One of the features of a frustrating season is that no sooner do Aston Villa obtain a good result than they follow it with a shock defeat.

Last October, just after they had beaten Birmingham City for the first time in the Premiership, David O'Leary's men succumbed 2-0 to Wigan Athletic at Villa Park.

Tonight, at the JJB Stadium, barely 48 hours after completing their memorable derby double over Blues, O'Leary will be warning his men not to show the same over-confidence.

Admittedly, Villa will not be meeting anything like the same Wigan side. Last autumn, Wigan boss Paul Jewell's only problem was keeping feet on the floor as his rampant team made their inspired start to the season.

They came to Villa Park that day after a run of 16 points from six league games whereas Jewell's men go into tonight's rematch on the slide since the turn of the year. Had Villa still been in relegation trouble they could not have asked for more suitable opposition than a team who have won only three times in 15 league games.

As to whether Villa are still in trouble, that depends on your standpoint. " We still need two points to be safe," said Villa top scorer Milan Baros, man of the

match on Sunday after finally looking worth the #6.5 million O'Leary paid for him. "Hopefully we can now go and get the job finished at Wigan."

But, rather than look behind him, O'Leary says tonight's match should be viewed more as the chance to end the campaign on a high - by reverting to the sort of away league form that saw Villa go through the four winter months unbeaten.

O'Leary said: "People have tried to involve us in the relegation issue. But, while I've always said you're never safe until you're safe, we've only ever looked in the other direction.

"Our trouble is we've drawn too many games. Draws don't move you very fast. But if we can get a few more wins between now and the end of the season there's teams we can still catch."

It might be asking a bit much to make up the nine points that separate Villa from tenth-placed Wigan. But, given that no O'Leary team has finished outside the top ten, his desire for more points in the vain hope of reaching that top half is unquestioned.

He must make a change, to cover the hole left by his latest injury to Steven Davis. But the last few weeks have taught him that he can now rely on his youngsters.

Young Craig Gardner will come in for Davis, whose long season appears to have finished after he damaged his hamstring on Sunday. Gary Cahill, star of the show with that amazing goal, looks to have his place nailed down until the end of the season regardless of Olof Mellberg being fit.

Although James Milner was allowed to skip the final few minutes on Sunday, O'Leary knew his on-loan winger would do well on his return after six weeks out.

"James got tired towards the end," the Villa boss said. "And he can do even better than that but it was great to have him back as it can only help our balance on the right side. He keeps worrying about the headlines about him having had glandular fever but I just keep telling him 'Why worry? You know you haven't had it. If you had you wouldn't be back playing again'."

O'Leary has the chance for another bit of closure tonight when he gets the chance to swap banter again with Jewell.

When they first bumped into each other at a pre-season managers' meeting, O'Leary wished Jewell all the best by telling him: "I hope you stay up."

Jewell's response came as quick as a flash. "I hope you do too," he said.

It said more about the Scouser's sense of humour than it did about any genuine belief on Jewell's part that Villa might struggle.

No matter what anyone might say in the corridors of power at Bodymoor Heath, it has been 'squeaky bum' time for Villa these past few weeks. O'Leary should relish the chance to go and trade one-liners again feeling a little more comfortable in that sensitive region.