Norwegian striker shows his worth

John Carew may be Aston Villa's third choice striker at the moment but he demonstrated his value with another vital goal which enabled Martin O'Neill's side to stretch their unbeaten run to seven games.

It was Villa's fifth successive win in all competitions and keeps them in a challenging league position before their next two mouth-watering games against Arsenal and Liverpool.

Carew, who was a first-half replacement for Emile Heskey, lifted the game out of the doldrums with a 61st minute strike.

Coming on the back of the impressive away wins at Manchester United and Sunderland, this game was anti-climatic for the home fans until the Carew goal.

Villa were frustrated by a Stoke side that was always tenacious both in defence and attack, with the result that O'Neill's side were unable to gain the upper hand after an hour's play.

High-flying Villa gained ample revenge for the disappointment of a 2-2 draw in the corresponding game last season when they were leading by two goals with only five minutes remaining to be played, but they had to work hard for their success.

Stoke, who relied heavily upon Sanli Tuncay, went into the game with only one win from their last six games and with the equal lowest goalscoring tally in the division.

It was therefore hardly surprising that they were unable to dominate the proceedings with the exception of a spell 10 minutes in the second half as Villa maintain a clean sheet for their fourth league game.

Goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen, who as shown great form for Stoke this season, was the player who thwarted Villa in the early stages.

The former Villa goalkeeper made two fine saves in quick succession to prevent his old club taking the lead.

He beat down a shot from Stiliyan Petrov and from the rebound, Gabby Agbonlahor shot from close range only for Sorensen to make another smart save.

This sparked of a spell of intensive Villa pressure and Sorensen made another couple of saves to keep Stoke in the game.

The response from Stoke was a long-range effort from Glenn Whelan which had Brad Friedel scrambling to his left.

Villa then lost the services of Heskey, who had scored three goals in his previous six games, with a leg strain.

His departure after 22 minutes resulted in a call up for big John Carew.

There was another scare for Villa when Mamady Sidebe headed home only for the goal to be disallowed for a foul on Stephen Warnock.

The game tailed off for a long spell but Stoke lifted themselves in the second period and appeared dangerous, particularly when Tuncay was in possession.

One mazy dribble had Villa in all sorts of trouble but he delayed his final effort too long and the danger was averted, while Irishman Whelan should have done better with his effort from just outside the area.

Danny Higginbottom then came to Stoke's rescue when he blocked a goalbound side from Agbonlahor, but in the 61st minute Carew broke the stalemate with a close-range header when he converted Ashley Young's cross from the right.

Tuncay very nearly carved out an equaliser but he was over elaborate and the chance was lost.