BURTON Albion’s first pre-season friendly ended in defeat last night, but left boss Gary Rowett plenty to mull over.
The Brewers were downed by a dubious third-minute penalty, scored by Rob Duffy, and struggled at times against a decent Ilkeston side.
But there were promising signs in both halves, which saw two different Albion sides take to the field.
Some of the youth team players given a chance shone, while all four of the new signings showed they have something to offer.
Rowett mixed youth and experience in the matchday 23 – with four academy players and three trialists.
All three trialists were in the second half XI, in the shape of goalkeeper Joe Anyon, left-back Louis Cutajar and striker Thomas Verheydt.
Verheydt is a 22-year-old Dutch striker who has been training with the club recently, while Anyon is a 27-year-old who played more than 100 games for Port Vale and was released by Shrewsbury Town this summer.
Cutajar is from Norfolk, but has represented Malta at youth level and was recommended to Rowett.
The academy players involved were Mark Shelton, Sam Austin and Jack O’Brien, while new signings George Taft, John Mousinho and Stuart Beavon were in the starting line-up.
Ilkeston drew 0-0 with Derby County in their first friendly and held Nottingham Forest for the majority of their second clash on Saturday before eventually losing 4-0, and showed they were no minnows again last night, starting brightly and taking the lead after just three minutes.
It was harsh to say that Ian Sharps’ challenge on Kane Richards was a foul - even harsher to say it was in the area.
But that was what the referee decided and Duffy beat Dean Lyness from the spot.
The Brewers settled into the match after that, with Beavon looking dangerous and Mousinho a tall, assured presence in midfield.
In the 13th minute, Marcus Harness’ corner from the left was nodded back in by Mousinho and Adam McGurk thundered a header against the bar.
A couple of goalmouth scrambles followed in the Burton area, but they survived unscathed and had another decent chance when good work from young left-winger Austin set up Beavon for a shot that he dragged wide.
Joe Doyle tried a couple of long-range shots which could generously be described as wayward, but Harness came closer after cutting in from the right and curling just wide of goal.
A very nice run from right-back Shelton then took him past two markers, hurdling a challenge before cutting into the area and setting up Mousinho, whose shot was straight at former Brewer Ross Atkins.
Callum Chettle curled a shot wide but Albion’s first-half side were unable to level the scores.
The second-half side struggled to settle early on, though Verheydt was an imposing presence up front, though he headed a good left-wing cross straight at Jordan Smith when he should probably have scored.
Lucas Akins, the fourth new signing to make his debut, also looked strong and dangerous.
Palmer’s corner found Liam Slade midway through the half, but the academy graduate headed wide from a good position.
Andre Johnson got on the end of a neat cut-back from the right, but Slade blocked the goal-bound shot.
Goran Seymour then collected a great through ball and found himself in a shooting position, but despite Johnson free for a tap-in, he went for goal and Anyon easily saved the tame shot.
Seymour and Alex MacDonald then traded shots that both went narrowly wide.
Burton’s best chance of the match came in the 85th minute, as Dom Knowles collected a pass, turned and powered a shot goalwards that required a fine Smith save to keep it out.
Robbie Weir and Akins both had chances to snatch a draw, but the former was denied by Smith and the latter shot wide.
Among Ilkeston’s second-half changes was Alfie Rowett, son of the Brewers boss.
ILKESTON TOWN 1
BURTON ALBION 0
BURTON ALBION (first half): Lyness; Shelton, Sharps (c), Taft, McFadzean; Harness, Mousinho, Doyle, Austin; McGurk, Beavon. (second half): Anyon; O’Brien, Edwards, Slade, Cutajar; Akins, Weir, Palmer, MacDonald; Verheydt, Knowles; sub not used: Thorpe.
ILKESTON (first half): Atkins, Shaw, Reid, Baker, Maguire, Lane, Morgan, Chettle, Duffy, Richards, Adams.
(second half): Smith, Burrows (Rowett 82), Wrigth, Storey, Gordon, Williams, Wilson, Bako, Seymour, Johnson, Togwell; sub not used: Grantham.