CALLUM Niven continued his impressive recent run of form in front of goal as Burton Albion’s Professional Development Phase side drew 1-1 with Grimsby Town under-18s at St George’s Park on Friday afternoon.
After finding the net – and converting a penalty in the shootout – for the Brewers against Halesowen Town in the Birmingham Senior Cup on Tuesday, Niven scored his eighth goal in three just league matches against the high-flying Mariners.
Albion more than matched Grimsby throughout and were good value for their point, extending their unbeaten run in the EFL Youth Alliance to four games.
The Young Brewers made a strong start to the game, with Jakub Niemczyk – who also featured at Halesowen in midweek – leading many of the home side’s attacking moves. Just six minutes in, the winger forced Grimsby goalkeeper Tom Jacobs into his first save of the day with a free-kick from range.
Moments later, Burton stopper Daniel Moore used his legs to deny visiting striker Edwin Essel at the other end after the ball had been played over the top of the Brewers defence by Shakeel Brown.
In the 18th minute, Albion took the lead following some excellent work by Niemczyk on the left flank. The Polish winger reached the byline before lofting the ball towards the six-yard box, where NIVEN pounced and nodded home.
The same pairing combined again just five minutes later and almost achieved the same outcome, but Niven’s attempt to steer his teammate’s cross into the net with his thigh was unsuccessful.
Grimsby, to their credit, grew into the contest as the first period progressed. Harry Milner and Harvey Tomlinson each went fairly close to finding an equaliser after the half hour mark, but both players missed the target with their efforts.
Niven nearly doubled his and Burton’s goal tally for the day shortly before the break when he ran onto a neat through-ball from Joseph Nyahwema, but the striker’s low left-footed shot was tipped behind by Jacobs.
Not long after the interval, the ball fell to Niven on the edge of the visitors’ area at the end of a neat Burton move, but his powerful effort deflected off Niemczyk’s head before bouncing behind for a goal kick.
Then, in the 58th minute, the Mariners managed to level proceedings when ESSEL – who looked dangerous throughout – slotted past Moore confidently from inside the box after being played in by Milner.
Albion’s response to Essel’s goal was very positive as they immediately sought to restore their advantage in the game. First, attacking midfielder Charlie Williams’ collected the ball outside the box before unleashing a swerving shot which whistled just past the upright.
Three minutes later, Niven struck Jacobs’ crossbar with a looping free-kick effort from 25 yards out, before Grimsby frantically managed to clear their lines. Versatile midfielder Ben Radcliffe then gave the visitors another scare when his volley from range flew narrowly wide of Jacobs’ right-hand post.
In the latter stages, Essel and Niven were each presented with a chance to seal all three points for their respective sides, but neither striker could convert. The former lashed a shot over the bar from a good position in the box with a quarter of an hour left to play, before Burton’s leading marksman fired a low left-footed shot just wide less than two minutes later.
While the Young Brewers will have been disappointed to have not won the match after being ahead, there were several positive elements of their performance which they will look to take to Lincoln City, another strong outfit, next weekend.
GOALS: Niven (18)
BREWERS: Moore, McLean, Hill, Hazell, Emery, Redfern, Nyahwema (Bennett 84), Radcliffe (c), Niven, Williams, Niemczyk. Subs not used: Lewis (GK), Robinson, Maginness, Brandy