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Clive Allen was thrilled with the way his reserve side responded to the tough challenge presented by a strong Aston Villa side on Monday evening.

Clive Allen was thrilled with the way his reserve side responded to the tough challenge presented by a strong Aston Villa side on Monday evening.Villa arrived at Stevenage Borough with the likes of Steven Davis, Milan Baros and J Lloyd Samuel in their side and took the lead early on courtesy of a sharp Davis strike. The boys were quickly back in it though and built up a two-goal lead at the break following goals from Simon Dawkins and two from Teemu Tainio, the midfielder putting in a 45 minute stint.

The Midlanders - now in the southern section of the Barclays Premiership Reserve League after the re-structure - hit back strongly in the second half and reduced the deficit, but Clive's side stood firm and protected their lead to bank a further three points in their title defence season.

"I thought it was a fantastic game," considered Clive afterwards. "We've talked about the increased quality of the games and I don't think we'll have a tougher one this season or one which will ask more questions of the lads.

"We went behind early in the game and you were a little bit fearful that a strong Aston Villa could go on and control it, but as I said to the boys before the game, every time they are posed difficulties they seem to solve it as a group. Collectively they got themselves back together after the goal and I thought we had a terrific spell in the last 25 minutes of the first half.

"We turned the game around and went from one down to 3-1 up with some really good football and excellently crafted goals. We deserved to go in front and then it was a real test for us in the second half because we knew with the players Villa had in their side they would really push us.

"The boys had to work very, very hard in a resilient fashion to grind out a victory. All credit to them, they keep bouncing along and getting results when sometimes they face severe tests. That is exactly what we want, we want to see them in this sort of situation showing that they can handle it."

Clive added that his mostly young side coming up against internationals of the calibre of Baros and Davis is ideal for their development.

"You need to test yourself against these sort of players, we had an excellent game last week in Lens against a team who are third in the French championship and six or seven of those players featured for Lens at the weekend.

"They came through that and we asked more of them here. I knew Villa would be strong because I saw them a couple of times last season when they ran Manchester United very close. It was the type of reserve game you want, each game seems to have got a little bit tougher and the boys keep coming up with the right results."