Villa bid back on track

WIGAN: James Milner put Aston Villa back at the heart of the battle for Champions League football next season with the decisive strike in a 2-1 win over Wigan here on Tuesday.

The England World Cup hopeful struck the winner just after the hour mark after Gary Caldwell had cancelled out the James McCarthy own goal which had gifted Villa the lead. The victory left Villa in seventh place in the Premier League table but they are just three points off fourth-placed Tottenham with a game in hand over their rivals.

Villa had top scorer Gabriel Agbonlahor back in action following his recovery from a virus. Wigan, just four points above the relegation zone, were hoping to boost their survival hopes by winning at home for only the second time since November.

Manager Roberto Martinez kept faith with Caldwell after a horror show in the 4-0 loss at Bolton at the weekend and Wigan were first to show, Hugo Rodallega breaking into the box but firing wide before Maynor Figueroa shot inches over. Villa’s first hint of menace came when Ashley Young turned in an Agbonlahor cross from an offside position.

Figueroa then tested Brad Friedel from distance and John Carew and Stewart Downing both went close before Villa took the lead in the 25th minute. Carew headed down a Downing cross and McCarthy, under no apparent pressure, sliced an attempted clearance into his own net.

Wigan, though, were level inside two minutes with Caldwell rising to glance Charles N’Zogbia’s free-kick past Friedel. But Villa kept piling on pressures and they reclaimed the lead just after the hour mark.