Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill believes that the news that his side had slipped up against Wigan at the weekend will have been "music to the ears" of David Moyes and Everton although he concedes it is still "game on" with one match remaining this season.

High-flying Villa were brought back down to earth with a monumental bump after going down 2-0 to The Latics at Villa Park on Saturday and were unable to stage the fight back they did against fellow Uefa Cup contenders Everton at Goodison the previous week.

But with Everton losing by a solitary goal to Arsenal on Sunday, Villa are still very much in the chase. Although The Toffees are still three points ahead of Villa, O'Neill's side have the greater goal difference and, should Everton slip up against Newcastle next weekend and fail to score, while Villa get a result against West Ham United, then it would be the Midlands' side who secure fifth place by the slightest of margins.

O'Neill was most unhappy with his side after their defeat to Steve Bruce's Latics thanks to two goals from Luis Antonio Valencia who has already caught the eye of some of the Premier League's top clubs.

The Villa boss said: "How can you explain a performance like that? We were really flat. It is genuinely difficult to explain. I thought we were in a really positive mood before kick-off.

"You have to work exceptionally hard, but I thought we'd win. Even though I thought that over the first 15 minutes didn't develop as we wanted it to, I was sure we would produce the sort of football we have in recent weeks. I didn't think it was a case of us re-adjusting, it was more a case of us getting a goal."

But missed opportunites from Gareth Barry, Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor all cost Villa dear and, although O'Neill's side staged a second-half fight back, there was to be no repeat of their feat six days earlier when they had managed to claw two goals back against their nearest Premier League rivals.

O'Neill added; "There was a renewed determination at half-time. But it was flat for so, so long. We were knocked back by the first goal and then the second. I thought if we forced a goal even then we would have a grandstand finish but we just petered out.

"We could have cemented sixth place and put some proper pressure on Everton. Now we have to go and do that by getting a result against West Ham."

O'Neill is keen to underline that he is still delighted with his young side's progress overall this season. He said: "We have lost six games at home this season but our away record is terrific. We were drawing a number of games but we turned those into victories. If you look at those who have beaten us in the last two months, you would be disappointed and you wouldn't have expected to lose to Sunderland and Wigan. My expectations are certainly higher than that."

And he assured supporters his side had not taken the likes of Wigan for granted or treated them with disrespect. "We were tentative for far too long. Genuinely I thought we had got that out of our system. We looked short of energy when I would have thought that we'd have had the energy levels to compete.

"We played Arsenal and we drew a lot of confidence from the point we got from The Emirates but then we faced Middlesbrough and we didn't perform. I can accept the non-performance if we have eked out a victory. Then things can be put into context."

"There was an opportunity against Wigan and we did not take it. Everton must have been listening to the result coming through and it would have been music to their ears but we have one more chance and we have to take it."