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By ESPN Staff

Keegan short on excuses after Villa thrashing

Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan conceded his side were short of excuses after losing 4-1 against Aston Villa despite taking the lead at Villa Park on Saturday.

A Michael Owen goal handed them the Magpies the lead before the hosts, inspired by a John Carew hat-trick, bullied them into submission.

A stunned Keegan commented: 'We got the lead today and still couldn't go on and win so you sort of run out of excuses in that department.

'When you look at the second half the positives are forgotten because of the negatives and we are very fragile at the moment.

'We have got enough to be a Premier League club next season but you have still got to get to that 40-point mark no matter what type of club you are.'

West Ham manager Alan Curbishley hopes referee Mark Clattenburg will take another look at the red card shown to Lee Bowyer at the end of his team's 1-1 draw with Birmingham at Upton Park.

Midfielder Bowyer was sent off following a two-footed challenge on Blues captain Damien Johnson in the 88th minute.

Curbishley felt it did not warrant the straight red which, if it stands, will rule Bowyer out for three games.

He said: 'We have asked Mark to look at it, and we think he will. Hopefully he will overturn it.

'When it happened I did not think it was that serious, but on the spot, the referee sees it differently.'

Blues boss Alex McLeish was heartened by his troubled side's efforts in the match.

'In the second half we had to do a bit more defending, and it was a really spirited performance from the players,' he said.

'We were written off last week, but we have bounced back again. We are out of the bottom three this week, but it means nothing until May.'

Juande Ramos hailed the impact of substitute Dimitar Berbatov after the Bulgarian inspired his side's 3-0 win at Derby.

Berbatov, Robbie Keane and Younes Kaboul scored the goals after a first-half stalemate, leaving Ramos happy with the depth of his squad.

'We have got lots of big games coming up in the next few weeks and the idea is not to rotate the squad, but to give some players a bit of rest, and it was Berbatov's turn,' he said.

'With the match still at 0-0 when I brought him on, the idea was to get the three points and he is capable of scoring important goals.'

Scorer Lassana Diarra and goalkeeper David James impressed as Portsmouth beat Bolton 1-0 at the Reebok Stadium but home boss Gary Megson was magnanimous in defeat - despite a clear offside in the winning goal.

He said: 'Although we are disappointed, I'm not one of these who starts moaning and groaning at referees - they just got it wrong, that's all.'

Everton manager David Moyes conceded that his side's 1-0 victory over Reading, sealed by Phil Jagielka's header, was not easy on the eye.

The Scot said: 'It was a plain ugly win, but there were times that we played well. I told the lads they had to do better, but on a very difficult pitch we got the result we needed.'

In Saturday's other games, Sunderland beat Wigan 2-0 and Middlesbrough edged to a 1-0 win over Fulham.