Sherwood had his final opportunity to see his new signings in action ahead of next Saturday’s trip to the Vitality Stadium and he didn’t waste it, starting seven of his nine new signings. Crespo and Ayew were handed their first starts, while Veretout was named among the substitutes for the encounter at The City Ground.

Sinclair hat trick
Hat-trick hero Scott Sinclair

The visitors got off to the worst possible start, with the back line caught snoozing by the Reds’ captain Lansbury, who split the defence to release Blackstock, who slotted the ball under Bunn with ease.

Keen to atone for his error and wearing the captain’s armband once again, Richards then surged up the pitch but was fouled and his run came to nothing.

With the hosts continuing to press, Bunn was called into action again ten minutes after conceding, as he dived to make contact with Ward’s half-volley, unaware of the linesman’s flag.

The visitors ploughed on, showing promise from wide positions, and Sinclair and Ayew linked up well, with the Ghanaian going for goal after fourteen minutes from a tight angle.

With the hosts worrying the Villa defence, Gueye then took a shot and saw his effort deflected wide for a corner.

The Villans were eventually rewarded after twenty-one minutes when Amavi’s cracking cross from the left was headed home by Sinclair.

Amavi continued to excite fans, looking very comfortable on the ball and exciting in attack.

Clark came to the rescue after thirty-two minutes when Bunn almost spilled Antonio’s long-range drive into Blackstock’s path.

A minute later, debutant Crespo went to ground clutching his right knee and was soon replaced by Hutton.

With Ayew growing in confidence, he worked well on the left at the end of the first half and resisted the pressure from two Forest defenders to get a shot away, although it found the side netting.

Sherwood opted to make four changes ahead of the second half, with Sanchez and Baker replacing Richards and Clark, Cole replacing Gueye and Veretout making his first appearance for Aston Villa, in place of Kozak, who had had a very quiet forty-five minutes.

Having conceded at the start of the first half, it was almost a case of déjà vu as Antonio met former Villan Lichaj’s cross and his header come off the post.

Although guilty of some dubious defending, it was the visitors who took the lead seven minutes after the restart, as Cole’s pass allowed Sinclair to slam the ball into the roof of De Vries’ net.

The woodwork came to the rescue again, as Ward’s twenty-five yard effort ricocheted off the bar.

Having switched to a 4-3-3 formation and with Cole rolling back the years, the Villans enjoyed greater possession and piled the pressure on the Reds.

Sinclair got his hat-trick after sixty-four minutes with a blistering curled effort into the top corner.

Six minutes later, Sinclair left the pitch to a deserved standing ovation as he was replaced by Robinson and Kinsella replaced Bacuna.

With ten minutes left on the clock, Lansbury decided to make a match of it, beating two Villa players as he squirmed towards goal and poked the ball past Bunn.

When Sinclair’s hat-trick should have been enough to secure a win, the visitors proved wasteful in the closing stages and were denied victory in the ninetieth minute, when Wilson equalised with a close-range effort.


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