Ciaran Clark is convinced Aston Villa can use their stubbornness at Stoke to give themselves a chance of a Chelsea upset on New Year’s Eve.
Clark scored a dramatic last-gasp equaliser when Villa rescued a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge a year ago.
And after keeping his place in Alex McLeish’s first XI for Monday’s stalemate at Stoke, he reckons Villa can spring a surprise on Saturday.
Asked if his late leveller last January was the highlight of his career so far, the versatile 22-year-old replied: “Yes, I think so. That was a good day, but saying that, we should have won the game.
“I know we were only minutes away from winning and I don’t know how we even managed to pull it back to a draw. It was brilliant, but I’m just hoping we can come away with three points this year.
“We’re definitely going there with belief.
“Our side’s good enough to beat anyone in this league. All the lads know that. We can do it.
“We’ve just got to stick together and hopefully we can go down there and hopefully keep a good defensive shape like we did at Stoke and then we can go forward and hopefully create chances.
“It would be great to end 2011 with a win, that’s what we’re looking to do and hopefully we’ll come away with the three points.”
Clark has had to bide his time for back-to-back Premier League starts but got them in the matches against Arsenal and Stoke.
The rookie defender again partnered captain Stiliyan Petrov in central midfield, occupying a holding role to protect the back four.
“Last season I had plenty of game time,” said Clark. “I’m looking to build on that this season, but I’ve had to wait patiently for a turn because the lads have been doing brilliantly. I’ve finally got my chance and hopefully I can keep in there.
“I think I’ve got a good partnership with Stiliyan.
“We train every day together so we know what each other can do. We’re told just to sit and make sure we keep it compact and tight in there and I think we did that on the defensive side at Stoke.
“We could maybe work on going forward a bit more but we got our defence sorted and that’s what we wanted to do.
“I just want to keep playing, keep working hard and hopefully I can keep getting picked and being involved with the squad.”
Clark reckons Villa should take encouragement from the clean sheet at Stoke when they take on Andre Villas-Boas’ title chasers.
And he believes it is only a matter of time before they get the attacking breaks they deserve at the other end.
“It’s always tough to go away to Stoke,” he added. “They’re a big side and they put in some balls which are hard to deal with from corners and throw-ins.
“We worked on it on the training ground in the morning, so we knew what was coming.
“The lads did their jobs and defended really well. I think we could have done a bit more going forward and maybe created a couple more chances, but we had to keep a clean sheet first. We did that and it’s a good point.
“We’re getting in attacking positions and hopefully soon they’ll start to go in. We’re due a bit of luck with some goals soon.”