The young forward took his chances well, firing us ahead just four minutes in before scoring a well-placed header from Keanan Bennetts’ cross.
Villa started to see more of the ball in the 15 minutes before half-time, though, and after Jack Clarke reduced our lead shortly before the hour mark it was Callum O’Hare who completed the scoring after a rare mistake from our otherwise steadfast defence – the match ending 2-2.
We made a purposeful start to the Barclays Under-18 Premier League clash at the Villans’ Bodymoor Heath training ground and our early endeavours were rewarded when Sterling worked himself into a shooting position inside a crowded 18-yard box and drilled into the bottom corner with four minutes gone.
Corey Taylor broke free at the other end shortly afterwards but O’Hare, the recipient of the wide man’s cross, was robbed by a well-timed Zenon Stylianides tackle.
Bennetts was then denied by Villa goalkeeper Charlie Bannister twice in a minute, first seeing his rising drive palmed out and then having his far-post shot blocked away for a corner after a cross from the right by the lively Charlie Hayford.
Indeed, Hayford showed tremendous character at right-back for the whole game and his determined tackles and bursts down the flank inspired our attacking play on a number of occasions.
Samuel Shashoua was next to go close, his long-range curler being tipped low around the post by Bannister on 16 minutes, before we doubled our advantage on 28 minutes – Sterling rising highest in the box to glance a header into the net from Bennetts’ left-wing cross.
O’Hare looked most likely to respond for Villa as the half progressed, his low drive from 20 yards skimming the outside of the post on its way behind just beyond the half-hour mark with the same player skipping over two challenges in the box a couple of minutes later – only for Hayford to intervene with a well-timed sliding challenge at the expense of a corner.
The home side applied further pressure as we approached half-time, James Finnerty steering a header wide from Taylor’s ball in before goalkeeper Alfie Whiteman produced a tremendous double-save to keep out efforts from O’Hare and Liam Hailey in the 44th minute.
In spite of Villa’s chances we looked comfortable in possession without creating too many opportunities of our own as the interval came and went.
Villa did manage to get themselves back in it on 58 minutes, though, as Jake Humphries’ forward pass was blocked at the edge of our box and Clarke reacted quickest to latch onto the ball and drill into the bottom corner for 2-1.
Skipper Charlie Owens picked out Shashoua in the danger zone at the other end three minutes later as we tried to make a quick response, but the attacking midfielder’s shot was blocked by the legs of Bannister.
Our advantage remained a slender one as the minutes ticked by, but it was ultimately cancelled out with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining. Humphries pounced on a loose ball as a result of a defensive lapse and fed O’Hare, who sidestepped the committed Whiteman and blasted beyond two defenders on the line to make it 2-2.
Centre-back Jon Dinzeyi then stuck out a leg at the vital moment to prevent O’Hare from putting Villa in front, with Whiteman smothering Jordan Cox’s effort on his goal-line just afterwards.
That was the closest the home side went to grabbing a third goal, however, with our players pouring forward in search of a winner in the last few minutes.
From one such attack, Hayford’s cross from the right was met by the head of substitute Ryan Loft but the ball sailed straight in Bannister’s direction and the keeper was able to gather.
Marcus Edwards appeared to be tripped in the box three minutes into stoppage time, but the referee dismissed his claims for a penalty and booked him for simulation.
There was still time for a couple more waves of attack, but we couldn’t find a meaningful final ball and ultimately ran out of time.
Spurs U18s: Whiteman, Hayford, Muscatt, Owens, Paul, Dinzeyi, Edwards, Stylianides, Sterling (Loft 83), Shashoua (Duncan 76), Bennetts (Daly 58). Substitutes (not used): Oakley-Boothe, Austin (GK).