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16 July 2016

Albion defeat Potters in impressive pre-season display

Burton Albion put on a more that encouraging display against Premier League Stoke City and came away with an impressive 3-0 victory against Mark Hughes' side. All the goals came in the second half with new loan signing Chris O'Grady helping himself to a brace on his first appearance in a Burton shirt and Lucas Akins picking up where he left off last season with a fine strike to round off the Brewers victory.

O'Grady's first came just two minutes into the second half as he reacted quickly to Stoke keeper Jakob Haugaard failing to claim Marcus Harness' corner cleanly to steer the ball back into the net with his first touch of the game. A well timed header from Akins' cross gave him his second of the afternoon before Akins himself stepped up to sweep the ball home after excellent work from Marcus Harness.

A slight knock in the warm up ruled Callum Reilly out of the starting line up. Damien McCrory was quickly readied to come in and slot in at left back. Elsewhere new signings Ben Turner and Kyle McFadzean were paired together at centre back with Phil Edwards making up the back four in front of Jon McLaughlin. Matty Palmer and Tom Naylor were in the centre of midfield with Ben Fox and Jay Tabb supporting from the wings, Stuart Beavon starting in attack alongside former Derby striker Steven Davies, currently training with the Brewers.

The early stages saw both sides eyeing each other up. An excellent left wing cross from Tabb lured Jack Butland from his line to claim under pressure and a robust challenge from McFadzean soon had the home fans on his side.

The first clear opening came for the visitors on nine minutes. Glen Johnson had already sent a speculative effort in from just over the half way before setting off on a run through the midfield and playing in Joselu in plenty of space inside the box. The Spaniard took a touch and fired low across Jon McLaughlin's goal without finding the target.

Ben Fox was showing some excellent touches drifting on from the Burton right and an impressive run took him beyond the Stoke midfield leading to a low effort from Tom Naylor that Butland was able to watch carefully go wide of the post.

Tabb, likewise from the left was showing plenty of promise and after cutting out a loose pass out from the back worked room for a low cross that Davies will be disappointed that he didnt make a better connection with as a sight of goal opened up in front of him.

Stoke were constantly posing a threat to the Burton defence and the chance for Charlie Adam to swing in a free kick from the left almost have the Premier League side in front on 17 minutes. The cultured boot of the Scotsman picked out defender Philipp Wollscheid  in the middle and his downward header was eventually dealt with by McLoughlin and McCrory.

Burton had decent shouts for a penalty after 27 minutes. Matty Palmer tricked his way in to the box and seemed to be clipped but referee Andy Woolmer was not sufficiently convinced to award the spot kick. Stoke made something of a hash of clearing the loose ball and presented a chance for Fox to hit a low shot that Butland dropped to his right to save.

Fox and Tabb almost linked up to good effect on the half hour mark. Fox came in from the right and put in an angled ball that looked as though it would get cut out but found its way through to the former Ipswich man, Butland showing good anticipation to come out and snuff out the danger.

Stoke did put the ball in the back of the Burton net after 42 minutes on a breakout from the back. A precise pass through the Burton defence seemed to have carved the Brewers open for Joselu to go on and finish but the Spaniard went a little too early prompting the assistant to raise the offside flag.

Half time: Burton Albion 0-0 Stoke City

Albion had the lead within three minutes of the second half. A couple of corners looked relatively comfortably for keeper Jakob Haugaard but under pressure from substitute Ryan Delaney the young keeper spilled the ball into the path of Chris O'GRADY who calmly guided the ball back inside the post with his first touch.

Stoke quickly had a chance to equalise from open play but Joselu's luck was out again heading straight into the waiting arms of Stephen Bywater.

Bywater was playing his first minutes for the team since signing in January and lined up behind an experimental defence that saw Tom Flanagan once again at right back with the imposing Delaney lining up alongside skipper John Mousinho. Albion's defence creaked somewhat on 55 minutes when Joselu tried to turn provider with a teasing cross that eventually came for Gianelli Imbula but at the vital moment Stoke's record signing somehow contrived to blaze over.

Suddenly Albion doubled their advantage on 58 minutes. A superb ball from triallist Hyuga Tanner picked out Lucas Akins on the right and after good work in the wide area the ball was sent in for O'GRADY to meet the cross with a fine header that powered past Haugaard. Tanner looked more than tidy in central midfield alongside Jackson Irvine and the pair were ably supported on the flanks by Harness and Akins. Calum Butcher provided the attacking support for O'Grady.

Stoke proceeded to make numerous changes to give some of their younger players an opportunity but it was Albion who almost grabbed a thhird on 74 minutes. O'Grady found space on the bye line and turned provider for Lucas Akins, Albion's top scorer for the last two seasons sending a rasping towards goal forcing a good save from Haugaard.

Young striker George Waring showed good strength in the box to get on the end of a searching cross from the right but Mousinho was equal to the big youngsters presence and blocked the ball at the expense of a corner.

Tom Naylor returned to action for the last fifteen minutes to give McCrory a rest having played longer than planned due to Reilly's unfortunate injury.

Naylor had come up with some important headed goals towards the end of last season but almost lashed in a thunderbolt on 85 minutes. O'Grady did the hard work on the left and swung a delightful ball over to the opposite side setting Naylor up for a volley that fizzed just over and wide.

It was three in the end for the Brewers on 87 minutes with a fine goal. Marcus Harness set it up with a mazy run through midfield and in to the box. He was all set to shoot when a challenge came in that pushed the ball into the path of AKINS and his left foot finish unerringly found the bottom corner to cap an impressive showing for Nigel Clough's side.

Ollie Shenton threatened to ruin Albion's clean sheet when he picked up the ball when Waring was forcefully challenged by Jackson Irvine. Bywater was not to be beaten though saving comfortably to his right. It capped a satisfying performance for the Brewers who, despite the first week of pre-season games being all about fitness rather than performance, can be delighted with two wins and two clean sheets.

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