LUCAS Akins did his blossoming reputation no harm by scoring one goal and making another as Burton Albion’s senior players got some good game-time under their belts in a 2-0 friendly victory at Hednesford Town last night.
After the thrilling football on show at times in Saturday’s Bass Charity Vase showpiece, the Brewers fans who made the trip to Keys Park were brought back down to earth with a bump in a generally plodding, sporadically threatening display.
They did get to see another goal from Akins though, again set up by fellow new signing Stuart Beavon, although it had as much to do with a goalkeeping error as any attacking skill from that burgeoning partnership.
And the second goal had an element of fortune about it as well, Phil Edwards tapping home after Akins’ ball into the area bounced into the path of the right-back.
Gary Rowett named a strong, experienced side as promised, and an XI probably not far from the one that could start against Oxford United in a couple of weeks.
Lee Bell and Billy Kee missed out again as they recover from injury, and Shane Cansdell-Sherriff was rested after his exertions on Saturday.
Ian Sharps and George Taft formed a lofty centre-half partnership once again, flanked by Edwards and Callum McFadzean, and with Dean Lyness guarding the net behind them.
Akins, John Mousinho – who missed out against Sheffield United at the weekend – Robbie Weir and Alex MacDonald were strung out across midfield, with Beavon and former Pitman Adam McGurk leading the attack.
The bench comprised five youth-teamers in goalkeeper Charlie Hornby, Shae Yates, Ash Thorpe, Shay Allen and Ben Fox.
McGurk had a great chance to score at his former stomping ground in the first minute, as he collected Edwards’ cross, fooled his marker but then lost his footing with the goal gaping.
A good run from Akins almost brought a goal as he left his marker for dead before sending a low ball to the edge of the six-yard box, where Beavon collected and turned, but saw his shot charged down.
MacDonald, without a goal for the whole of last season, scored against United, and the confidence of that seemed to inspire him at Keys Park, with three decent efforts - first forcing Ryan Price into a save, then firing just wide and then seeing a header deflected for a corner.
Burton were seeing more of the ball than against the Blades, but showing less fluidity and incision, but took the lead 26 minutes in through persistence and a large slick of dumb luck.
Beavon provided the former, battling away to set up a shooting chance for Akins who, on his weaker left foot, jabbed the ball goalwards and though Price looked to have it covered, he spilled the ball into his own net.
It was looking fairly comfortable for the Brewers until two minutes before the break, when Lyness was forced into three saves in quick succession.
First he denied Tom Thorley with a smart save to his left after a ricochet and from the resulting corner, palmed the ball away after a goalmouth scramble.
Burton failed to clear though and Lyness found himself staring at the white of Paul McCone’s eyes as the defender had a clear shot from the penalty spot, but fired straight down the Albion keeper’s throat.
Hednesford continued that attacking intent after the break, Lyness pulling another save, one-handed to deny Francino Francis, before McGurk cleared a shot off the line.
But Albion missed their own share of chances, first when MacDonald’s delightful cross to the far post was not capitalised upon, and then Weir missed from point-blank range after more good work from Beavon had set him up with a great ball across the six-yard box.
And Beavon should have got on the scoresheet himself in the 68th minute as Edwards' cross from the right was touched back into the mix by MacDonald, but the on-loan Preston North End striker’s attempt to bundle home was denied by Price.
There was a special moment for academy graduate Fox, who made his debut to rest Mousinho’s tired legs 16 minutes from time, and the youngster’s first touch almost brought a goal, but his dipping effort was just over the bar.
The Brewers did get a second in the 87th minute as Akins and MacDonald worked the ball down the left, with the former’s cross not finding its intended target, but Edwards stole in at the far post to tap home.
PITMEN: Price, Melbourne (Griffiths 79), Campion ©, McCone (Bailey 81), Francis, Taylor, Osborne, Hurst (Johnson 46), Sullivan (Glover 62), Diggin (Walker 74), Thorley; subs not used: Robinson.
BREWERS (4-4-2): Lyness; Edwards, Sharps ©, Taft, McFadzean; Akins, Mousinho (Fox 74), Weir, MacDonald; Beavon, McGurk; subs not used: Hornby (gk), Yates, Thorpe, Allen.