Goddard's Rally Cry

Paul Goddard has called on the players to lead the team back to winning ways against Aston Villa at Upton Park on Wednesday night.

With Paolo Di Canio and Nigel Winterburn restored to the squad after recovering from their hamstring injuries, Glenn Roeder has more options with his team selection, and his assistant says: "This game is big for us, as we have to try to maintain the gap between us and the bottom pack.

"We have had a few opportunities in the last few weeks to get in the middle pack, but we have thrown away five points in the last two away games."

Despite Aston Villa suffering a couple of home reverses recently, Paul adds: "They are a good side who were top of the table a few weeks back, and they have had a lot of good results away from home.

"We have got to give a lot of respect to Villa but we have had a couple of home defeats recently, so we want to get that out of our system and get back to winning ways.

"On our day we can beat anyone; we have had a couple of tough home games in the last couple of weeks and there was not a lot in both games, but we didn't get the rub of the green against Fulham, conceding one sloppy goal and one controversial one, and against Spurs we worked hard but were a bit under strength and couldn't quite break them down."

As for the Sunderland defeat, Paul says: "I thought we started the game a bit shakily in the first 15 minutes but was quite pleased with the way we defended and contained them - if we'd have won we'd have said what a good all round performance it was.

"I think the defence have to take some credit but we have obviously looked more secure in the home games."

Paul admits that Jermain Defoe might have had a goal or two at Sunderland, but adds: "How much can you criticise a 19-year-old?

"He was a right handful and you have to give him some credit for being there, but it is no good us patting him on the back and saying 'don't worry'.

"We have gone away from home and talked a lot about dealing with Quinn and the way Sunderland play, and we have really restricted their chances, so we were kicking ourselves not to have won."