Villa's winning pre-season run came to an end with a 3-1 defeat at Chesterfield.
After falling behind to goals from Tenadyi Darikwa and Sam Hird, the claret and blues produced a much-improved second-half display at the Proact Stadium.
Substitute Jack Grealish pulled one back for Paul Lambert's team just after the restart but Sam Morsy scored late on for last season's League Two champions.
After a productive two-match tour of the USA, Lambert opted to hand a number of his key players a rest.
It meant the club's young guns were given the chance to impress, with seven academy players featuring in the starting XI.
There was also a welcome return in goal for Brad Guzan following his post-World Cup break.
Guzan went straight into the firing line on his first appearance since linking up with the squad in Texas last week.
The American goalkeeper was called into action after two minutes as the visitors made a sluggish start to the contest.
And while Guzan did well to save a Gary Roberts shot with his feet, he couldn't prevent Darikwa from nudging the ball past him four minutes later.
After a ball was slipped in behind the Villa defence, Darikwa reached it before Guzan and slotted home from a tight angle.
Guzan came to the rescue again on two more occasions, keeping out headers from Armand Gnanduillet and Hird.
Slowly but surely, though, the young Villans found their feet and began to impose themselves on the game.
Just before the half-hour mark, Samir Carruthers steered a ball into the path of Callum Robinson who nodded past the keeper only to be flagged offside.
Moments later, Aleksandar Tonev slid a pass to Graham Burke whose right-foot drive thumped off the cross bar.
However, their good work was undone just before the break.
Guzan made a stunning one-handed save to tip over another headed from Gnaduillet and from the resulting corner Chesterfield were able to double their lead.
Roberts delivered towards the back post and Hird slid in to convert from six yards.
Lambert made six changes at the break with Leandro Bacuna, Jores Okore, Enda Stevens, Karim El Ahmadi, Charles N'Zogbia and Grealish all taking to the field.
Three of those replacements combined to great effect six minutes after the restart to pull Villa back into the game.
N'Zogbia raced on to Bacuna's pass down the right hand side and produced an inch-perfect cutback to tee up Grealish just inside the box.
A fired-up N'Zogbia went close on 72 minutes, showing quick feet to shift past two defenders before curling a shot just over the bar.
Morsy had the final say, though, taking one touch to control substitute Eoin Doyle's cutback before firing emphatically into the roof of the net.
CHESTERFIELD: Lee; Darikwa, Evatt, Hird, Jones; Ryan, Morsy, Boco, Roberts, Humphreys; Gnanduillet. Subs: Subs: Wright, Raglan, O'Shea, Gardner, Doyle, Daly, Morrison, Dawes, Broadhead, Onovwigun, Clark.
VILLA: Guzan, Lowton, Herd, Donacien, Bennett, Gardner, Johnson, Carruthers, Burke, Tonev. Robinson. Subs: Given, Bacuna [for Lowton HT], Okore [for Herd HT], El Ahmadi [for Gardner HT], N'Zogbia [for Tonev HT], Grealish [for Burke HT], Stevens [for Bennett HT].