Vassell haunts Villa

The former Holte End favourite broke the deadlock after just for minutes, before adding a superb second midway through the half. David O'Leary shook his team up at the interval, and they displayed more edge after the restart and eventually reaped their reward when Liam Ridgewell bundled home a low Patrick Berger cross on 56 minutes. But there was to be no reprieve for the visitors, as City withstood a spell of pressure before eventually sealing the win through Andy Cole with eight minutes remaining.

The result leaves Stuart Pearce's lying fourth, while Villa are languishing in 16th and the dreaded 'r' word is beginning to be muttered on both sides of Birmingham. It is a stark turnaround for a club that offloaded Vassell for £2m during the summer, regarding him surplus to requirements as O'Leary looked to spend a £20m windfall. The 25-year-old has now registered five goals in 12 appearances since heading up the M6. One of the arrivals at Villa Park made a rare appearance last night as Stuart Taylor replaced Thomas Sorenson in goal after the Dane was injured in the warm-up.

It is never easy to come into a side at the last minute, less still when Jlloyd Samuel leaves you stranded with a poor header with less than five minutes gone and Vassell tapped in from close range. The striker had the decency not to celebrate in front of the Villa fans and he remembered his manners again when Cole swivelled past Ridgewell and dinked a superb ball into his path. Vassell struck his shot first-time, a diagonal right-foot volley just inside the far post.

City were rampant at this point, and Villa's fans responded with ironic cheers when Samuel was withdrawn at half-time. There was a notable improvement in the second half, and Ridgewell reduced the deficit on 65 minutes to set up a grandstand finale – what better time to replace striker Luke Moore with liability Eirik Bakke? The Villa charge was dampened and City went on to seal the win when Cole's left-foot shot went in after taking a deflection off the impressive Mark Delaney.