By Dan Harrison
Robert Pires and John Carew got some valuable match action under their belts as Villa's reserves drew against local rivals West Bromwich Albion.
The experienced duo played just over an hour of a lively second string encounter at Bodymoor Heath.
Nathan Delfouneso scored after the break for Kevin MacDonald's men to cancel out Lateef Elford-Alliyu's early penalty.
It was another encouraging display for the claret and blues, who are neck and neck with Arsenal at the top of the Southern Group.
Pires made his first start in Villa colours, 24 hours after his Premier League debut as a substitute against Blackburn Rovers, while Carew returned from a calf injury which kept him out of action since last month's goalless draw against Birmingham City.
Both men imposed themselves on the game but not before Alliyu put the Baggies in front.
With five minutes on the clock, Romaine Sawyers went down as he looked to go past Derrick Williams and Shane Lowry. A penalty was awarded and Alliyu stepped up to send Andy Marshall the wrong way.
Pires and Carew combined for Villa's first real opportunity. The Frenchman floated a cross to the back post which Carew headed down into the six-yard box. Delfouneso timed his arrival perfectly but nodded wide from close range.
Carew fashioned two opportunities with some fine work on the right hand side.
Firstly he wriggled past Joe Mattock and fired straight at goalkeeper Luke Daniel with his left foot. Two minutes later he crossed for Delfouneso, whose glancing header trimmed the far post.
Skipper Shane Lowry called Daniels into action again before the break with a fierce drive from the edge of the area which was pushed to safety.
The hosts continued in positive fashion after the break - Daniels making another fine save to tip away a Michael Drennan effort which seemed destined for the top corner.
And an equaliser nearly arrived when Isaiah Osbourne latched on to Chris Herd's knockback from a Pires free-kick but Osbourne saw his header hacked off the line by Akil Grier.
Sawyers blasted over from the edge of the box for Albion after a neat exchange with James Hurst - but it was Villa who looked most likely to add to the scoring.
The equaliser finally came on 71 minutes when Delfouneso raced on to Eric Lichaj's throw-in, motored towards goal and expertly fired across Daniels for his fifth goal of this reserve campaign.
VILLA: Marshall, Lichaj, Williams, Lowry, Deeney, Pires, Osbourne, Herd, Drennan, Delfouneso, Carew. Subs: Berry, Parish, Johnson (for Pires, 62), Cameron (for Carew, 62), Burke (for Drennan, 73).
WEST BROM: Daniels, Zuiverloon, Mattock, Grier, Meite, Downing, Berahino, Hurst, Elford-Alliyu, Sawyers, Roofe. Subs: Gayle (for Berahino, 75), Lewis, Connolly, Mannion (for Roofe, 55), Garmston.