Oxford United 0-1 Burton AlbionLucas Akins debut goal for the Brewers was sufficient to secure Albion's first opening day win since joining the Football League. The former Stevenage forward prodded home Stuart Beavon's low cross three minutes before half time to put Albion in charge against Oxford United and a solid second half performance saw Albion through to a first win in six attempts in the opening encounter of the season.
Gary Rowett handed out five debuts for the first game of the new campaign. Keeper Jon McLaughlin got the nod ahead of Dean Lyness and George Taft got the nod in the centre of the back four with Shane Cansdell-Sherriff away following the birth of his fourth child in the week. John Mousinho made his first competitive start alongside Robbie Weir with Akins starting on the right and Beavon taking his bow with Dominic Knowles alongside him in attack.
After a cautious opening few minutes from both sides it was the home side with the first real opening as Alfie Potter, often a scourge of the Brewers in the past, scampered away down the right pulling the ball back for Josh Ruffels who let fly from distance forcing McLaughlin to punch the ball clear.
Albion's response was swift and had it not been for a miskick by Knowles inside the box it could easily have been the Brewers in the lead. Akins skinned left back Tom Newey and pulled back a delightful pass but the young striker got his timing wrong. Albion won a corner and a clever routine saw Alex MacDonald find Beavon in the box with his first time shot kept out by George Long in the Oxford goal, Akins denied a shot on the rebound by a recovering Oxford defender.
MacDonald earned himself the first yellow card of the season with just 14 minutes on the clock when his slightly mistimed challenge sent overlapping full back Joe Riley crashing to the turf just outside the box. Oxford were unable to profit from the set piece as a ball into the six yard box was easily claimed by McLaughlin.
McLaughlin was seriously tested again on 21 minutes and again it came down the Oxford right. Riley swung in a delicious cross that was met by a header from Potter, Albion's new recruit between the sticks again doing well to beat the ball away to safety. Again a home chance prompted a swift counter and Beavon fired straight at Long as Albion countered at pace.
McLaughlin was at full stretch just after the half hour to keep Albion's clean sheet in tact. A scuffed shot from Ruffels lacked power but it was heading towards the far corner until Albion's stopper got down well to push it around the post for a corrner.
Home defender Michael Raynes needed lengthy treatment after a collision with Ian Sharps. A long ball forward saw Sharps duck under the ball to allow it to go through towards the keeper but Raynes jumped for the ball and landed awkwardly over the back of the Brewers skipper.
MacDonald skipped his way into the area and his goalbound effort was only stopped by an outstretched leg inside the box and Oxford were almost through on goal on 39 minutes, a swift counter from Junior Brown would have succeeded in finding Potter to his right had it not been for an excellent challenge from McFadzean that sent the ball skewing away for a corner.
Albion though had the lead on 42 minutes as they broke up an Oxford attack and hit the home side on the break. Sharps cut out a ball from Riley and found Beavon breaking down the left. Bursting into the box he managed to steer the ball across the six yard box and Lucas AKINS had the simple task of poking the ball inside the post.
It was a great time for the Brewers to open their account, in the minutes leading up to half time and in the aftermath of the goal Raynes, turned relatively easily by Beavon for the goal, was replaced by Johnny Mullins.
Half time: Oxford United 0-1 Burton Albion
Albion started the second half brightly creating an opening within the first few seconds. Phil Edwards sent a searching ball in from the right and Knowles rose highest to head towards goal but wide of the upright.
Oxford were struggling to create clear cut opportunities and Carlton Morris headed a good cross from left back Tom Newey wide of the post on 53 minutes as the home side looked to give their fans something to cheer.
Whilst the home side were huffing and puffing trying to create an equaliser they almost threw it away at the back. 67 minutes were on the clock when Beavon impudently flicked a ball on to chase after himself and although Long seemed to have the situation under control he dallied on the ball as he tried to let it run out of play and Beavon embarrassed him to keep the ball in. Beavon tried to play a ball inside for Akins but was fouled by Long who saw a yellow card to add to his woes.
Knowles was quickly replaced by Matty Palmer as Albion looked to seal up the midfield areas and Oxford quickly responded by throwing on another attacker with former Rotherham man Danny Hylton coming on for midfielder Junior Brown, a recent signing from Fleetwood Town.
Potter was only inches away from connecting with a lovely ball from Danny Rose on 72 minutes, the diminutive winger stealing in behind the Brewers backline for a rare chance.
With a quarter of an hour to go Albion made a second change. The hard working MacDonald was the man to make way with Adam McGurk slotting seamlessly in on the left hand side in his place.
Again Oxford responded with a change of their own, their final one, and perhaps surprisingly it was Rose, one of the better Oxford performers who was sacrificed as youngster Callum O'Dowda was given a chance to impress and change the game back in favour of the hosts.
Michael Collins picked up a yellow card for a scruffy challenge on John Mousinho as the game headed into the final ten minutes but Albion were unable to profit from the free kick, Palmer's delivery being flicked clear before a Burton head could reach it.
Hylton looked as though he was going to conjure up a moment of magic on 83 minutes as he danced his way past a couple of challenges but with the prospect of a debut goal in his mind he tried one trick too many and Phil Edwards was able to clear Albion's lines once more.
Beavon, after an impressive, hard working debut, took his leave of the game with five minutes remaining allowing Billy Kee a late cameo appearance. With his first touch the popular frontman played McGurk in through the middle and a poor touch from an Oxford defender almost had the Irishman through on goal with Long just getting there to spare his team mates blushes.
Edwards picked up a yellow card for a tug on the shirt of Potter as he tried to break clear in stoppage time and there was a late scare in the four minutes of added time as a cross from the right came all the way through to Ruffels but the youngster could only find the side netting with the angle tightening against him all the time.
Without doubt there is more to come from this Albion side in an attacking sense but the defensive solidity of last season remains and that is a platform that Gary Rowett and the team will look to build on in the weeks ahead.
Pictures: John Potts