The striker was dismissed in the second half of Villa’s 1-1 draw with United on Saturday after a 50-50 tackle with former Villa team-mate Ashley Young, but is now available to face Swansea on Boxing Day. Villa, though, have been charged by the Football Association with “failing to ensure that its players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion” during the game and have until 6pm on December 30 to respond. Press Association Gabriel Agbonlahor’s red card against Manchester United has been overturned after Aston Villa won their appeal. But manager Paul Lambert was delighted at Agbonlahor’s reprieve after he was dismissed – for the first time in his career – by referee Lee Mason. He said: “It is great for us. I said at the time I didn’t think it was a red card and everyone’s assumption was the same. “Ex-referees have come out and said it wasn’t. “So your own common sense told you it wasn’t a red card. “Gabby is playing really well at the minute so we hoped it would be rescinded. “We are still without a few – Westy (Ashley Westwood), Nathan (Baker), (Philippe) Senderos and (Kieran) Richardson – so we didn’t want another one out. “Not one of your big players.” The red was Villa’s second in two games after Richardson was dismissed in their 1-0 defeat at West Brom. Richardson is still suspended but Villa have Alan Hutton back after a ban for their trip to the Liberty Stadium while Tom Cleverley is also available following his fifth yellow card of the season.
Road To Riches was prominent from the start with On His Own while Home Farm, the outsider of the party, fell at the first. There were no other dramas as the race unfolded on the second circuit, though last year’s winner Bobs Worth and Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Lord Windermere were held up and never got into contention. Sam Winner staked his claim when going into the lead after the fourth-last, but On His Own stuck to his guns, while Carlingford Lough also threatened as the field turned for home with all to play for. It was still anybody’s race at the final fence, but Road To Riches came out on top as he supplemented his victories in the Galway Plate and the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal. Meade said: “We’re thrilled. It really didn’t go to plan because we thought we’d be able to make it, but he was getting a bit of hassle from the other horse. I think around the last bend, he just didn’t get the run of it really, but it worked out well for him I suppose. “He’s a fair horse. We knew he was in great shape, and he’s just improved and improved all the time since Punchestown. He’s just got better and better every day. “He is exciting and the way he came home, you’d imagine it’s all systems go for Cheltenham, I presume. You’d say he’ll get the trip the way he stayed on there, he really stuck at it well. “We did the same with him that we did after Punchestown and left him off. It was never the plan to run at Gowran (in October) and he was a bit of work short (when beaten by Sizing Europe). We learned a lesson there. Bryan rode him work in Navan last week and was delighted with him. Connections of Noel Meade’s charge (4-1) had expressed concerns about the heavy ground, but the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding allayed those fears with a gutsy display. Bryan Cooper was hard at work some way from home aboard the winner, who had lost his pitch after racing prominently, but he showed plenty of determination as he got up on the run to the line to score by a length and a half from On His Own, with Sam Winner third. “I thought that was a good race today and thought it was every bit as good as the King George.” Cooper, completing a treble for Gigginstown including the day’s other Grade One on Lieutenant Colonel, said: “He was very good. Things didn’t go according to plan, but he showed today that he doesn’t have to be ridden from the front and he showed he stays. He answered all the questions today. “I knew I had plenty of horse left, but he doesn’t like to be crowded. I didn’t want to get into a battle with Sam Winner from the second-last as he’s an out-and-out stayer. Our lad has a touch of class and showed that today.” Paul Townend was handed a four-day suspension by the stewards for using his whip with excessive force on runner-up On His Own. Road To Riches was trimmed to 14-1 from 20-1 for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup by Paddy Power. Road To Riches emerged as a serious contender for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup when pouncing late to claim the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. Press Association
“I’m sorry for doing something like this,” he told club website nufc.co.uk. “I’m not the sort of player who does something like this. “It is not like me. I am not an aggressive player, but in football you cannot do something like this. “I would like to play in the next games, but I did something that is not good and the FA were right to ban me. “I would have liked to play against Burnley, to help us get a win, but I am sure the other players will do well and win the game for us. “We need points and need to win and it is not an easy match. I will not be on the pitch but my head and my heart will be with the team for the game.” Cisse will miss Thursday’s match against Burnley at St James’ Park, Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Leicester and the January 10 trip to Chelsea. Papiss Cisse has apologised for the elbow offence on Everton defender Seamus Coleman which earned the Newcastle striker a three-game ban. Cisse on Tuesday accepted a Football Association charge of violent conduct for the altercation, which occurred during the Magpies’ 3-2 Barclays Premiers League win on Sunday. The 29-year-old Senegal international, who has now played his last game for the club before heading to Equatorial Guinea for the African Nations Cup, insists the incident was totally out of character. Press Association
John Terry, Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas are expected to return for Chelsea’s Barclays Premier League clash with Newcastle on Saturday. Press Association Assistant-manager Steve Holland spoke to the media after boss Jose Mourinho pulled out in response to be being charged with misconduct by the Football Association. Mourinho faces possible disciplinary action for the comments made about match officials after last month’s 1-1 draw with Southampton, in which he spoke of a “clear campaign” against Chelsea. The Portuguese claimed the campaign is being orchestrated by “people, pundits, commentators and coaches from other teams” and labelled the booking of Cesc Fabregas for diving at St Mary’s on December 28 a “scandal”. Holland insists Mourinho has not been affected by the possibility of facing disciplinary action and insists he has the full support of the club. “Jose has been fine, very focused on the game against Newcastle, as we all are,” Holland said. “There is a frustration with all of us, it’s not just Jose but the coaching staff and players, at the accumulation of events that surfaced at the Southampton game with the decisions over Cesc. And to compound that he received a booking. “The scrutiny managers are under these days… I spoke to another manager the other day about a different matter and he said he couldn’t remember there being such an intensive period of games as this season. “That’s a view I’d share. The amount of games has been relentless and there has been a small period of time between the games. “At Chelsea every match is high profile with many live on TV. It’s human nature that at times the leader has those moments. Jose’s had the right influence on the players and is a highly-experienced manager.” Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul is set to return. The Dutchman has been out injured since November but came through a behind-closed-doors friendly against Celtic on Thursday and is set to replace Jak Alnwick in caretaker-boss John Carver’s line-up. Carver’s caretaker reign did not get off to the best of starts when he dropped big names including Moussa Sissoko, Daryl Janmaat and Fabricio Coloccini for last week’s FA Cup defeat at Leicester. The weakened line-up provoked a furious response from Magpies fans but Carver insisted he had no choice but to make seven changes to his squad due to a series of niggling injuries. Carver is adamant he still has time to make his case and that wrapping up a famous league double over Mourinho’s men could sway United managing director Lee Charnley. Carver added: “That’s the unfortunate thing about being caretaker-manager – you are on interview all the time. “It’s a bit unfortunate because normally a new manager is given time to put his ways across. “I know the pitfalls and what comes with it. It hasn’t been a great few days. But I love it. I still want to do it and I have the drive and enthusiasm to do it.” The trio were rested from the squad that defeated Watford in the FA Cup on Sunday but will face the Magpies at Stamford Bridge. Thibaut Courtois is also likely to return in goal after Petr Cech was given an outing against Watford.
The Tullow Tank was a top-class novice hurdler last season for the now-banned Philip Fenton and while the steroid scandal was still ongoing owner Barry Connell thought it prudent he should not run at Cheltenham. He was moved to the late Dessie Hughes and is now in the care of Hughes’ daughter, Sandra. Having won on his chasing debut impressively at Fairyhouse he has been below-par the last twice but has been pleasing Hughes at home recently. “I’m happy with him again now and he’ll run at the weekend,” she said. Press Association Formerly known as the Dr P.J. Moriarty, the Grade One has a rich history and has been a constant source of Cheltenham Festival winners down the years. It’s most recent top-class graduate was Lord Windermere, who finished a half-length third to Boston Bob two years ago before winning the RSA Chase at Cheltenham and following up in the Gold Cup last year. The Tullow Tank will bid to redeem his reputation in Sunday’s Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
The Hammers boss is out of contract at the end of the season but has already said he is happy to wait until then to open talks over extending his four-year tenure at Upton Park. Allardyce has never enjoyed a cosy relationship with much of the club’s fan-base but has won over a number of doubters with a change in style which saw West Ham start the season well. “They are not used to the level of football we play on a regular basis, this level of demand both physically and mentally “They haven’t experienced a Christmas period like we have, normally they are having a mid-season break and they don’t play the games we play over Christmas. “It takes effect on everybody, players used to Premier League, but these lads are finding it tougher and harder to get to the same level as at start of season.” Allardyce, whose side face London rivals Tottenham on Sunday, has added the signing of free agent Nene in an attempt to cushion the blow of losing Carroll. The former Paris St Germain forward was available outside of the transfer window after leaving Qatari side Al-Gharafa in January but the 33-year-old will not feature at White Hart Lane this weekend. “He won’t be available to play because he isn’t match fit yet,” said Allardyce. “He’s a naturally fit player and he’s not far away, I think 10 days to two weeks before he’s ready. We’ll monitor his progress, he could be ready for the Crystal Palace game, we’ll have to wait and see. It’s nice to have him here with the CV he’s got and we’re looking forward to working to with him and hopefully he can rekindle some of the qualities we have seen in the past. “We’ve lost our goalscoring touch at the moment and we’ve struggled to put our chances in the back of the net. We had been fluent in that area at the start of the season. “Obviously that is key to any team doing well and I think that is why we have drawn some games we should have won. Hopefully we find that touch on Sunday, against Tottenham our big rivals in a big London derby.” A slight drop off in results since Christmas, coupled with a 4-0 thrashing at West Brom in the FA Cup fifth round last weekend, has seen another groundswell of suggestions that he could be replaced – but the 60-year-old is unmoved having seen it all before. “The same way I deal with most things in the game, I don’t listen to it,” Allardyce replied when asked how he deals with speculation surrounding his job. “It is not my desire to listen to praise or criticism. I like to be professional and work with the people within the football club to try and get the best out of them. I hear things but I don’t take any notice of it. “There was speculation last season same as this season, I think there always will be. It seems to me it occurs if and when you get a bad result.” After an impressive goalscoring record earlier in the season, Allardyce has become increasingly alarmed by his side’s inability to find the back of the net more recently. Cheikhou Kouyate’s volley in the draw with Manchester United is the only goal West Ham have scored in their last four games in all competitions and, with club-record signing Andy Carroll ruled out until next season due to knee surgery, Allardyce has lost a key component to his attacking line-up. Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho were paired in attack at West Brom but Allardyce believes their lack of experience in English football is the main factor in their goals drying up. “It is their first season, he explained. Sam Allardyce insists he is turning a blind eye to any speculation over his future at West Ham and is remaining calm about his contract situation. Press Association
Heffernan said: “It was easy to like him and he was pretty professional, although he was a little green under pressure.” Dermot Weld’s 6-5 favourite Sight Hound got off the mark after two seconds with an emphatic success in the www.listowelraces.ie Median Auction Maiden, leading a furlong and a half out under Pat Smullen and quickly asserting to score by two lengths. Jim Bolger looked to have found a fine opportunity for Knocknagree in the Croom House Stud EBF Fillies Maiden and so it proved, Kevin Manning keeping the evens favourite up to her work to win by three and a quarter lengths after leading for most of the way. The trainer’s travelling head man Ger Flynn said: “The ground was gluey and horrible for her, but it’s nice to get a winning bracket. She reared up in the gates, too, but still won, and was entitled to win on her previous form. H opefully she will look for black-type at some stage.” Ecoeye (16-1) didn’t have the easiest of passages but won cosily in the end under Connor King in the George Fitzmaurice Handicap, while Fran Berry led all the way and kept Bay Hill (6-1) going to take the St John’s Literary Centre Handicap. Wicklow Brave claimed the County Hurdle at Cheltenham in March by eight lengths and has now gone two races unbeaten since his transfer to Flat racing. The Queen Alexandra Stakes at the Royal meeting – a race his trainer won last season with Pique Sous – could now be a potential big-race summer target. Patrick Mullins said: “He did it very easy and did what we expected. His pedigree suggests he’d be a high-quality Flat horse. “If I had my way he’d run in the GPT (amateur handicap) at Galway – but dad might have bigger plans! I imagine he might run in Royal Ascot instead.” Things didn’t work out for the Mullins team when favourite Laviniad could not catch Gary Phillips on the Victor Clifford-trained runaway leader Hurricane Twister (33-1) in the Follow Listowel Races On Facebook Handicap, going down by half a length. Phillips, who partnered the eight-year-old to two all-the-way wins in 2012, said: “That’s the way he did it in 2012 and the plan today was to steal a big lead early on. I knew when we were four or five lengths clear turning in the others would struggle to catch me, and thankfully he held on. I was glad to see the line.” Aidan O’Brien introduced a potentially smart juvenile in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden as Deauville ran out a ready winner. The son of Galileo, sent off the 6-4 favourite, was always handy under Seamie Heffernan and led on the home turn before running on strongly down the straight to beat off the challenge of the experienced Hoppala by two lengths. Press Association Cheltenham Festival winner Wicklow Brave teed up a possible return to England for the Royal Ascot meeting after winning on the Flat at Listowel. The Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old was sent on his way the 1-5 favourite for the five-runner Bryan McMahon Race for amateur riders over a mile and three-quarters, and never gave his supporters a moment’s worry. Patrick Mullins’ partner was keen to get on with it early on, but was always travelling like a winner and eased into the lead passing the two-furlong pole, from where he coasted to victory by five and a half lengths from long-time leader Cardinal Palace.
Press Association The Londoner has already been linked with a move to Major League Soccer in the United States but says he is open-minded about the next stage of his career. “I don’t know whether it might be a loan or a permanent move and I don’t know where it could be to, whether it’s another Premier League club, a Championship club or abroad somewhere,” Britton said. “But I have to look at things the way they are now, and as it stands the manager feels it will be difficult for me to play. “I am not someone who will be happy to play every couple of months or whatever and then pick up my money. “So I will just see what options are out there. If there are any, I will talk to the manager and the chairman and we will see what everyone thinks.” Swansea veteran Leon Britton admits he may be forced to leave the club this summer in search of regular first-team football. Britton has made nearly 500 appearances for the Welsh club in three different spells, but the 32-year-old was restricted to only seven Barclays Premier League starts last season after falling victim to a combination of injury, illness and extra competition for midfield places. And now Britton has revealed after talks with manager Garry Monk that his prospects for first-team opportunities next season appear just as limited. “I spoke to the manager just before the end of the season and we talked about the frustrating season I’d had,” Britton told the South Wales Evening Post. “I started off with an injury, then I picked up a few niggles and some illness which meant I had to pull out of games which I was supposed to play in. “Jack Cork has come into the club and he has done brilliantly. I’m not complaining because there are other players who haven’t played as much as they would have wanted. “When I spoke to the manager, he said that he sees things being very much the same next season, if not (worse) with me being out of the squad completely because he is trying to push young lads like Jay (Fulton) and Matt (Grimes) through. “They are the future of the club, I understand that. “But if they take my place in the squad, I am going to be training all week and then running round the training ground on my own on a Saturday, and that’s not what I want at my age. “I said to the manager that I can’t do another season not playing.” Britton, who first joined Swansea from West Ham as a 20-year-old and has played for the club in all four divisions, has another two years left on his contract at the Liberty Stadium.
Press Association Remarkably an eighth winner of the week and the third on the afternoon for the jockey, Aidan O’Brien’s charge was enjoying a significant drop in class having had his last three runs in the Craven Stakes, the French 2000 Guineas and the French Derby. The War Front colt (10-1) was held up for a late run in the smaller group racing on the far side of the track and Moore timed his run to perfection, getting up to beat Udododontu by a neck. War Envoy powered home to land the Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot under Ryan Moore. Sacrificial fared best of those that raced against the stands rail in third, with Carry On Deryck fourth. Moore, who had a luckless run in the Gold Cup on Kingfisher, said: “It was a bit tricky. I was hoping they wouldn’t split as uneven as that and there wasn’t as many horses as I would have liked (on the far side). “They got well strung out, but fortunately we had the speed on our side, they got racing a long way out and I just kept waiting and fortunately didn’t find traffic this time. “He’s a miler and loves fast ground and loves a strong pace. When he’s running in those Group races it doesn’t always unfold that way, but he’s got plenty of ability.” O’Brien said: “I’m delighted. We probably did all the wrong things with him, running him in soft ground and over a mile and quarter. It took us a good while to learn what way to ride him. “Obviously a mile on fast ground and taking our time on him (suits) and Ryan gave him an absolute peach of a ride. “What can I say about Ryan? He’s a marvellous jockey, probably the greatest jockey I’ve ever seen. He’s a total professional and fully committed. He has great feel about a horse and great feel about a race. “He’s an absolute gentleman to work with and always has been. We’ve worked with him very closely for the last three years and we’re privileged he’s riding for us.”
The 29-year-old, a free agent after leaving relegated Hull at the end of last season, will sign a three-year contract with the option of a fourth. Royals boss Steve Clarke told the club’s website: ” Stephen is an unassuming player but has always caught my eye and, when I knew he was available, I targeted him quite early in the summer. “His performances are always of a good standard and he is a talented, industrious, aggressive midfielder who can be influential in games. “Obviously he has just experienced relegation at Hull City and is desperate to get back to the Premier League as quickly as possible, which can only be good for us. He has previous experience of playing in the Championship and was an important member of the Hull City team that gained promotion. “Stephen is also a good character who will have a positive effect in our changing room and, just as importantly, on our younger players here at Reading.” Quinn joined Hull from Sheffield United in 2012 and made 97 appearances – including the FA Cup final defeat by Arsenal last year – and scored five goals. Republic of Ireland midfielder Stephen Quinn has agreed a move to Reading. Press Association