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JOHN: VILLA TITLE HOPES AREN'T OVER.

ASTON VILLA boss John Gregory last night refused to rule out his side's title challenge in the wake of their second defeat on the trot.

Villa lost 3-1 at home to Blackburn and now lie seven points behind Manchester United but Gregory insisted: "Let's not get carried away."

Blackburn have lost only once since Brian Kidd's arrival but amazingly this was their FIRST away win of the campaign.

Gareth Southgate's own goal got them off to a flier before David Dunn and Ashley Ward added second-half strikes to seal it.

But Gregory insists there is NO need to push the panic button at Villa Park just yet, saying: "I didn't get carried away with things when we were top in November and December.

"Equally I am not going to get depressed now - but it wouldn't be a surprise if we have new players in the club during this 11- day break from playing."

Meanwhile Ruud Gullit hopes Newcastle's 1-0 success at Leeds will put an end to talk about his players having no spirit.

The Geordies battled well to record their first Premiership away win for five months and at the same time condemn Leeds to their first home reverse since October.

Peruvian wingman Nolberto Solano scored the only goal of the game in the 63rd minute after a neat move involving Temuri Ketsbaia and Didi Hamann.

Recent rumours have all been of a dressing-room split to which the Dutchman responded: "One of the jokes in the camp was that the players felt sure I would be asked about all the unrest.

"They are working hard and I believe the spirit has been there throughout the weeks."

Liverpool bounced back from their defeat at Coventry with a 3-1 win over Middlesbrough at Anfield.

Michael Owen, Veggard Heggem and Paul Ince scored the goals but Dominic Matteo's second- half redcard ensured they had to battle for the points as Boro fought back courtesy of a Phil Stamp effort.

Champions Arsenal sent out a title warning as they destroyed sad West Ham at Upton Park.

Hothead Paolo di Canio made his first start after his push on ref Paul Alcock but the Hammers had no answer to Arsenal's power game.

Dutch duo Dennis Bergkamp and Marc Overmars got the Gunners going with first- half strikes before Nicholas Anelka and Ray Parlour wrapped it up after the break.

Chelsea also kept their challenge going by beating lowly Southampton 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. Franco Zola got the goal but veteran Mark Hughes was stretchered off after being clattered by Marcel Desailly.

Spurs did everything but score in a goal-less draw with Coventry while Wim Jonk and Benny Carbone goals gave Sheffield Wednesday a win at Leicester.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 7, 1999
Words:452
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