LIAM Boyce fired home a second half equaliser as Albion's pre-season preparations got underway with a 1-1 draw against Matlock Town at the Proctor Cars Stadium.
In an entertaining ninety minutes Albion showed plenty of their passing and movement which Nigel Clough is keen to see the Brewers develop ahead of the new season and perhaps with a little refinement in their finishing this could have been a winning start to their preparations although both Boyce and Joe Sbarra hit the post in the first half searching for an equaliser to Marcus Marshall's opener.
There was also plenty of promise as a number of Academy products finished the game whilst ensuring that Albion did not lose their flow in the game with Ethan Vale perhaps the pick of the late substitutes showing his ability from set pieces.
There was a late change to the Brewers line-up with supporters denied their first glimpses of John-Joe O'Toole in a Burton shirt who wasnt risked despite having originally being named in the starting XI.
Albion started in a fluid 4-3-3 formation with Boyce, Akins and Harness all interchanging well in the open stages. Richard Nartey also looked calm and assured alongside skipper Jake Buxton at the heart of the defence.
The Brewers were forced into another change on 17 minutes with Ben Fox, originally drafted in off the bench to replace O'Toole, coming off worse in a challenge inside the box before eventually limping off after some lengthy attention from Nick Fenton to be replaced by Joe Sbarra.
Unsurprisingly it was the Brewers who dominated most of the early possession although winger Pieteu Crouz looked particularly lively on the left. The nearest Albion came in the opening quarter of the game was when Sbarra slipped Boyce in on the right hand side of the area and his low drive just evaded Akins and the far post.
Matlock grabbed the lead on 24 minutes when Nartey's pass to Buxton put the Burton skipper under pressure and Marcus MARSHALL capitalised to to find the far corner past O'Hara.
Boyce was inches away from the equaliser three minutes later rising at the back post to steer a deep free kick from Harness against the base of the post with the Gladiators eventually able to clear their lines.
Albion had the ball in the back of the net on 32 minutes courtesy of Akins' rasping drive from the edge of the box but the offside flag had long since gone up after Boyce had strayed beyond the last defender to collect a deep cross and set up last season's fellow top scorer.
Midfielder Louis Wardle forced a smart save from O'Hara as Matlock sprung free on the counter attack but it was Albion finishing the half the stronger with Sbarra clipping the outside of the post with a low shot from the edge of the area after a jinking run from Scott Fraser.
Half-time: Matlock Town 1-0 Burton Albion
No changes at the start of the second half gave the starting XI more precious pre-season minutes and it was Harness with the first shot in anger after the break, a deflected effort forcing keeper Jordan Amissah to scramble across his goal.
Burton continued to apply most of the pressure and they equalised on 53 minutes through BOYCE. Keeper Amissah spared skipper James Williamson's blushes when he inadvertently diverted the ball towards his own goal and the skipper got a faint deflection on Boyce's shot as he turned on the resulting corner ten yards out to get Albio's pre-season tally up and running.
The hour mark signalled the introduction of Jevan Anderson, the young Scot replacing Buxton at the heart of the defence. 66 minutes were on the clock when Albion were left wondering how they had not edged ahead after a run by Fraser, deep into the Matlock box that resulted in a low cross that nobody in yellow could get a touch to as it flashed through the six yard box.
With just under twenty minutes remaining Albion made their remaining seven substitutions. Off came O'Hara, Brayford, Daniel, Boyce, Fraser, Akins and Harness with Callum Hawkins, Ben Hart, Tom Armitage, Nathan Morley, Ethan Vale, Chris Beardsley and triallist Callum Dolan bringing the fresh legs into the game late on.
Despite the plethora of changes and the relative youthfulness - with Beardsley the only player over the age of 24 on the pitch - Albion lost none of their attacking zest with Beardsley close to turning in a near post effort after good work down the right hand side.
And young left back Tom Armitage almost scored a superb goal on 84 minutes, a fine first touch taking him inside a defender before the youngster hooked his shot wide of the near post.
Brewers Team: O'Hara (Hawkins 72), Brayford (Hart, 72), Daniel (Armitage, 72), Buxton (c) (Anderson 60), Wallace, Fraser (Vale, 72), Harness (Morley 72), Akins (Dolan, 72), Nartey, Fox (Sbarra, 17), Boyce (Beardsley, 72).
Referee: Richard Eley
BACK THE BREWERS IN PRE-SEASON
Have you got your tickets for our home friendlies against Sheffield United (Tuesday July 16, 7.45pm) and Derby County (Saturday July 20, 3pm) yet?