Aston Villa are becoming such a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League that teams are changing the way they play to deal with them, according to manager Martin O'Neill.

That is taken as a great compliment by O'Neill, who saw a well organised Blackburn Rovers side regroup with a five-man midfield in a bid to stifle Villa as they battled to steal a march on their Premier League rivals.

With Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea all on FA Cup duty, Villa had hoped that three points would lift them above Liverpool and into the fourth Champions League spot, but they eventually had to settle for a draw with Mark Hughes' Rovers.

O'Neill said: "Teams are changing the way they play against us and that's testament to how dangerous we can be.

"It is a new test for my players but I couldn't ask for anything more of the team against Blackburn, even if they had been beaten. Now we've got to turn that determination into that extra piece of creativity."

O'Neill was delighted with goalkeeper Scott Carson, who is on loan from Liverpool until the end of the season with a view to a permanent deal. Carson's first-half penalty save denied Blackburn's Matt Derbyshire and will have done no harm to the player's hopes of retaining the England jersey as new national coach Fabio Capello watched from the stands.

The Villa boss has always maintained that his young keeper's confidence has not taken a dent despite his error in the crucial European Championship qualifying match against Croatia in November. "That will give him a big lift, especially with Capello watching," said O'Neill. " I've been pretty pleased with Scott since that England game."

He was also complimentary about his team even if there was some criticism that they had failed to create enough clear-cut chances. O'Neill said: "We've got loads of enthusiasm and loads of energy and the players have got a never-say-die spirit.

"I think of the teams round us, only Blackburn have come back from going behind this season more often than ourselves. That speaks volumes for the team and I'm delighted with that.

"It would be great to be able to get a little more craft into the side and eventually we will do, but that takes a little bit of time. It's something we are looking to so so the creative side is shared round a little bit.

"I think the first half was similar to Monday night at Liverpool. The players have played a lot of games now this season. With a wee bit of luck, after the transfer window closes, we are down to a game a week and we might have the chance to get away for a few days then and maybe the boys can recharge and go again.

O'Neill dismissed claims that Villa had relied too much on the long ball to John Carew. "I don't think we do," he said. "Sometimes, if Scott doesn't have anyone to roll it out to, then we might kick it up there but we're no different to any other side in the Premier League.

"We don't make Carew a focal point. He would prefer it down at his feet. I can understand that in the last ten minutes of a game we might do that, but I didn't see any evidence of it today."

O'Neill insisted he was still hoping to bring players in before the transfer window closes on Thursday night, saying: "I am trying to get some people in. Teams are also asking about my players and it's a balancing act."