With Benteke not considered ready for action after international duties and Grealish having picked up a slight hamstring injury in training, the pair were spectators, as Tim Sherwood had the opportunity to assess twenty-two of his other players in last night’s training game against Fulham at the Estadio Da Nora in Portugal.
The first half saw Steer, Bacuna, Baker, Richards, Richardson, Mason, Westwood, Gil, N’Zogbia, Robinson and Agbonlahor don the new home kit.
The Villans started well, as they so often do, and it was Robinson, played in by Agbonlahor, who had the first chance of the game but his shot was saved competently by Lonergan.
After Richardson almost headed the ball into his own net, it was the Cottagers who opened the scoring, with Smith making the most of some confusion between Steer and Richards to slip in and bundle the ball past Steer.
Following the goal, the Villans stepped up a gear and Bacuna was unfortunate to see his free-kick deflected over the cross-bar just after the half hour mark before new-signing Richards came close from corners on two occasions. Westwood’s superb strike flew wide too, after another deflection.
Gil, looking very lively and creative, was proving a threat. The Spaniard’s rough drive seven minutes before the break looked destined for the back of the net but went just over the bar.
Although they trailed at the break, fans in attendance had enjoyed some promising spells in the evening sunshine.
Those hoping to see more of Gil were left disappointed as Sherwood changed the line-up completely for the second half, fielding a team of Watkins, Donacien, Senderos, Clark, Cissokho, Tonev, Gardner, Calder, Cole, Sinclair and Kozak.
Gardner’s curling free-kick seemed to be headed for the top corner but Lonergan did very well to push the ball over the bar.
With Cole rolling back the years, Kozak collected a precise pass from the veteran eleven minutes into the second half and the striker finished in style to bring his side level on his return to senior action after breaking his leg in training in January 2014.
The Cottagers regained the lead when Kacaniklic scored with an unstoppable shot from twenty-five yards out after sixty-seven minutes.
Good work from Tonev down the right created the chance for the Villans to level the match once again less than ten minutes later but there was no-one on hand to finish as his stinging shot flew across goal.
McCormack sealed the win for the Cottagers three minutes before the final whistle with an unruffled finish.
The Villans will continue training in Portugal in the week ahead before taking on Sporting Braga on Friday evening.