GARY Rowett was delighted with the way his Burton Albion players dealt with a powerful Stoke City side in Saturday's 0-0 draw at the Pirelli Stadium.
The Brewers went toe-to-toe with the Premier League outfit, who named five full internationals – including World Cup stars Peter Odemwingie, Geoff Cameron and Wilson Palacios – in their starting line-up.
Albion were on top in the first half before digging in to grab a clean sheet in the second, while still occasionally posing a threat themselves.
"They played a stronger team than we possibly anticipated they would," said Rowett.
"We felt it might have been an under-21 team but when we saw their starting line-up, I think every one of them bar one is a household name who's played in the Premier League.
"I was really pleased with the whole game."
Rowett was impressed with the first half as Lucas Akins and Adam McGurk had chances to open the scoring.
"In the first half, we kept our shape and limited them to very few opportunities," said the Albion boss. "When we regained the ball after being patient, I thought we got into some good attacking positions and created chances.
"Their keeper made two excellent saves, one from a two-yard shot from Adam McGurk. We also hit the post and it was very unlucky for Lucas not to go in.
"What was very encouraging about it – and about pre-season – is we haven't conceded a goal from open play yet and we've played against Derby, Sheffield United and Mainz (behind closed doors), a German Bundesliga side, and now Stoke from the Premier League.
"And we've created chances.
"I think our attitude so far has been absolutely fantastic."
Rowett also knows that he has a tough decision to make at centre-half after George Taft was outstanding alongside Ian Sharps in keeping out Odemwingie and Cameron Jerome.
"There's going to be some really difficult decisions to make this week," said the manager.
"Tafty has been fantastic all pre-season and Shane (Cansdell-Sherriff) was probably one of our best players last season, so that's not going to be an easy decision.
"Callum (McFadzean) has come back in today and is putting pressure on that left-back spot. George can play there and it'd be very easy for me to just shuffle it. Callum has been excellent going forward as well."
But it was not just the defenders who gave the manager food for thought.
"I was really impressed with all the players and that was without Stuart (Beavon), who has probably been our most potent striker in pre-season," said Rowett.
"In the last 20 minutes, we were having to chase the ball and showed great energy and fitness levels."