Benteke bags third Villa victory
Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert excluded record signing Darren Bent for the second successive time but saw his replacement Christian Benteke score a late winner in the bottom-of-the-table clash with Reading at Villa Park.
Villa's third win of the season moved them out of the Barclays Premier League bottom three in front of their lowest home league gate - 28,692 - for six years.
Villa, who fielded eight players aged 23 or under, enjoyed the bulk of the possession and the recalled Brett Holman impressed in central midfield. Reading looked more solid than when conceding sloppy goals in Saturday's 3-2 defeat at Wigan but seldom posed a threat to a solid Villa back four in which Ciaran Clark again impressed.
Hal Robson-Kanu had the first attempt on goal after being found in space by Jason Roberts but he curled his shot wide of the far post. Holman exchanged passes with Andreas Weimann but his run into the box proved to no avail as the return ball from the Austrian striker was over-hit.
Villa midfielder Barry Bannan played his side into trouble when dispossessed by Shaun Cummings, who released Royals skipper Jobi McAnuff but Adam Le Fondre could not make as full contact on his ball across the danger area.
The first meaningful save came when Reading keeper Adam Federici went down to his right to smother a low Benteke shot, while Villa were forced to make a change after 24 minutes when left-back Enda Stevens limped out of the action to be replaced by Eric Lichaj.
Benteke created a yard of space for himself inside the box before finding Weimann unmarked at the far side of the six yard box but he fired high over the bar. The recalled Nathan Baker then got on the end of an inswinging Bannan corner but sent his downward header past the post.
Baker flicked a Bannan corner wide at the start of the second half and Clark was not far off target with a header from the same source. But Reading came more into the game and Roberts cut inside before seeing his shot blocked by the legs of Brad Guzan.
The game appeared to be heading for a stalemate but with 10 minutes left Benteke settled the issue. Lambert's £7million summer signing from Genk climbed above the Royals defence and his downward header flew past Federici.