O'Neill hails Carew's consistency after Hull winner
Martin O'Neill believes Aston Villa striker John Carew has answered his demands to show more consistency as his goal against Hull City gave the club a 1-0 win which clinched a second successive season in Europe.
Carew has often flattered to deceive but he has been in a rich vein of form since returning in early February from a three month lay-off with a back problem.
The Norwegian international scored his 14th goal of the campaign against the Tigers to ensure Villa will be participating in the revamped Europa League in 2009-2010.
O'Neill said: ''John's goal tally is very impressive. I think he has accepted the challenge to deliver the goods more regularly. I think that is absolutely right.
''The great, great players in this game are very consistent. The demands are great. But he is doing great, really well indeed. I am delighted for John. He seems to have had no recurrence of the back problem and this is as fit as he has been for the season.
''He is very popular. He is thriving on the confidence and his popularity with the crowd and the team and occasionally with me as well!''
O'Neill is delighted to have qualified again for Europe as Villa climbed back into fifth spot of the Premier League.
But he again reiterated that he expects Villa to have a tougher fight on their hands to achieve that feat next season via Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
He said: ''The club some years ago used to feast on European football. There has been a bit of a famine recently and it is great to have it for two successive years.
''I know we are still battling and we can't finish any worse than sixth - which is the same as last year - and we can possibly finish fifth.
''That said, there is a tinge of disappointment that we couldn't keep the battle going (for fourth spot) but those four teams are very strong.
''Maybe we will try and learn from that although next season will be particularly difficult with Manchester City and Tottenham getting stronger. It will be difficult for us next year.''
Hull remain rooted fourth from bottom after extending their sequence without a win to seven games.
And Tigers manager Phil Brown was keep to play down a spat between Deiberson Geovanni and Daniel Cousin as they left the pitch at half-time.
Geovanni did not reappear for the second period but Brown insisted: ''It had no effect on me as regards to making any changes. I didn't think Geovanni was getting hold of the game so I decided to give Nicky Barmby the second 45 minutes.
''I have no idea what they were talking about or arguing about - if they were arguing. I was making the change regardless.''
Brown added: ''I thought we played some good stuff withoout creating too many great chances. The game plan was right. We came and frustrated Villa and the longer the scored stayed at 1-0, the more chance we had of getting something from the game.
''It was an opportunity missed. The bottom three have not got anything from their games and it was opportunity to put some daylight between ourselves and them.
''I said this was a big weekend for us. Next weekend becomes even bigger.''