BURTON Albion may have a smaller squad this season but boss Gary Rowett thinks the quality is higher.
The Brewers beat Oxford United 1-0 yesterday in a solid start to the League Two campaign.
Albion began the game with five debutants, with star duo Billy Kee and Adam McGurk starting the game on the bench.
"I said it before that we're probably a little bit lower in numbers this year but I think we're just a little bit higher in quality and energy," said Rowett.
"Not many teams will be able to bring on the likes of Adam McGurk and Billy Kee and have the likes of Shane Cansdell-Sherriff on the bench, and Matty Palmer.
"We're pleased with what we've got and, again, this isn't an easy place to come on the opening day of the season.
"Last season's performance (in a 2-1 win) took away the fear factor a little bit.
"Nevertheless, we had to dig in and do the right things and once again we defended resolutely and counter-attacked really well.
"We maybe just lacked that last little bit of quality to get a second."
Cansdell-Sherriff, half of a crucial partnership with Ian Sharps at centre-half last season, missed out in favour of George Taft.
But Rowett says the 31-year-old defender has a big part to play this season.
"Shane had a difficult week and his wife gave birth early on Wednesday morning," said the manager.
"Everything is okay, but he wasn't in all week apart from Friday and we just felt an hour's training on Friday wasn't right for him to be selected in front of Tafty, who's obviously worked very hard all pre-season.
"Shane understands that. I talked to him and he's a great pro. He'll be a key player for us this season.
"What Tafty showed is he can step in there and look very, very comfortable and that's testament to his attitude so far this season.
"Don't forget he's only 21 and he's not a seasoned professional. It was something like his third league game and I thought he was absolutely fantastic."
Rowett says the way Oxford played, with lots of slow possession football, was nothing new for the Brewers.
"Oxford try to have a lot of possession in front of you and we came up against that in pre-season," he said.
"We're okay with how they play, we just let people have the ball and be patient.
"That's easier when you're 1-0 up and perhaps if it had been 0-0 it becomes a very different game.But at 1-0 there's no real need to go chasing it and it makes us difficult to break down."