Earnie is top drawer, says Dion

Dion Dublin has been playing football for a living for more than 18 years - but reckons strike partner Robert Earnshaw is up there with the best of them.

Dion Dublin has been playing football for a living for more than 18 years - but reckons strike partner Robert Earnshaw is up there with the best of them.

The 37-year-old has played alongside the likes of Mark Hughes and Brian McClair at Manchester United, John Hartson at Celtic, Darius Vassell and Juan Pablo Angel at Villa.

But the much-coveted Earnshaw is up there with the best of them.

“I think he is one of the best finishers I have played with, I know that much,” said Dublin.

“I think anybody who had got Earnie in their squad is going to be desperate to keep him.”

While Dublin excelled at the back in recent weeks as he helped manager Peter Grant out in times of crisis, he is clearly happier in his natural position in attack - his winner against Queen's Park Rangers on Saturday was his second against John Gregory's side this season.

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“I have been lucky, especially against QPR this year,” he said. “I got one there which was on a plate for me, this one was a little bit more difficult, but I have done okay and hopefully if given a chance I will continue to do that.

“It's been a while since I got a goal like that, but Earnie did well and we hung in there. We have let our guard down in recent weeks but today we deserved the points.

“From my own point of view I thought me and Earnie played better as a pair - I won more of the ball as regards flick-ons, I held more ball up which gives the back four the chance to get up and I think if it starts with me and Earnie it does then filter through to the team. The way Earnie makes his runs it's great for midfield players to squeeze up in behind him.”

While Earnshaw turned provider against QPR, he was close to making it 17 for the season in injury time, only to be denied by a superb saving tackle by visiting defender Damion Stewart - all of which surprised Dublin.

“I have never seen Earnie miss from there,” he said. “But he didn't miss, it was a great defending tackle, he made up 30 yards and if you are going to work that hard to get back and try and stop somebody scoring you deserve to stop them scoring. But I am sure next time Earnie gets that chance he won't miss it.”

All eyes will be on the team sheet this afternoon to see whether or not Dublin is fit enough to start his second game in the space of 48 hours for a match he knows will be harder than Saturday's.

“I manage myself now and the manager lets me do that,” he said. “I know what is right for me and at the moment I am feeling okay. Yes I am going to be tired, of course I am, but I think everybody else is too. I just really enjoy getting out there now and playing.

“It is only 48 hours before we play again, but it is a different kettle of fish now, we have to go to Palace; an away game, a hard place to go and play, but we are ready, we will prepare right, we will have massages and stuff and get ourselves ready.

“We have done well enough today to get three points - in recent weeks we haven't done that, haven't played well.

“We played better today, but it still feel there is more to come from us.

“The fans have had nothing to cheer about in recent weeks, we have let ourselves down and not done as well as we should have done. We played the last game at home and didn't do well enough, this time we have got a result, sent the fans away happier and means it is something over New Year they can smile about.”