Aston Villa's 13th consecutive defeat at the hands of Manchester United may have left an air of despondency over the club but captain Gareth Barry believes his young side are learning some valuable lessons along the way.
One of the few Villa stars to shine on Saturday under the watchful eye of new England coach Fabio Capello, Barry said some positives should be drawn despite the 2-1 defeat in the third round of the FA Cup. Martin O'Neill's side managed to contain the visitors for 80 minutes and, but for the introduction of Wayne Rooney, the match looked set for a replay at Old Trafford.
Barry believes the fact that Villa had been beaten 4-1 by United in the Premier League just a few weeks before had given the players a few valuable lessons.
The captain said: "Saturday was a game of few chances and that is as comfortable as we have been when playing them for a good few years. We made a mistake at the end and they capitalised. We know we didn't create much, but we learned from when we played them in the league. We tried to stop them and they didn't create much until the two goals."
The England midfielder had spoken before the game about his concerns that some of Villa's young English stars might have been distracted by Capello's presence in the crowd for his first match in charge and he admitted afterwards: "It probably wasn't one of the best games for him to watch in terms of attacking football or chances created, but games like that help you learn a lot about players so I am sure he will have found a good few points. "
Barry said the arrival of Rooney from the bench had been the catalyst which sparked the game to life and ultimately changed it around. He said: "We knew that once Rooney came on, we had to start concentrating again because he was a different option for them. We are not unhappy with the way we played, because we stopped the best team in the country from creating many chances."
Barry now plans to help lift his side's jaded spirits as they prepare for the visit of Steve Coppell's Reading at Villa Park this weekend. He added: "I am sure we e will bounce back against Reading because our confidence is pretty high."
Reading will have a new face in their squad at the weekend after agreeing to sign Czech Republic midfielder Marek Matejovsky from Mlada Boleslav for an undisclosed fee. Paperwork for the signature of the 26-year-old is expected to be completed today, with Matejovsky set to pen a three-and-a-half year contract to the summer of 2011.
Matejovsky is a regular in his country's national team, scoring in the 3-0 victory in Germany in October to help them win their European Championship qualifying group. Royals director of football Nicky Hammond said: "Marek is primarily a central midfield player but he is also capable of playing in both wide positions or behind the strikers.
"He has been playing for a smaller club in the Czech league but he is an established international who is likely to be included in the very strong Czech Republic squad in the Euro 2008 finals." n A peak of over nine million television viewers saw Saturday's game. The audience represented a 37 per cent share of the total audience between 5.15pm and 7pm. Arsenal's 2-0 win over Burnley at Turf Moor on Sunday lunchtime was watched by a peak audience of over five million, while almost seven million viewers saw Stoke City's goalless draw with Newcastle United in the late game.