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By ESPN Staff

Pearce grateful for Vassell's return to form

Manchester City manager Stuart Pearce heaped glowing praise on Darius Vassell as the striker again tormented former club Aston Villa in helping his side secure their first away win of the season in the Barclays Premiership.

Vassell took his goal tally to five in four matches against his previous employers since his £2million move from Villa Park in the summer of 2005 with the decisive opener in a 3-1 victory last night.

The former England player was again played out of position on the left side of midfield by Pearce but his overall performance was top notch.

Vassell also refused to over-celebrate after scoring despite being constantly booed by the Holte End where he was once a hero before - according to Villa captain Gareth Barry - being forced out of the club.

'Obviously going back to your old club gives Darius a bit of a lift,' said Pearce.

'There is no doubt about that. I think he loves Villa. He had great times at Villa but he enjoys coming back and putting on a show.

'He has done that every time we have played them and credit to him. I am asking him to play out of position on the left-hand side of midfield but the work he did attacking and defensively was fantastic for the team.

'It isn't his best position but there's not been one moment where he has turned around to me and said 'I don't want to do this role'.

'We were disappointed when we lost Darius for the early part of the season because of his knee injury. Now he is back and doing well.'

The City players celebrated their first away win since a 3-2 triumph on the same ground in April by throwing all their shirts into the massed ranks of their supporters after the final whistle.

Pearce said: 'It was a collective idea. I think the players respect our supporters. We do more for the supporters than at the five previous clubs I have represented.

'They have spent a lot of money travelling all over the country and not seeing us win and I think it will be nice that 10 or 11 people will have gone home with a shirt covered in sweat from the team they support.'

Joey Barton and a wonder goal from Sylvain Distin secured victory for City with Villa only able to manage a consolation effort from Gavin McCann - one of the few home players to emerge with much credit.

It was wake-up call for Villa in front of new owner Randy Lerner, who will be acutely aware the squad needs strengthening in January.

Villa manager Martin O'Neill said: 'I think the owner has seen a number of games now.

'He has watched us do well and watched us perform not so cleverly. I am sure he will be disappointed with the performance but I think he knows our position.

'This game showed what Villa have still got to do - and I have been saying it for a long time.

'We haven't got a strong enough squad but that is up to us to try to do something about in January.

'Our squad is a bit lightweight and those are things we need to address if we can do.

'The overall impression after 15 games is I've been very pleased with the team but not last night.

'We didn't play well enough and frailties can be shown up in games like that.'