Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill hailed a 'majestic' captain's performance from Gareth Barry as one of the key reasons for his side's thumping 4-0 win over Blackburn at Ewood Park tonight.
Barry slotted home a crucial second-half penalty to effectively wrap up a fourth consecutive win for O'Neill's men and move them within a single point of fourth-placed Chelsea.
O'Neill said: 'I thought Gareth was terrific. He played a captain's role and was really strong and very good. I thought he was majestic tonight.'
Barry hit his spot-kick past Brad Friedel after Ashley Young had been hauled down by Rovers skipper Ryan Nelsen, an offence which also earned the New Zealander a red card.
Referee Phil Dowd's decision infuriated the home fans but O'Neill insisted: 'From my angle it was a definite penalty and I haven't heard anyone complaining that it wasn't one.
'In fairness I thought we could have had another one when Ashley Young was brought down late on. But it was a big goal for us and in the second half we were very strong. Confidence is very high at the moment.'
Rovers boss Mark Hughes agreed with the penalty decision but questioned whether Nelsen deserved to get sent off on a night when his side struggled with a number of the referee's decisions.
Hughes said: 'I think he's given it for a shirt pull and it was probably the right decision but I don't think it warranted a sending-off in fairness.
'From that point on we were trying to get back into the game at 2-0 down but they got a couple of breakaways, both of which I had my doubts about because I thought they might be offside.
'But it was just one of those nights we've got to draw a line under and move on. We know Villa aren't four goals better than us and so do they. This is not going to dent our confidence.'
John Carew put Villa in front in the 29th minute, Barry's penalty doubled the lead and late goals from Young and Marlon Harewood gave the final score a fantastic look from a Villa perspective.