Belfast Telegraph

Sherwood: Agbonlahor key for Villa

Tim Sherwood has called on Gabriel Agbonlahor to repeat his derby heroics and insisted he is crucial to Aston Villa's survival bid.

The forward scored just his fourth goal of the season in Villa's 2-1 win over West Brom on Tuesday, which lifted them out of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone.

They face the Baggies at Villa Park again on Saturday in the FA Cup quarter-final following Christian Benteke's last-minute penalty winner.

Agbonlahor has been criticised for inconsistent performances in recent years but Sherwood believes he can now be Villa's trump card.

He said: "It's about this time when Gabby normally comes out and starts keeping this team in the league.

"I had a lot of chats with him, a lot of chats with Christian and every player. The strike partnership outside the top six, they've got to be the best two.

"But on paper doesn't make any difference, you have to go and prove it and go and do it.

"It shouldn't be ignored and I think it was appreciated by the fans the other night, they were singing his name, you can't imagine how much players grow from that. I've managed one of the hottest strikers in English football at the moment, Harry Kane, he had to win over those Tottenham fans."

Sherwood wants to tap into Agbonlahor, Villa's record Premier League goalscorer with 70, and admitted he made special plans to combat the 28-year-old while Tottenham boss last season.

"Absolutely," he said, when asked whether he identified Agbonlahor as key to Villa.

"Every game I've told him to play on the shoulder and look to get in behind, because once he gets in behind you he's very quick and hard to stop.

"He's had a lot of games now, a lot of experience, and I'm saying: 'Just go out there and play where you think you can hurt them, you take up positions'.

"I brought Sandro back into the team (last season) to sit in that pivot, everyone else went forward. We had three defenders to look after the counter-threat of Agbonlahor."

Sherwood is without the suspended Alan Hutton but could welcome back Ron Vlaar after a calf problem, with the skipper being assessed.

Aly Cissokho, Kieran Richardson and Nathan Baker are out but Sherwood will take a repeat of Tuesday's drama against the Baggies.

He added: "If I knew the outcome of the script, I would have taken that, win 2-1, local derby, 94th minute, two strikers scoring, blooding a young kid (Jack Grealish) for 35 minutes - the longest he's played on the pitch - I don't think I could have dreamt it up."

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