Tim Sherwood explains his decision to start Ciaran Clark in midfield in Aston Villa's win over Birmingham

The centre-back played the first 45 minutes of Tuesday night's 1-0 Capital One Cup victory at Villa Park in a holding role.

Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup third round clash with Birmingham City saw Ciaran Clark restored to the Aston Villa line-up – but not at centre-back.

Instead, the academy graduate, who had previously lost his place to deadline day signing Joleon Lescott, was starting in a holding midfield role, where he featured on occasions during his first few seasons with the senior squad.

However, the 25-year-old’s first-half display was unconvincing to say the least and, after the struggling Joleon Lescott was withdrawn at the break, he was moved back into his natural position alongside team captain Micah Richards in the heart of the defence.

Unsurprisingly, he performed far better from there on, leading plenty to wonder why manager Tim Sherwood opted to use him further up the pitch in the first place when he has the likes of Carlos Sanchez at his disposal.

Speaking after the match, though, the Villa boss had an explanation, telling the club’s official website: “Carlos Sanchez has played a lot of games. I wanted Ciaran Clark to play 90 minutes. Joleon Lescott was always coming off at half-time.

“The only substitution that wasn't planned was Gabby Agbonlahor, who got injured. It was his calf.”

Despite a shaky first-half, Rudy Gestede’s 62nd-minute header from a Jordan Amavi cross ultimately proved enough to send Villa through to the fourth round of the competition, while earning bragging rights over their bitter rivals in the process.

The result could have been very different were it not for the half-time introductions of Jordan Ayew and Jack Grealish, who proceeded to change the game with their creative passing and movement in the final third, but Sherwood was overall pleased with his side’s performance on the night.

“It wasn't just personnel at half-time. It was also the way we played. It made the difference,” he added to avfc.co.uk. “It was always the plan to go very direct in the first period.

“If you then came out and looked at their back two in the second period, they were 10 or 15 yards deeper than what they were in the first half. That gave us the space to get in between lines - the likes of Jack Grealish.

“They were worn down in the second period. We found loads of space. We should have won by more.”

Currently in the midst of their worst start to a league season since 1986-87, Villa now face a trip to Liverpool on Saturday as they look to pick up their first Premier League victory since the 1-0 opening day win at Bournemouth.

Needless to say, Clark likely won't be playing in midfield at Anfield, although he certainly has a chance of claiming his starting spot back from Lescott based on his second-half performance against the Blues.

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