BURTON Albion's Professional Development Phase side got their EFL Youth Alliance Cup campaign off to the perfect start with a hard-earned 1-0 win against Walsall at St George's Park.
Callum Niven's fourth-minute goal - the striker's sixth goal in three games - extended the Young Brewers' 100% start to the season, following 3-2 and 6-2 wins over Harrogate Town and Huddersfield Town.
And Albion hit the bar twice in the second half as they looked to build on their lead, seeing out another good victory and recording a first clean sheet of the season.
Joe Nyahwema, fresh from being named in a first-team squad recently, started on the flank behind Niven and Cassiun Langfield.
And it would be NIVEN opening the scoring with less than four minutes on the clock - sending a superb effort from 20 yards over the keeper.
Chances would be largely at a premium for the next 20 minutes or so until Niven, winning a 50/50 with a defender after two clearances from Walsall keeper Jensen Kilroy were blocked, saw the ball go just wide of the near post from his challenge.
Antonio Cristofar saw an effort from the edge of the box fly over Greg Lewis's crossbar as the Saddlers pressed in search of an equaliser, but Albion would come closest to scoring next as Niven sent a curled effort from 18 yards wide of the far post after good work from Tommy Hill, before midfielder John-Joe Power sent a dipping free-kick onto the roof of the net.
The Brewers began the second half well - Langfield turned well in the box and saw a shot saved, and after chasing down the rebound tried to place the ball past the recovering defenders but his effort was cleared off the line.
Ronan Maher sent a 25-yard free-kick onto the crossbar in the 50th minute before Langfield rattled the woodwork himself. Power's superb lofted pass into the box found Nyahwema, who pulled it back well but the ball bobbled and hit Langfield's shin as he applied the finish, the ball hitting the crossbar from close range.
Marvellous Onabirekhanlen had the ball in the net for the Saddlers, turning home on the rebound after a fine save from Lewis, but was flagged offside just shy of the hour.
Power sent another free-kick narrowly over the bar in the 72nd minute and with nine to play, Langfield hit the bar again - winning a fair header against the keeper's attempted punch, teeing himself up for the shot and aiming for the roof of the net - only to see the ball hit the crossbar, bounce on the line and be cleared.
Finn Delap headed over from a free-kick in the dying stages as the Brewers saw out a deserved victory - although Professional Development Phase Lead Coach Sam Rose felt there were still improvements to be made by his side.
"I think we made it difficult for ourselves at times," said Rose. "Off the back of the two wins we've had in the league, we asked the boys to try to keep the ball better and get more crosses into the box.
"We've improved on that in some respects but there are still aspects we would want to see improvements on.
"But it's our first clean sheet, our third win in a row, and the boys will take some confidence from this.
"What we have seen here is their ability to dig in, and if they're not playing so well they can still manage to win the game - they'll take a lot from that.
"Consistency is the key and we didm't get much of that, but they kept a clean sheet and won the game.
"Today has been an opportunity for some players who haven't played as much to come in and impress. Now we've got a game Friday in the league against Lincoln City."
GOALS: Niven 4 (Brewers).
BREWERS: Lewis, Emery, Raine, Hazell, Delap, Robinson, Nyahwema, Power, Langfield (Noon-Brandy 87), Niven, Hill (Bennett 78). Subs not used: Moore (GK), Knowles, Pace.
Pictures by Sally Rose