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Burton Albion tick all the boxes on opening day at Oxford United - match report

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: August 11, 2014

CLIMBING HIGH: Oxford United's Carlton Morris jumps above Burton defender Callum McFadzean.

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A VICTORY, a goal from a summer signing and a clean sheet represent an excellent return for Burton Albion on the opening day of the League Two season.

The Brewers beat Oxford United 1-0 thanks to Lucas Akins' debut goal just before half--time at a sunny Kassam Stadium.

They had never won on the opening day of the season since they were promoted to the Football League in 2009.

But that unwanted record came to an end, and Albion were fairly comfortable winners on Saturday as Oxford started the season in similar fashion to how they ended the previous campaign.

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However, it is difficult to read too much into opening games of seasons.

Too often they can be false dawns, or, at the other end of the spectrum, off days before a team really gets going.

A 1-0 win though, especially away from home, will do just fine – it's a good result without being outlandish and, perhaps more importantly, Burton looked as solid as last season.

That solidity is what took them to the play-off final in May and despite the introduction of a host of new players, it looks intact.

There were five debuts for Albion – Jon McLaughlin, George Taft, John Mousinho, Akins and Stuart Beavon.

All acquitted themselves well, with Akins in particular catching the eye down the right wing.

He looked bright every time he got the ball and linked up well with Beavon, whose touch and awareness were impressive.

Indeed, it was Beavon who set up the goal with a low cross after one of several dangerous runs into the box.

Taft, one of the other debutants, looked very good indeed at the back after he was selected ahead of Shane Cansdell-Sherriff.

It was something of a surprise that the Australian was left out, but he missed most of the week's training after the birth of his fourth child.

In his absence, 21-year-old Taft – on only his third start in the Football Leauge – did not let anybody down.

Rowett is excited by the former Leicester City youth player's potential and it is easy to see why.

Another player with potential, Dominic Knowles, also earned a start after a bright pre-season, with Billy Kee still short of match fitness and on the bench.

McLaughlin had his palms warmed after six minutes as he pushed away Josh Ruffels' stinging drive after a good break from Joe Riley.

Seconds later a heavy touch from Knowles saw a promising two-on-two situation go begging before the young striker had a good chance eight yards out but missed his kick as Akins' cross came in.

Beavon then tried a cheeky half-volley from Alex MacDonald's corner but George Long saved.

It had been a very open start to the match but it soon settled down.

Oxford, who sank like a stone at the end of last season after looking a good bet for promotion, had good possession but did not really do much with it. The Brewers were comfortable.

Alfie Potter, in the past a thorn in Burton's side, was hurt heading at goal on 23 minutes while Beavon fired a powerful shot which Long caught at his near post.

Just past the half-hour, McLaughlin pushed away a low strike from Ruffels, who had been set up by on-loan Norwich striker Carlton Morris.

The big frontman looks a handful but was well dealt with by the visitors.

Michael Raynes then picked up a head injury in a challenge with Ian Sharps and was still groggy as Albion took the lead.

A poor clearance from Riley was seized upon by Sharps, who dinked a ball over for Beavon.

The striker surged past Raynes across the box and crossed low for Akins to get ahead of Tom Newey and finish from close range.

Akins had looked dangerous every time he got the ball and Oxford had not done enough to stop him.

The Brewers got to the break and then kept things tight in the early minutes of the second half.

It took almost until the hour mark for United to have an effort at goal, and Morris headed a cross from Newey well wide from eight yards.

There was a desperate appeal from the hosts for a handball against Robbie Weir on the hour, but referee Darren Handley gave it barely a thought.

Beavon broke away on 66 minutes with a clever flick over his own head as Akins fired the ball at him.

He left Jake Wright for dead and Long came out of his goal to shepherd the ball out. Beavon robbed him near the byline and the keeper tripped the striker, earning a yellow card.

Oxford substitute Danny Hylton embarked on a twisting run on 83 minutes but Phil Edwards, as quietly effective as usual, cleared just as the striker was about to shoot.

Kee, on for Beavon, almost teed up fellow substitute Adam McGurk late on, but the ball just got away from the striker.

Albion allowed Oxford little sight of goal in the second half and a late charge failed to materialise.

While they could have kept the ball a little better, the Brewers were solid and saw out the win without ever being under too much pressure.

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