By Brian Doogan
Ciaran Clark believes Villa can build on the strength of their showing against Everton which has reinforced belief within the team ahead of Sunday's visit by West Ham.
The 23-year-old defender has been further boosted by encouraging words from Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni after scoring his first international goal in a 2-0 win over Poland midweek.
Trap described Clark as "strong, confident and a good header and passer of the ball" and, as he prepares to face West Ham, the Villa centre half is adamant that the "massive lift" Ireland received from the friendly win at the Aviva Stadium can be replicated by Paul Lambert's side.
"We've shown we can do it against good teams - Everton, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City in the League Cup and even in the game against Manchester United - so we just need to back it up with results between now and the end of the season and we believe we can," Clark said.
"On the training pitch we've been working hard and that will hopefully equate to greater consistency over the latter part of the season.
"The core belief within the team and the squad has not waned. In fact, the belief is there now more than ever.
"We know we need to pick up points as every point counts and maybe the point we secured at Everton could turn out to be vital, a turning point perhaps.
"The game was really tough, which is always what you expect against Everton, and we played really well. The shame was that we didn't hang on to secure all three points but, if we can keep the form going, we know we can get some results.
"There were good performances at West Brom in the first half and against Newcastle at Villa Park we looked like a totally different side in the second half, compared to the first.
"It's definitely there, we just need to concentrate on each game and stick together, which has never been in question.
"We had Everton under real pressure, fighting for their lives and fighting for the equalising goal. There are a lot of positives we can take from that and apply them into the games coming up.
"West Ham will be a tough game, of course. They're doing well this season and they got one over on us on the opening day.
"Andy Carroll has come into the team since then and he's a big threat for them. But we just have to concentrate on our own performances and we have plenty to keep them focussed on our attacking players.
"We felt quite solid in the game at Everton and they were good goals that got scored by both teams. If we can carry that on, we know we can get the extra lift that a win would give us right now."
Clark described his opening goal in Ireland's victory against the Poles as "the best feeling I've ever had" and he was singled out by Trapattoni afterwards.
"Clark is good," said Trap. "Last year he was not playing so much at Aston Villa but he's strong, confident, can head the ball and he is a good passer of the ball.
"It's not easy when there is pressure but I talked with the centre backs and I told them there are times when you don't need to take the ball.
"You can wait because the striker must do something and Clark showed that he is getting more experienced."
The Academy graduate will hope that his ongoing efforts can cement his place in the Irish team for the World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria next month.
"It was brilliant to score the goal but it was just as important for us to keep the clean sheet as well - as a defender, that's always the number one priority," Clark added.
"We defended well as a team against a good Polish side and it was good preparation for the games coming up. We've got a good base to work on.
"On a personal level, I feel very much part of the squad now and hopefully I can keep my place in the squad.
"A lot of the experienced lads have moved on now and the manager is bringing in fresh players which can only be good for the squad and the players.
"It's also good for me to continue to be involved in important games against good opposition and that can only be good for my career going forward."
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