Aston Villa's dearth of fit strikers is such that David O'Leary is throwing yet another youngster into the fray against Everton tomorrow.

Teenager Gabriel Agbonlahor may line up alongside Luke Moore - himself still cutting his teeth at the age of 20 - at Goodison Park.

The Villa manager has watched helplessly as his strikers have dropped like flies this week with Kevin Phillips going down with the mystery virus that has so far struck midfielders James Milner and Lee Hendrie. Phillips has been orederd to stay away from the training ground, doubtless to avoid spreading his illness.

Juan Pablo Angel and Milan Baros - O'Leary's first-choice front-line partner-ship - were already ruled out although the club appear to be hoping against hope that the former may over-come his ankle injury.

Agbonlahor, who scored the winner in Villa's reserve-team victory over Everton on Wednesday, has the full backing of O'Leary, who has been left with no other option than to turn to his 19-year-old charge.

"He played really well [against Everton Reserves] and I've had it in my mind to give him a go for a while," he said. "Now I might have to throw him in and, if I do, we'll see how he goes."

O'Leary understandably hopes not to need Agbonlahor (pictured right), preferring to wait until the last minute to give Phillips a chance to recover, but he is confident the Birmingham-born teenager will not let him down.

"The young lads who played the other night did well for this club and I think the future is bright - especially if we can add a few experienced lads to that mix," O'Leary said.

The virus that appears to have sneaked into the Villa dressing-room may only be a short-lived bug. Hendrie, who was hit badly for 48 hours, was sufficiently recovered to play in the reserve team against Everton.

Milner appears not to have been so lucky and has been ordered to take at least a week's rest, ruling him out of tomorrow's game.

Having missed the Premier League match at Blackburn last Saturday and Tuesday's FA Cup fifth round replay at Manchester City, Milner was the subject of what O'Leary called "wild speculation" that it was glandular fever.

But O'Leary said that medics had given no diagnosis of such a serious illness. He said: "The medical opinion is to give Milner a week's rest and then come back next Thursday. The medical people will look at him then and, if he is OK, he will train and be available for the Fulham game on Saturday week.

"I have not heard anything about him having glandular fever. I can only go on what the medical people tell me which is he has a virus."

O'Leary has been heartened to hear that Milner would like to sign for the club on a permanent basis. Milner is on a season-long loan from Newcastle and has impressed O'Leary, who worked with the player as a youngster when in charge of Leeds.

Now the England Under-21 midfielder - who was part of the deal which saw Nolberto Solano return to Newcastle for #1.5million during August - is keen to sign full-time for the Midlands club.

But the matter may be taken out of his hands as Newcastle are understood to be keen on retaining Milner, who would be the natural long-term replacement on the right flank for Solano.

O'Leary said: "Milner wants to stay with me here. That is definite. He wants to sign here without a doubt.

"He has given me those indications. That is good news for us and he has done a great job for Aston Villa this season and will only get better and better.

"But it would all be down to Newcastle and why should Freddy Shepherd do us any favours?

"We are a business. They are a business. We have got # 1.5m sitting there which we got for Solano. We have that as a down payment. Maybe a second season on loan could be a possibility. If it means me keeping Milner for another year, instead of losing him, I would be delighted."

Milner's unavailability may bode well for Hendrie who has been fighting to regain his place.

Fellow midfielder Patrik Berger will have a scan after the weekend to determine the extent of his Achilles injury suffered in the warm-up on Tuesday night.