Villa U21 0-2 Reading U21: Bennett/Gardner return in defeat
Gary Gardner and Joe Bennett got some match action under their belts as Villa U21s slipped to a 2-0 defeat against Reading.
First-half goals from Craig Tanner and Jack Stacey were enough to secure victory for the Royals, who were good value for the three points in the clash at Bodymoor Heath.
But Villa first team manager Paul Lambert will have been boosted by the sight of senior duo Gardner and Bennett completing 90 minutes.
The claret and blues made a bright start with Graham Burke curling an effort just wide after collecting Jordan Bowery's knockdown.
It took just 10 minutes, though, for the visitors to take the lead.
Tanner stepped up to score from the spot after the referee awarded a penalty for a trip on Gozie Ugwu.
With nine minutes to go in the first period, Stacey curled in a superb effort from a tight angle to make it 2-0.
Bowery headed straight at Stuart Moore and Burke forced the keeper into a save but Gordon Cowans' team went in at the break with plenty of work to do.
Reading started the second half strongly and Brad Watkins did well to save Ugwu's effort with his feet.
Then the Villa keeper dived to his left to brilliantly deny Tanner, before Stacey's follow-up was blocked by Brad Lewis.
Gardner fired wide with a succession of long-range shots, including one following an indirect free-kick which was awarded when keeper Moore was penalised for holding on to the ball for too long.
Moore redeemed himself late on by standing tall to thwart Burke from point blank range.
Villa finished the game with 10 men after Lewis received a second yellow card for a foul.
VILLA: Watkins, Webb, Bennett, Gardner, Lewis, Kinsella, Burke, Robinson, Bowery, Johnson (c), Sellars. Subs: O'Brien, Grant, Abdo [for Sellars 73], McKirdy, Wildin.
READING: Moore, Keown, Griffin, Tshibola, Sweeney, Hector, Stacey, Kuhl, Ugwu, Tanner, Fosu-Henry. Subs: Long, Lincoln, Hylam, Fridjonsson, Murombedzi.