With Villa short of striking options, Christian Benteke was back in claret and blue for the first time since his transfer u-turn against Blue Square Premier club Luton but we will have to wait for Big Ben to strike again as he was clearly not match fit and frustrated by the high-powered Hatters.
There were early signs of uncertainty in the visting Villans’ defence, which the Hatters happily took advantage of: Martin burst into space and, luckily for the Lions, shot too early and found the side netting.
In the 23rd minute, Cullen was allowed to progress towards the byline and he cut the ball back skilfully for team-mate Shaw to finish forcefully from eight yards out.
Sylla’s sliding 20 yard drive offered the visitors their best chance to level the score before the break but Tyler managed to stifle the shot.
Delph worked hard and tried to link up with Benteke but his efforts were ultimately in vain as Tyler remained vigilant.
A potent Gardner free-kick just before the whistle looked promising but was just short of the mark.
As the first half drew to an end, Benteke appeared to be holding his groin, a worrying sign given the striker shortage.
Robinson was offered his first taste of first-team football as he replaced Benteke for the start of the second half and, with ten players set to be subbed on the hour mark, the visitors started the half with a period of pressure. Young Robinson looked threatening and had several half chances, including a close range header.
On the hour mark, Robinson was joined by a range of fellow academy graduates. Johnson was thwarted by a last-minute tackle before his low drive was delayed by a deflection, which allowed Tyler to claim it.
The home side worked hard to defend against the many efforts towards goal but a Villa equaliser looked almost inevitable.
The equaliser wasn’t to be and, following mis-communication from Vlaar and Clark, Howells was able to get behind the dodgy defence and chip the ball in to make it 2-0 against the run of play in the 78th minute, much to the disappointment of the 700 travelling Villans.
After their first defeat of the pre-season campaign, it’s back to Bodymoor now for Lambert’s Lions, who will be looking to sharpen their claws to give them the cutting-edge when they face Crewe on Friday and Newport on Sunday.
Aston Villa (first hour): Steer, Donacien, Baker, Herd, Webb, Delph, Sylla, Gardner, Carruthers, Benteke (Robinson 46) and Burke.
Aston Villa (last 30 minutes): Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Luna, Westwood, El Ahmadi, Johnson, Bacuna, Robinson and Grealish.