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Villa leads the way in Audi Player Index

Five Aside
By ESPN Staff

Petrov urges Villa to strengthen during window

Stilian Petrov has warned Aston Villa they face a gruelling second half to the season unless they strengthen in the transfer market.

Villa continued their freefall down the Premiership when Charlton substitute Bryan Hughes nodded home a 90th-minute winner in Saturday's 2-1 defeat at The Valley.

The result extended Villa's winless streak to nine games and that dismal form has seen them plummet from third spot in early November to their current position of 12th.

Petrov, a £6.5million summer signing from Celtic, insists more misery lies ahead unless owner Randy Lerner bankrolls a spending spree for boss Martin O'Neill in the January transfer window.

'We don't have consistency for a whole game. We only seem to play well for one half at a time,' he said. 'The transfer window is coming so I hope the manager and owner will get some players and we will get better and better.

'When I joined Aston Villa I was told the club's ambition would be high so I'm waiting to see what will happen. We are having a bad time with injuries but we can't use it as an excuse, we have to deal with these things.

'We must keep our heads up and try to do better and better because if we don't it will be a long and tiring season. If we don't start picking up points and playing better it could be a long, hard season but it's up to us to change that.'

O'Neill admits Aston Villa are beginning to crack beneath their over-reliance on youth - and he is ready to open Randy Lerner's chequebook to solve the problem.

'I want to strengthen the squad if it's at all possible. We need some new players coming in,' he said.

'The younger lads are having to do too much in the sense of having to grow up three times more quickly than they would do normally.

'It will eventually stand them in good stead but it's something that we have to address. We need some players to help them.

'I'm looking for players who are capable of lifting us up the league as quickly as possible and who are capable of doing a job for quite some time.

'That might not be quite as easy as we think - but we'll definitely be looking to strengthen.'

Villa's poor form has simply made O'Neill's quest for reinforcements that bit more pressing.

'Regardless of the results over the last couple of weeks - obviously if we had a few more points there would be less anxiety about it - we would have done something in January,' he said.

'I've known for some time that the squad needs strengthening. I'm not the only Premiership manager in that position.

'We need to improve the team. That's the most important thing.

'The Charlton result was obviously disappointing, because we'd been playing reasonably well but lost,' added O'Neill. 'That's been our story in recent weeks. We have to put it right and are obviously determined to do so, because we're in the results business.

'The whole point is to win, and I more than anyone know I have to put it right. It's all well and good playing nice football, but you have to win matches.

'That's what we're here to do. I thought Charlton was an opportunity to do that.

'I knew they would be buoyed by Alan Pardew's arrival and they showed a lot of spirit, as they did against Fulham last week.

'Even so I thought we were capable of winning the game and am disappointed we've got nothing to show for it.'

Petrov is backing O'Neill to lead Villa, whose latest injury setback has been the loss of striker Chris Sutton to blurred vision until February, out of their current slump.

'Martin O'Neill will turn it around - definitely,' said the Bulgarian midfielder. 'I am 100 per cent sure he is going to do everything possible to turn this club around and get us where we need to be.'

Villa were left wondering how a comfortable first-half lead slipped from their grasp and became a sixth Premiership defeat of the season.

They opened the scoring in the 40th minute when Hermann Hreidarsson brought down Gareth Barry and the Villa skipper rifled home the spot-kick, capping a one-sided first half.

But Darren Bent equalised in the 57th minute following a superb long ball from Talal El Karkouri for his 10th goal of the season and Charlton began to build momentum.

Their cause was aided by Barry's dismissal shortly after with the England left-back getting a straight red card from referee Rob Styles for tripping Dennis Rommedahl just outside the area.

And the match seemed destined for a draw until Hughes, a half time replacement for Radostin Kishishev, nodded home from close range on the stroke of full-time.

'It was a hammer blow losing at the end like that. It is hard to understand because we were so comfortable in the first half,' Petrov said.

'We have been leading in a few games like at Portsmouth and Sheffield United but in the second half we were a completely different team and that is not good enough.

'When you make mistakes like we did, we will get punished so we have to look at ourselves and try to do better.

'Teams score a goal and try to keep a clean sheet against us but we can't do it which is why we are losing points.'