BURTON ALBION 0 STOKE CITY 0
BURTON Albion gave another excellent account of themselves against top-level opposition as they held a very decent Stoke City side to a 0-0 draw.
Looking at the team sheet at the Pirelli Stadium on Saturday, it quickly became clear that Stoke had not 'brought the kids', as the saying goes.
They had five full internationals in their starting line-up and a smattering of talent from their prolific academy.
Names such as Peter Odemwingie, Cameron Jerome, Wilson Palacios, Jack Butland and Steve Sidwell had not been expected to appear.
Would Albion be outclassed? Not a bit of it.
The Brewers gave as good as they got and matched the Premier League Potters for large stretches of the match, particularly in the first half.
Lucas Akins curled a shot into the post before James Alabi also hit the woodwork for Stoke after the break.
But neither side could break the deadlock in another entertaining encounter in the build up to the real thing.
Pre-season friendlies are very hard to judge, with little riding on them other than fitness and the result of an experiment or two.
What can be gleaned, though, is Albion look fit a week away from the start of the campaign.
The way they got up and down against the Premier Leaguers was impressive, and they reacted well to losing the ball, quickly regaining their shape.
They also look like having a real find in Akins, who terrorised Ryan Shotton at times with his pace and direct running.
George Taft again impressed, this time in the centre alongside Ian Sharps.
At 6ft 5in he is an imposing figure, but looks like he can play a bit as well – both at full-back in the absence of Damien McCrory or in the centre if he gets a chance ahead of Shane Cansdell-Sherriff.
Whatever side Gary Rowett selects on Saturday, he has options coming out of his ears in a squad which looks ready for the long slog ahead.
The Brewers boss made three changes from the side which faced Derby.
Out went Cansdell-Sherriff, Matty Palmer and Stuart Beavon, who is resting a slightly sore thigh muscle.
In came Callum McFadzean at left-back, Alex MacDonald on the left wing and Dominic Knowles up front in a 4-4-2 formation. Adam McGurk was the other striker.
Stoke set up in a fluid 4-1-3-2 shape, with Palacios the holding midfielder and the full-backs charging forward at every opportunity.
Jerome had the first half chance of the match as he got in down Albion's left but after nicking the ball past Jon McLaughlin, his shot from a narrow angle was easily blocked by Sharps.
The Brewers won a free kick at the other end on ten minutes but Sharps' header from McFadzean's tidy delivery flew wide.
Two minutes later, McGurk found Knowles in the area but the striker, after beating one challenge with quick feet, had his shot blocked by Slovakian under-21 defender Dionatan Teixeira.
On the quarter-hour, and with Albion well in the ascendancy, Akins cut in from the right and hit a low shot from 16 yards which beat Butland – who had a shaky afternoon – but came back off the inside of his right post and ran across the goal. It was just a whisker away.
Akins then scuffed a shot at goal from 20 yards after some excellent work from Knowles and Butland made a bit of a meal of shovelling the ball away at his near post.
McGurk then had another golden chance as he got to Akins' low centre in the middle of the goal two yards out, but Butland this time got it spot-on, reacting superbly to tip away the forward's shot.
The Brewers had bossed the half but Stoke had the ball in the net a minute from the break, only for Sidwell's effort to be ruled out for offside.
From a corner in the final minute of the half, McLaughlin reacted quickly to parry American international Geoff Cameron's close-range header before seizing a Teixeira header after Elliot Wheeler had swung the ball back in.
The first half had definitely been Burton's but after the break Stoke were better.
Despite this, Akins had the first effort on goal after 50 minutes and, again, Butland looked unsure against one of the winger's left-footed daisy cutters.
Jerome then tried to hit back, but headed Shotton's cross well over.
Shotton was in action at the other end seconds later, forcing MacDonald – who worked tirelessly all afternoon – to shoot wide from a tight angle close in.
Stoke substitute Alabi then hit the bar with keeper Dean Lyness – on for McLaughlin at half-time – beaten as the big wide-man met Wheeler's centre.
Alabi dived ridiculously with seven minutes left under a robust challenge from McFadzean in the box and with the clock ticking down, Sharps displayed his knack of being in the right place at the right time with a clearance off the line from Potters substitute Ollie Shenton.