Mansfield Town 1 Aston Villa 3 - 17th July 2014

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Two goals from former England international Darren Bent secured Aston Villa a 3-1 win and condemned Mansfield Town to their first defeat of pre-season.

Alex Fisher’s glancing header had given Stags a 1-0 lead at half-time to cap an impressive first half display from Paul Cox’s men.

But the Premier League side, who made 11 changes at the break, came out firing in the second half and levelled when Bent poked home from close range.

And, as Mansfield began to tire, Gary Gardner made it 2-1 on 85 minutes before Bent bagged his brace right on the final whistle to secure Villa’s victory.

The result was harsh on a Mansfield side who had battled hard against their more fancied opponents in the first half and caused problems.

But as the game progressed Villa’s superior passing and fitness levels began to take over as the Premier League side took a firm grip on the game.

But despite the result Mansfield boss Paul Cox will have been pleased with the individual display of his trialist keeper who pulled off a number of fine saves to keep the score down.

There were also impressive individual displays from Alex Fisher, who continued to show that he could be the man to finally replace the goals of Matt Green, and Sam Clucas showing why he is so valuable during an excellent cameo display.

But boss Paul Cox will be waiting anxiously to find out the full extent of injuries to Fergus Bell and Sam Clucas who were both subbed after picking up knocks.

Mansfield boss Paul Cox named three trialists in his starting line-up, including an unnamed goalkeeper as he continues his hunt to replace Alan Marriott.

Stags started with a 4-4-2 formation, with Sutton, Dempster, Riley and Marsden all lining up alongside each other in a system that will likely form the backbone of the defence when the season kicks off at Northampton.

Sam Clucas, who was the subject of a bid from an unnamed League One side, and contractless Anthony Howell were named on the bench along with four trialists.

Youth team player Chris Spencer was also named on the bench with a second half appearance all but certain.

Star-studded Villa gave a debut to former England star Joe Cole, who joined the club earlier in the week, while Darren Bent started the second half.

Villa started brightly and came close to taking the lead when Joe Bennett saw his shot cleared off the line by Martin Riley after the visitors broke the offside trap on six minutes.

Ollie Palmer registered the home side’s first effort on eight minutes when he scuffed his shot wide from the edge of the box while under pressure.

Alex Fisher fired a comfortable effort straight at Shay Given from the narrowest of angles on 18 minutes as Mansfield hit well on the break.

Mansfield’s unnamed goalkeeper showed excellent reflexes to parry a well hit shot from Leandro Bacuna after a patient passing move by Villa carved the defence open on 20 minutes.

Gabby Agbonlahor should have put the Premier League outfit ahead but he narrowly headed Bacuna’s cross over the bar on 28 minutes.

Fergus Bell picked up a slight knock in a challenge and was replaced by Sam Clucas.

Bacuna should have done better on 31 minutes when he fired a rushed effort comfortably wide as Villa began to up the pressure.

Given had to be at full-stretch to turn away Clucas’s curling 25-yard free-kick on 35 minutes.

Mansfield hit the front on 41 minutes after Alex Fisher rose well to head home from just inside the six yard box.

It was a well deserved half-time lead for Stags side who had competed all the way with the more fancied opponents.

Villa made 11 substitutes at half-time while Mansfield brought on last season’s player of the year, Matt Rhead, for goalscorer Alex Fisher.

Sub Sam Clucas was himself subbed on 55 minutes after he picked up a knock following a clash with Villa goalkeeper Jed Steer.

Former England international Darren Bent levelled for Villa after Alan Hutton’s surging run and cutback left him with the simplest of tap-ins on 61 minutes.

Kierain Richardson was denied on 73 minutes by the outstretched boot of Mansfield’s trialist keeper as Villa pushed for the winner.

But Villa finally took control late on when Gardner and Bent both scored.

Mansfield: Trialist 1, Sutton, Dempster, Riley, Marsden, Trialist 2, McGuire (trialist 80 mins), F.Bell (Clucas 28, Thomas 55 mins), Trialist 3 (Howell 45 mins), Palmer (Rhead 45 mins), Fisher (Trialist 67 mins). Subs: Amari’i Bell, Chris Spencer, Trialist 6, Trialist 7.

Villa: (first half): Given, Lowton, Okore, Clark, Bennett, Bacuna, Carruthers, Delph, Tonev, Cole, Agbonlahor.

Villa (second half): Steer, Herd, Westwood, Baker, Hutton, El Ahmadi, Gardner, Richardson, N’Zogbia, Bent, Weimann. Subs: Grealish, Stevens.

Attendance: 3,342 (1,078 away).