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Frenchman delighted to see Pires net first goal for club

Gerard Houllier was delighted with his side’s display as they won for the third time in a row by beating Blackburn Rovers 3-1 at Villa Park to advance to the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Goals from Ciaran Clark, Robert Pires and Nathan Delfouneso were enough to see off Steve Kean’s Blackburn as Villa look to improve on their recent poor run.

Houllier said: “That was one of the missions today, to keep the winning edge and momentum. The commitment, the passing, has improved a lot. I think they played well, they had a couple of chances and hit the bar.

“We probably played better in the first half. It was a different game when we went down to 10 men. I am as proud of the effort in the second half as much as the first half because we had to show discipline. To keep a clean sheet after going down to 10 men is good."

Villa lost youngster Nathan Baker when he was sent off for a two-footed lunge on Rovers David Hoilett, which Houllier thinks was unfair on the defender.

“It looked harsh in my view but I can understand that the referee has a different angle," explained Houllier.

"The boy [Baker] will learn that he doesn't need to do that in the centre of the park. He has done well, it's his second game.”

The Villa manager fielded a side that had a blend of youth and experience as players such as Robert Pires played alongside Barry Bannan in the middle of the park.

“It was a combination of youth and experience in the centre of midfield. He [Pires] is fitter and I think he is getting better and better," he said.

"He still has the touch and the eye for the pass. He brings some fluency in the game. I was pleased by the reaction of the bench when he scored, it is very telling. They were very happy and proud for him. “

Houllier was also pleased with Bannan but hopes with time and with more games in a Aston Villa shirt he will come to understand his role in the side a bit better.

"Barry [Bannan] looks for the 40-yard pass and tries to be decisive all the time when sometimes the 14-yard pass is enough. But he is taking on board a few things and improving," he added.

"I told him instead of playing at 100mph all the time, you can play 50 or 60 sometimes and then play 120 other times to surprise people. If you play 5mph then you can see things but at the same time you don't want to curb their enthusiasm and skill.”

Towards the end of the game the Villa Park  faithful began to chant the name of Gerard Houllier which is in stark contrast to that of nearly a month ago when the fans were calling for his head.

When asked about this the Villa manager said: “They understand what we are trying to do.”

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