OXFORD UNITED 0
BURTON ALBION 1 (Akins 42)
LUCAS Akins scored on debut to give Burton Albion a 1-0 win in their opening game of the new League Two campaign at Oxford United today.
The new signing pounced in the 42ndminute to edge the match in Albion’s favour after a largely even opening 45 minutes, and though there were a few scares after the break, Albion saw the match out to record their first opening-day win since joining the Football League.
Gary Rowett threw a couple of surprises onto his first teamsheet of the 2014/15 season – one at each end of the pitch.
Shane Cansdell-Sherriff – whose partner gave birth earlier in the week – was on the bench, with his place at centre-half alongside skipper Ian Sharps taken by new signing George Taft.
And up front, last season’s primary strike partnership of Billy Kee and Adam McGurk were both also among the substitutes, with Dominic Knowles preferred to partner Stuart Beavon.
There were debuts for five players – Taft, Beavon, John Mousinho in central midfield, Akins on the right wing and Jon McLaughlin in goal.
Burton imposed themselves on the first half, but the two best chances both fell to Oxford, and both involved Alfie Potter.
First the winger flew past Callum McFadzean before squaring for Josh Ruffels, whose driven effort was beaten away by McLaughlin.
Potter then tested the Brewers keeper himself, heading on target after Joe Riley swung a cross into the centre.
In between those chances, Albion threatened themselves, with Knowles fluffing his lines with the best chance of the half.
Akins continued his fine pre-season form with some great work down the right flank, getting into the area before cutting the ball back for Knowles, but though the young striker had the whole goal to aim at, he miss-kicked his shot.
Beavon was twice denied, first by a defender after shooting on the turn from a corner, and then by U’s keeper George Long after being played in by Akins.
In the last 10 minutes of the half, both sides had chances to open the scoring, with Ruffels’ low shot requiring a diving, fingertip save from McLaughlin and McFadzean stopping Junior Brown’s forward charge with a crucial recovery tackle.
Those efforts came either side of a great run from Alex MacDonald that took him between two defenders, but his shot was blocked.
But two minutes from the break, Albion took the lead, with the Beavon-Akins partnership that had worked so well in pre-season coming to fruition once again.
Sharps’ ball out from the back was collected by Beavon, who out-muscled soon-to-be-replaced U’s defender Michael Raynes, and Beavon then – with the option of a shot on – neatly and unselfishly squared for Akins to tap in under pressure at the back post.
The second half was sparser in terms of chances, though notable for one brilliant move from Beavon as a pass was fired at the striker by Akins, which he simply flicked over the defender with his heel and turned to race through on goal.
Long came out and tried to shepherd the ball out of play, but he left himself too much to do and Beavon simply nipped in around the back, forcing a foul and drawing a booking for the reckless home goalkeeper.
Oxford had even fewer chances, their best falling to Michael Collins, who rode a number of challenges to get into the area, before failing to pick a pass.
It could have been 2-0 shortly before full-time as Long was sold short with a backpass, and substitute McGurk almost nipped in.
Albion had been careless on the ball on occasions, and with virtually the last kick of the game, they almost paid, as Ruffels got in at the back post but volleyed into the side-netting.
BREWERS (4-4-2): McLaughlin; Edwards, Sharps (c), Taft, McFadzean; Akins, Weir, Mousinho, MacDonald (McGurk); Beavon (Kee), Knowles (Palmer); subs not used: Lyness (gk), Slade, Cansdell-Sherriff, Harness.
U’S (4-4-2): Long; Riley, Raynes (Mullins), Wright (c), Newey; Potter, Ruffels, Collins, Brown (Hylton); Morris, Rose (O’Dowda); subs not used: Crocombe, Meades, Hunt, Roberts.