Walsall 0-1 Villa match report: Hutton on target in comfortable win
Alan Hutton continued his pre-season resurgence with the winning goal in Villa's penultimate pre-season outing.
Hutton's first-half strike - his first for the club since signing from Tottenham in 2011 - gave Villa the edge over neighbours Walsall at the Banks's Stadium.
The result gave Paul Lambert's team their fourth victory of the pre-season campaign, as they step up their preparations for the Barclays Premier League opener against Stoke on August 16.
Lambert once again opted for the 3-5-2 formation that has been deployed on several occasions during pre-season.
But the Villa boss had to do without Joe Cole and Darren Bent, who were nursing injuries, while Ron Vlaar watched on from the sidelines having only rejoined the squad at the weekend.
Following a slow start, the claret and blues grew stronger as the first period went on, with Hutton breaking the deadlock on 28 minutes.
The visitors survived an early scare, though, when Mal Benning's left-wing cross sat up for Ashley Grimes who volleyed over.
Fabian Delph looked to inject some energy into Villa's attacks and, after his surging run was halted by Reece Flanagan, Kieran Richardson had an effort saved from the resulting free-kick.
Gabby Agbonlahor also went close, glancing a header wide at the back post from Ashley Westwood's corner.
Villa finally made a breakthrough when Hutton sent a Richardson free-kick back into the danger area, before Agbonlahor knocked it back into the path of the Scottish full-back who finished from close range.
Brad Guzan was called into action before the break, standing tall to deny Paul Downing from point blank range.
Lambert made four changes at the break with Philippe Senderos, Enda Stevens, Matt Lowton and Charles N'Zogbia all given some extra game time.
And it was a vibrant start to the second half from the revamped Villa line-up.
Karim El Ahmadi's chipped shot was parried by Walsall's replacement keeper Craig MacGillivray, while Senderos headed over from N'Zogbia's corner.
A slick passing move involving Agbonlahor and N'Zogbia led to Delph drilling a low left-foot drive just off target from 18 yards.
Villa had chances to add to the scoring late on.
Leandro Bacuna's far post header was flicked off the line before Gary Gardner struck the follow-up over the bar.
Jack Grealish also fashioned an opening on the edge of the box but his shot was saved by MacGillivray.
But Hutton's goal was enough to give Villa the victory ahead of their final dress rehearsal against Italian side Parma on Saturday.
WALSALL: O'Donnell, Taylor, Downing, Bradshaw, Sawyers, Benning, Chambers, Clifford, Flanagan, Kinsella, Grimes. Subs: Holden, Chambers, Baxendale, Webber, Morris, Heath, Bakayoko, Henry, Rowley, Mantom, MacGillivray.
VILLA: Guzan, Clark, Baker, Okore, Hutton, Delph, Westwood, El Ahmadi, Richardson, Weimann, Agbonlahor. Subs: Given, Senderos [for Okore, HT], Herd [for Baker, 66], Bennett, Stevens [for Clark, HT], Gardner [for El Ahmadi, 74], Bacuna [for Agbonlahor, 77], N'Zogbia [for Richardson, HT], Lowton [for Hutton, HT], Grealish [for Weimann, 66].