stature.

"With the fanbase we've got, the training-ground facilities, you want to be higher in the league," he asserted. "We're not far off getting into that top half of the league.

"We've had a lot of new players come in, a lot of young lads come in from the lower leagues, and it's going to take time for them to get used to this league and they're improving game by game, so it's one of those where you've got to look to the future."

Villa next face Chelsea in their penultimate Premier League match, knowing that they suffered an 8-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season, but Agbonlahor says that the squad will not be dwelling on their past failures.

"For a young side to go to Stamford Bridge and lose like that was hard," he reflected. "It's a hard place to go. The team have learned from that, especially if you look at Old Trafford [against Manchester United] and the way we played in the second half. We're still learning as a team and we'll keep learning from playing at those big stadiums as well.

"The result at Chelsea was a one-off. That's long gone. All we've got to look at now is the way we've played against the top teams, as they've been tight games. We'll be looking for that against Chelsea."

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