Mansfield 1-3 Villa match report: Returning Bent at the double
Darren Bent marked his return with two goals as Villa earned a 3-1 victory over Mansfield in their pre-season opener.
Bent starred in a vibrant second half performance as the claret and blues came from behind at the One Call Stadium.
Gary Gardner also got on the scoresheet for Paul Lambert's side, while Joe Cole and Kieran Richardson both made encouraging debuts.
Lambert stuck to his traditional pre-season philosophy of fielding a completely different line-up in each half.
Shay Given, Jores Okore and new signing Cole were among those given a run-out in the first period, while the home side's starting line-up included three unnamed trialists.
Villa - donning the brand new white and claret away kit - started at a good tempo with widemen Aleksandar Tonev and Leandro Bacuna making early inroads.
The first real opening saw Joe Bennett have an effort cleared off the line by Martin Riley after Bacuna's attempt to dribble round the keeper was foiled.
The 1,000-strong travelling army were given a first glimpse of Cole's playmaking qualities when the ex-England ace threaded a delightful reverse pass through to Bacuna.
The Dutchman aimed for the roof of the net but the keeper stood tall to block.
The pair linked up again later in the half but Bacuna's shot was smothered after he collected Cole's deft back-flick.
Mansfield threatened on 34 minutes when Given dived to his right to push away Sam Clucas' long-range drive.
Six minutes later, the Stags did manage to break the deadlock when John Dempster flicked on Liam Marsden's long throw-in, allowing Alex Fisher to head home at the back post.
The second-half line-up saw Bent, Charles N'Zogbia and Alan Hutton return to Villa action, while Kieran Richardson made his bow for the club.
Replacement goalkeeper Jed Steer was called into action early on to thwart Clucas from close-range, while at the other end Gardner curled a free-kick inches wide of the near post.
The breakthrough finally arrived for the visitors on 61 minutes.
Having picked up possession on the right touchline, Hutton made a strong run inside before cutting back to Bent who applied a simple close-range finish.
Bent had two further opportunities to add to his tally.
Firstly, he latched on to Richardson's through ball but couldn't nudge it past the keeper.
Then Villa's record signing had a first-time shot kept out after a good run and cutback from Andi Weimann on the right.
However, Bent did have a big hand in Villa's late flourish.
Five minutes from time, Garnder started and finished a slick passing exchange involving Bent and Weimann.
The midfielder rounded off the move by poking home his shot from around eight yards.
With virtually the last kick of the game, Bent was on hand to head home Weimann's chipped cross and seal a triumphant start to Villa's pre-season programme.
MANSFIELD: Trialist, Sutton, Dempster, Riley, Marsden, Trialist, McGuire, Bell, Trialist, Palmer, Fisher. Subs: Clucas, Howell, Rhead, Bell, Thomas, Spencer, Trialist, Trialist, Trialist, Trialist.
VILLA (1st half): Given, Lowton, Okore, Clark, Bennett, Bacuna, Carruthers, Delph, Tonev, Cole, Agbonlahor. VILLA (2nd half): Steer, Herd, Westwood, Baker, Hutton, El Ahmadi, Gardner, Richardson, N'Zogbia, Bent, Weimann. Subs: Grealish, Stevens.
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