Brewers kick off pre-season campaign with victoryA 2-0 victory over Evo Stik side Leek Town got Burton Albion's preparations for life in the Championship under way at Harrison Park. Goals in each half from Marcus Harness and Tom Flanagan gave the Brewers a comofrtable victory with the focus very much on fitness more than anything in the first run out since promotion was secured at Doncaster Rovers back in May.
Harness opened the scoring on 34 minutes combining superbly with Marcus Dinanga to fire in before Flanagan converted a late corner kick to finally dispell any hopes that Leek had of salvaging a draw.
Brewers boss Nigel Clough unsurprisingly opted to field completely different sides in each half to get the Brewers on field pre-season preparations under way.
Both halves saw a mix of established players and promising youngsters. Former Wolves and Notts County youngster Cieron Keane was given a run out at left back with ex-Blackburn Rovers man Hyuga Tanner slotting into a midfield three. New record signing Kyle McFadzean was deployed in the holding midfield role.
Leek quickly won a couple of corners the second of which, taken from the right was inches away from the head of Chris Budrys bursting into the box.
Both sides set about the game at a good tempo and Albion's first chance to get on the scoresheet cam in the tenth minute. Keane was brought down attempting to advance down the left and Callum Reilly swung in a free kick that was met by skipper John Mousinho beyond the back post with Leek keeper Chris Martin watching it go safely into the side netting.
A loose back pass from Phil Edwards suddenly had Sam Grimshaw bearing down on Jon McLaughlin's goal but the ever reliable keeper did well to force him wide and ultimately putting his shot wide of the post.
Albion began to dominate the ball but clear chances were not coming easily. A typically powerful run from Lucas Akins saw one defender bumped aside all too easily before a left foot shot flew well over the target as the first period approached its midway point.
McFadzean strode forward with purpose on 25 minutes but hs shot was always rising and arcing away from goal.
Leek managed to win a corner just after the half hour mark as skipper Mousinho had to head the ball behind after Budrys had managed to get goal side of him and centre back Darren Chadwick got his head to the ball but straight into the arms of McLaughlin in perfect position on his line.
Moments later Albion had the lead through two of their young guns. A long ball forward was well won inside the area by youth product Marcus Dinanga who did well to pull the ball back for Marcus HARNESS who showed great skill to work room for a rising shot that arrowed into the top corner from twelve yards out.
Harness almost returned the compliment shortly after, keeper Martin doing well to snuff out the danger.
Half time: Leek Town 0-1 Burton Albion
As the heavens opened for a rather unseasonal downpour Albion took to the field with their completely new outfield line-up. Former Reading and Ipswich midfielder Jay Tabb was deployed in an advanced midfield role just behind the strikers ably supported by youngsters Ben Fox and Tom Gamblen, a midfielder freshly released from Nottingham Forest. Stuart Beavon took on the captain's armband and was quickly displaying all of his usual predatory instincts letting fly with a long range shot, well held by Martin.
Seven minutes in and Tom Flanagan took advantage of some space on the right to tee himself up for a shot. His effort though was always rising and didnt trouble Martin in the Leek goal.
A handball from Charlie Gatter on the edge of the box gave Leek a good opportunity to level things up but Jordan Johnson lashed his shot into the wall and the follow-up from Niall Maguire was always going wide.
Budrys tried an impudent back heel inside the box after a lung bursting run down the right from Tom France had seen Damien McCrory beaten for pace.
Gamblen tricked his way into the box on the hour mark and after a combination of ricochets off defenders was unlucky to see his drilled effort end up wide of the post.
Beavon again tried to get the better of Martin on 62 minutes working room on the edge of the box for a low left foot shot which Martin was equal to.
Jon McLaughlin made way for former Cardiff City youngster Luke Wakeman on 68 minutes. The young keeper looking to impress in the final twenty minutes or so.
Beavon again looked to be Albion's most attacking threat in the second period and the striker will have been disappointed to drag a shot wide on 74 minutes after finding space as the defence parted tracking the runners off the ball.
Flanagan appeared to rather unceremoniously barged to the ground on 75 minutes and referee Olly Yates rewarded Albion with a corner instead although the ball appeared to have been a goal kick. Matty Palmer swung the ball in low to around the penalty spot where FLANAGAN got his rewards with a low shot through a crowd of players for 2-0.
Chances were coming regularly now and Butcher was guilty of trying too hard to pick out the top corner firing over the bar after a neat drop of the shoulder gave him all the space he needed to leave himself one on one with Martin.
Leek had half hearted shouts for a penalty waved away by referee Yates in the dying stages before Albion were twice unlucky not to finish the game with a third goal. Tabb stole into a good position to see a deflected shot loop nicely into the arms of the keeper and with the last kick of the game McCrory latched onto a loose ball to send in a typically rasping drive that Martin pushed away.
In the end of a comfortable workout for Nigel Clough's men who now look forward to the visit of Stoke City on Saturday as the team continue their build up to the new Championship season.
First half XI: (4-1-3-2) Jon McLaughlin, Phil Edwards, John Mousinho, Ben Turner, Cieron Keane; Kyle McFadzean; Marcus Harness, Hyuga Tanner, Callum Reilly; Lucas Akins, Marcus Dinanga.
Second half XI: (4-1-3-2) Jon McLaughlin; Tom Flanagan, Tom Naylor, Charlie Gatter, Damien McCrory; Matty Palmer; Ben Fox, Jay Tabb, Tom Gamblen; Stuart Beavon, Calum Butcher.