England, March 8, 2010 (AFP) - Martin O'Neill has told Norway striker John Carew to use the confidence boost from his FA Cup quarter-final hat-trick against Reading to fire Aston Villa to their second major final of the season.
Carew has spent much of the season on the fringes at Villa Park and was only named among the substitutes for last month's League Cup final defeat to Manchester United at Wembley.
|Carew (R) scores the winning penalty during their FA Cup sixth round football match against Reading at The Madejski Stadium on March 7, 2010. AFP PHOTO|
But O'Neill's men will head back to English football's national stadium for a semi-final showdown with holders Chelsea in April after Carew's second half treble clinched a dramatic 4-2 win over Reading on Sunday.
And the Chelsea tie could present an opportunity for Carew to prove he has a long-term future at Villa after spending several months playing second fiddle to Emile Heskey and Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Carew, 30, only started Sunday's match after England international Agbonlahor was sent home from the team hotel with a stomach virus. But he made the most of the opportunity, helping his side overturn a two-goal first-half deficit.
Carew scored twice at the start of the second half after Ashley Young had begun the comeback with a 47th minute strike and completed his hat-trick with a last-minute penalty.
"At his hungriest John can perform like that. His game lifted two or three fold after his first goal, and I want him to perform like that more often," O'Neill said.
"I was left out of a European final once, not thinking I would be back there a year later. You feel like your life has ended, but you have to fight back.
"To be back at Wembley now is great, despite the pitch. I didn't enjoy our occasion there last week at all.
"I'm very proud of the players today because they came to the fore when we needed them. After all the effort we have put into the competition, it would have been disappointing to go out so meekly.
"But sometimes it is not just about pretty football, you have to show character."
Carew is grateful for the chance to return to Wembley and is focused on making the most of the trip.
"We felt more determined here after what happened last week," he said. "We really want to get to a final again now we know what Wembley is about.
"That experience was not great for us, but now we have an opportunity to go back there."
For 45 minutes at the Madejski Stadium it seemed Republic of Ireland international Shane Long would give Villa more cup heartache as he fired Reading ahead.
Long scored his first on 27 minutes with a close range header, and then doubled his tally three minutes before the break by converting a square pass from Jimmy Kebe.
But Young's effort immediately after half-time sparked a new sense of urgency into the side and Carew scored on 51 minutes with a close range header to level the score.
With his confidence buoyed, Carew went on to give his side the lead on 57 minutes with a neat flick from Stephen Warnock's cross.
Reading defender Ivar Ingimarsson brought Carew down in stoppage time and the powerful Norway forward slotted home the spot-kick.
Reading must now concentrate on staying in the Championship. They sit four points above the relegation zone and boss Brian McDermott believes they can avoid the drop.
"We have got Derby coming up and from there we will look to kick on and do what we have to do. We know we have to collect as many points as possible," he said.
"I don't think it will be difficult to lift the players. In fact I'm really looking forward to the next game. It gives us a chance to bounce back after this defeat.
"It's tough to lose, but I feel we lost in the right way. We gave it a good shot."