Albion win 5-4 on penaltiesBurton Albion put pre-season behind them and embarked on the new season with a trip to Bramall Lane to take on last year's beaten League One play-off finalists, Sheffield United in the first round of this season's Capital One Cup.
A roller coaster of a game saw Albion twice take the lead before being reduced to ten men after Marcus Holness was sent off for dissent. Cleveland Taylor, who had scored in extra time to put Albion 2-1 up then stepped up to take the crucial penalty that saw Albion record their first ever win in the League Cup.
Adi Yussuf had earlier given Albion the lead with a stunning strike only for a Nick Blackman equaliser five minutes into the second half to level things up. After Taylor had given Albion the lead again there was controversy as referee Trevor Kettle harshly awarded a penalty against Albion with Neill Collins then seeing his penalty saved only to tap home the rebound with Holness dismissed in the aftermath.
Given the injury list at the Pirelli Stadium heading into the new campaign the line-up for the opening game almost picked itself. Ross Atkins won the battle of the keepers for the starting position in the opening game and in front of him was an almost entirely new back four. Nathan Stanton, the only survivor from last season switched to right back with Andy Corbett still struggling to shake off a groin injury. Marcus Holness and Zander Diamond formed the new central defensive partnership and fellow new signing Damien McCrory took the left back role. Lee Bell and Robbie Weir started in the centre of midfield with Cleveland Taylor and Chris Palmer in the wide positions. Billy Kee and Adi Yussuf were given the chance to pair up in attack.
After surviving an early corner from the home side Albion quickly switched play to the other end to create a half chance for themselves. Chris Palmer worked room down the left for a low cross and Adi Yussuf arrived at the near post but could not steer a first time effort on the target.
Although the home side enjoyed more of the early play Albion did start to knock the ball around quite well when given the chance and one excellent move saw Damien McCrory and Lee Bell link well to provide a first time volleyed effort from Robbie Weir that Mark Howard caught comfortably under his crossbar.
The Brewers won their first corner of the game after a quarter of an hour and it could have resulted in a goal as Chris Palmer's kick was cleared back out to him and from his second attempt he found Marcus Holness with the defender unable to steer his header on target.
The new signing then found himself preventing a goal at the other end as former Derby County striker Chris Porter worked himself just enough room fifteen yards out only to see Holness dive in and block the shot.
Ross Atkins was called on to make his first real save of the game in the 26th minute as United broke forward and former Crewe frontman Shaun Miller fired goalwards with Atkins diving to his left to concede the corner. The Brewers were then grateful to see Harry Maguire's header go over the bar from the resulting set piece.
Ryan Flynn then kept Atkins busy with a far post header, climbing above McCrory but directing his effort safely into the hands of the Albion keeper.
Billy Kee then sprang to life on the half hour as he picked up a pass from Cleveland Taylor and there was only one thought in his mind as he got closer to the edge of the penalty area. Shooting from an angle he forced Howard to parry the ball away, fortunately for the keeper away from Adi Yussuf looking to pounce on any rebound.
Atkins then had to produce another diving save, this time to prevent Porter from opening the scoring. Zander Diamond was adjudged to have fouled just outside the box and when Flynn swung in the free kick it looked for all the world as if the tall striker had given the hosts the lead.
The game turned on its head though a minute later as Albion grabbed the lead in the 34th minute. A long ball out from the back was laid into the path of YUSSUF by Billy Kee. The former Leicester youngster had the time to turn and face goal before quickly switching the ball onto his left foot, taking a touch and drilling a low shot from 22 yards beyond Howard and into the net.
United attempted to swiftly hit back and were close to what they thought mught be an equaliser when Miller met Flynn's cross with a header that came back off the inside of the post but referee Trevor Kettle had already spotted a foul in the box giving Albion a free kick and the chance to clear.
As the home side cranked up the pressure Zander Diamond then had to head smartly away from danger as Porter threatened again.
The home side finished on top but it was the Brewers who went in the happier at the break a goal up thanks to Yussuf's splendid strike.
Half time: Sheffield United 0-1 Burton Albion
The Blades made a change at the start of the second half with new signing Nick Blackman replacing Porter in attack.
And it only took the former Blackburn man five minutes to make his mark. His partner Miller found room down the left to cross in via a deflection and the striker's looping header somehow found its way past Atkins who made a hash of the situation.
The keeper went some way to redeeming himself shortly afterwards when he threw himself to his right to keep out a driven shot from distance from former Middlesbrough full back Tony McMahon.
On the hour mark Albion made their first change and unsurprisingly it was a change in attack which saw Justin Richards replace Billy Kee as both players strive for full fitness ahead of the League season starting next weekend.
Richards was also keen to make a quick impact and tested Howard with a left foot drive on 65 minutes that the keeper dealt with fairly comfortably.
Chris Palmer seemed to take a knock and he was quickly replaced by Jack Dyer. The young midfielder took up a role on the right hand side with Cleveland Taylor switching to the left wing.
Albion's defence was being severely tested as the Blades went for a second and the Brewers defence had something of a reprieve in the 76th minute as Flynn's ball into the centre had Albion stretched and with Blackman looking to poach his second a combination of Holness and the outstretched leg of Zander Diamond managed to eventually clear the danger.
Albion's final change came on 79 minutes with the goalscorer, Yussuf, withdrawn to make way for Aaron Webster.
The Blades almost snatched the victory in the last minute of normal time but Atkins again did well with a fine save. Blackman teased his way across the edge of the box before letting fly and Albion had another reprieve when substitute Callum McFadzean failed to turn in the rebound. In the end it meant that for the third year running Albion had taken a higher ranked team to extra time in the competition.
Full time: Sheffield United 1-1 Burton Albion
Sheffield were on the front foot at the start of extra time and the lively Blackman almost had his side in front four minutes into the first period. After a long ball forward bounced over Atkins as he came to challenge the Blades striker was closing in on goal but from an angle could only fire wide of the net.
However it proved again to be a costly miss as Albion regained the lead two minutes later. A sweeping move from the back allowed Robbie Weir to roll the ball into the path of Cleveland TAYLOR storming forward down the left. The winger tricked his way past the full back and then drilled a low angled shot across the keeper into the corner of the net.
Justin Richards then became the first player from either side to go into the book as he was penalised for a late and clumsy challenge on Neill Collins. The centre back was irate with the Albion striker and moments later found himself in the book for a niggly challenge as the players raced back towards goal.
The lead did not last for long however as COLLINS equalised after a controversial penalty. Nathan Stanton was adjudged to have bundled Callum McFadzean over in what looked like a shoulder to shoulder challenge. Amidst the protests Stanton and then Diamond were booked. Atkins did well to save what was a weak penalty only to watch Collins tap home the rebound.
As Albion continued to protest Holness was shown a yellow card and then seconds later was dismissed for carrying his protest on even longer.
The fuse had been lit for the second half of extra time and Taylor almost put Albion back ahead again forcing Howard into a double save at his near post as the ten men pressed forward.
United sense their chance to win it but Albion almost caught them on the break again. A superb ball out from Diamond found Weir down the right and his excellent cross was almost converted at the near post by Richards.
Despite pressure from the home side Albion stoically resisted everything that United could muster to force their way to a penalty shoot-out.
After extra-time: Sheffield United 2-2 Burton Albion
The hosts had the advantage after two spot kicks when Lee Bell put his effort wide but when Harry Maguire blazed over from the next kick it was game back on again. McCrory and Webster both scored their with Richards sending it to sudden death.
Crucially skipper Michael Doyle missed the next kick for the Blades and when Cleveland Taylor stepped up next he smashed home his spot kick to send Albion through to round two for the first time in their history.
Sheffield United: Howard, Maguire, Flynn (McAllister, 91), Doyle, Porter (Blackman, 46), McDonald, Miller (McFadzean, 70), Collins, Quinn, McMahon, Williams. Substitutes: Westlake, McAllister, Long.
Burton Albion: Atkins; Stanton, Holness, Diamond, McCrory; Taylor, Weir, Bell, C.Palmer (Dyer, 68); Kee (Richards, 60), Yussuf (Webster, 79). Substitutes: Corbett, M.Palmer, Lyness, Garnett.
Referee: Mr. T.Kettle (Rutland)
GOALS: Blades - Blackman (51), Collins (104); Albion - Yussuf (34), Taylor (96)
Attendance: 7,073 (430 away)