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Villa boss O'Neill pleased with season progress

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill is happy with their season after signing off with a 2-2 draw against West Ham.

Gareth Barry and Ashley Young were on target for Villa at Upton Park but their efforts were not enough to secure fifth spot and a UEFA Cup berth.

But they could yet qualify for Europe via the back door with their sixth place finish in the Premier League sending them into the Intertoto Cup - although O'Neill has his reservations over the competition.

He said: "I'm very pleased with the team because we've taken big strides since last season.

"It's disappointing we've missed out on the UEFA Cup but with Everton beating Newcastle it doesn't seem so bad.

"We're in the Intertoto Cup for definite now, which means we have to play 17 games in the middle of June!

"What it really means is that we have to be back a week earlier and be competitive sooner than expected because the ties are mid to late July."

West Ham striker Dean Ashton rescued a point with a lightning strike two minutes from time.

Manchester United have been linked with a move for the England marksman but boss Alan Curbishley insists the Hammers do not need to sell.

He said: "Every club has its problem over sides wanting to buy their players, look at Tottenham.

"It's something you have to deal with if it comes along but fans saw last summer that we had players coming in rather than leaving.

"We've had to balance the books a bit since but the numbers joining us was a big plus for us. We're hoping to build on that, I'm not under pressure to cut costs."

West Ham finished in 10th place and Curbishley insisted he could not have asked for any more from his injury-hit squad.

He said: "I've said all along how well my players have done.

"We let ourselves down in a couple of games but in the main we have done well despite having to contend with a lot of problems."

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Tribal Football Staff

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