Carew comeback helps Villa through

Aston Villa 3 Doncaster 1

Aston Villa 3 Doncaster 1

John Carew scored on his first start for three months as Aston Villa reached the fifth round of the FA Cup for only the second time in nine years.

The Norway international struck for the eighth time this season, proving his fitness after a lengthy lay-off with a back problem.

Steve Sidwell and Nathan Delfouneso were also on the mark for Martin O'Neill's drastically changed team, with Jason Price netting a consolation effort for visitors Doncaster.

But the Coca-Cola Championship side could be proud of their efforts and attempted to play constructive football from the first to the final whistle.

Villa will just be happy to be through to the next round after resting star names like Gabriel Agbonlahor, Gareth Barry, James Milner and Brad Friedel ahead of the weekend Barclays Premier League clash at Blackburn.

O'Neill, who made seven changes to the side which drew with Wigan at the weekend, has admitted clinching a Champions League spot is the main priority for the midlands club this season.

Carew managed to get the full 90 minutes under his belt and Ashley Young marked his return from a three-game ban by playing for 75 minutes.

Central defender Curtis Davies and midfielder Sidwell also caught the eye for Villa while James Chambers was impressive at left-back for the visitors.

Before the kick-off a minute's silence was held in memory of former Villa and Doncaster midfielder Paul Birch who died after a lengthy battle against cancer on Monday.

Rovers were cheered on by 4,000 fans as they looked to cause Villa further problems after the goalless draw at the Keepmoat Stadium 11 days ago.

Ashley Young cut inside former Villa reserve player James O'Connor before firing over the crossbar.

Sidwell blocked a shot from Brian Stock in a lively start by the visitors who had Sam Hird booked for handball.

But after 15 minutes Villa broke the deadlock through Sidwell's fourth goal of the campaign.

Doncaster goalkeeper Neil Sullivan managed to parry a low drive by Craig Gardner but Sidwell had the easiest of tasks to knock the loose ball into an empty net.

Then after 19 minutes Carew marked his comeback by doubling Villa's lead - although he needed a slice of luck.

He tried to pick his spot from the edge of the Doncaster box and his shot deflected off Hird and looped over a stranded Sullivan into the roof of the net.

Rovers had a mountain to climb but they came close to pulling a goal back almost immediately.

Richie Wellens advanced unchallenged into the Villa box but dragged his low shot wide of Brad Guzan's goal.

Luke Young came to Villa's rescue by blocking a fierce effort from Price who appealed in vain for handball by the former England defender.

The visitors were still attempting to play constructive football and Sidwell became the first Villa player to be yellow-carded for a challenge on John Spicer after 33 minutes.

Doncaster eventually reduced the arrears on the stroke of half-time when Price steered home a low centre from James Coppinger after Delfouneso had lost possession.

A reverse pass from Wellens almost played in Martin Woods as Doncaster continued to play some probing football at the start of the second half.

Guzan had to be alert to tip a 20 yard piledriver from Spicer around the post as Villa looked jittery at the back.

It was against the run of play when Delfouneso restored Villa's two-goal advantage after 61 minutes.

Nicky Shorey made good ground down the left before supplying an inviting cross for the teenage striker whose glancing header sailed past Sullivan into the corner of the net.

It was his first goal in domestic football for Villa after netting two previous goals in the UEFA Cup this season and finally killed off Doncaster's brave challenge.

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