Paul Lambert praises players as Villa gain momentum in relegation battle

Paul Lambert's Aston Villa side are now just a point behind Stoke, whom they beat on Saturday Photo: PA

Paul Lambert has warned Aston Villa's relegation rivals his side are playing with momentum and without fear.

Lambert's youthful Villa team boosted their chances of Barclays Premier League survival by claiming a deserved 3-1 success at Stoke yesterday.

It was a third win in four games and the perfect response to last week's setback against Liverpool.

The result also carried the added bonus of dragging Stoke into the relegation scrap with Villa now just a point behind the apparently freefalling Potters.

Lambert said: "I think they play without a fear.

"There are some really terrific footballers at the club, really good.

"We try to play football the right way. If you can play without fear and freedom it will certainly help you.

"There is a lot of momentum there, I think we have had it since the turn of the year.

"I know results haven't always gone our way but I think we have been playing really well.

"I thought we could have got a point from Liverpool and that shows how far we have come in a short space of time.

"If we come through this we will be so much better for this."

Lambert spoke of his confidence of avoiding the drop after the home loss to Liverpool and there was no doubt Villa were good value for their latest win.

Gabriel Agbonlahor put them ahead after nine minutes and Stoke's defence struggled to contain the visitors' threat with Andreas Weimann hitting the post.

A failure to make their superiority count looked like costing them after Michael Kightly equalised after 80 minutes but the game was effectively settled by a stunning Matt Lowton volley three minutes from time.

Top scorer Christian Benteke made sure of the points by finishing off a counter-attack in injury time.

Lambert was concerned his side might not have got their just rewards after Kightly's leveller.

"I would have felt hard done by," the Scot said.

"But Stoke are a really good side.

"It is a hard place to play and I am proud of the lads for seeing it through.

"We had to defend really strongly in certain parts of the game - free-kicks, corners, throw-ins.

"Stoke come right at you but football-wise I thought we were outstanding."

Lambert now wants to make sure the momentum is carried into next week's home clash with Fulham.

He said: "I think you judge by the crowd and the crowd were unbelievable - the away crowd have been.

"If we can keep that at home and keep the stadium rocking, and keep playing the way we are - we are definitely a good side."

Benteke's goal was his 19th since joining Villa from Belgian side Genk in August and Lambert dismissed concerns he might be tiring as a draining season reaches its conclusion.

He said: "He was brilliant.

"The one he has to please is myself.

"He was up there on his own. He has played every game for Belgium, Genk before we got him, and for ourselves - and he scores again.

"The guy has been absolutely brilliant. I don't think you can say he looked tired."