Paul Lambert and his new assistant manager, Roy Keane, travelled to Nottinghamshire without Ron Vlaar, Brad Guzan and Philippe Senderos, who are taking a well-deserved break after the World Cup. The only other obvious absence, apart from the injured Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak, was Antonio Luna, who is rumoured to be ready to bid adieu to B6.
For the first half, fans saw Given, Lowton, Okore, Clark, Bennett, Bacuna, Carruthers, Delph, Tonev, Cole and Agbonlahor in action in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Joe Cole made his Villa debut in the number ten position, flanked by Bacuna and Tonev.
The visitors started brightly and Bennett was unlucky to see his shot cleared off the line after six minutes.
While the Villa wingers were creating chances, predictably, Tonev’s shooting proved erratic and Bacuna missed several chances, the best of which saw his shot parried by the Stags’ goalkeeper.
Agbonlahor, wearing the captain’s armband, had a chance on goal after thirty minutes but headed Bacuna’s cross over the bar.
Just before the break, the hosts took the lead through striker Alex Fisher, who nodded home from very close range following a slick throw-in routine.
In truth, the first half was a subdued affair. Cole had some good touches but was unable to inspire a sluggish Villa side that was tested by its League Two opponents at times.
The referee’s whistle was met with booing from some of the 1,200 travelling Villa fans, who had clearly braced themselves for more disappointment.
When the second half began, fans saw a completely new line-up of Steer, Herd, Westwood, Baker, Hutton, El Ahmadi, Gardner, Richardson, N’Zogbia, Bent and Weimann and the change of formation allowed for more attacking football.
Bent, last seen in action for Villa on the final day of the 2012-13 season, was given a warm welcome by the claret and blue faithful and repaid their kindness after sixty-one minutes when he scored the equaliser.
New signing Richardson, playing as a wing-back, played well on the whole and could prove to be a very useful addition to the squad.
With twelve minutes left on the clock, Weimann set Bent up in the box but the striker’s shot was kept out by a fine save from the trialist between the sticks for the home side.
Gardner put the visitors ahead after eighty-five minutes when he netted from close range.
Bent then bagged his brace with virtually the last kick of the ball, making the most of Weimann’s chipped cross.
The Villans, and some of their most loyal supporters, now have a transatlantic trek to make before the next pre-season game against FC Dallas on Wednesday 23rd July.