BURTON Albion were beaten 1-0 by Derby County at the Pirelli Stadium last night - but showed promising glimpses ahead of the League Two season.
Jeff Hendrick grabbed the only goal of the game just before half-time as a full-strength Rams side flexed their muscles.
But the Brewers were competitive for periods of the match and had decent chances of their own, with Lucas Akins forging a couple of openings and Dominic Knowles also getting sight of goal.
There were moments of quality from both sides in what, overall, was a decent match, with Johnny Russell in particular standing out in attack for the Rams.
For the Brewers, Akins caught the eye, while Stuart Beavon showed tidy flashes of ability.
Albion boss Gary Rowett can take some real positives from another solid pre-season showing, while Derby surely have the quality to again challenge in the Championship.
The Brewers set up with a back four and a compact midfield trio of Matty Palmer, John Mousinho and Robbie Weir in front of them.
Adam McGurk started wide on the left of Beavon and Akins wide on the right, with both dropping back at times to help out defensively.
Jon McLaughlin made his first appearance for the hosts after signing a two-year deal at the Pirelli.
Derby began with a 4-1-3-2 shape, with Jamie Ward and Chris Martin up front, supported by a trio of Jeff Hendrick, Russell and Craig Bryson. John Eustace sat in front of the back four.
The Rams understandably had more possession in the opening 20 minutes, but Albion fashioned the few half chances there were.
Akins' low shot from the corner of the box was comfortably stopped by Rams keeper Lee Grant on eight minutes before the Brewers winger teed Phil Edwards up for a shot on the quarter-hour, only for the right-back's effort to fly over from 15 yards.
George Taft, who put in another excellent display, then flashed a header wide from Palmer's corner.
Beavon got the better of Richard Keogh just after the half-hour but his intelligent ball towards Akins was blocked before McGurk was off target with a follow-up.
On 38 minutes, Russell headed a Ward cross just wide before Beavon was played in by a terrific Akins ball but found the angle too tight and put his finish across goal.
Taft was then perhaps a touch fortunate to get away with a push on the back of Russell in the area.
The Rams striker was riled and lost his rag even more seconds later when he was clipped by a Shane Cansdell-Sherriff tackle 30 yards out.
From the free kick the Scot made his rage pay as his curled effort thumped back off McLaughlin's left post and left Hendrick with a simple header into an unguarded net from close range.
With the break looming, Russell fired a shot just over from 20 yards on his favoured left foot.
After half-time, and with Will Hughes on for Derby, the Rams broke and the ball came to Hendrick in space 18 yards out, but his shot deflected up off Taft and onto the post.
Russell rattled the woodwork again on 54 minutes when Ian Sharps' half clearance fell to him 18 yards out and he unleashed a thunderbolt of an effort which came back off McLaughlin's bar.
Albion soon broke well at the other end but McGurk skied a shot up in the air from a good position 20 yards out.
Cansdell-Sherriff then headed a Palmer corner over before Billy Kee teed up fellow substitute Knowles for a shot from 16 yards which Grant got down to save.
Keogh was robbed by the bright Alex MacDonald just after the hour but ex-Brewer Jake Buxton got back to spare his partner's blushes.
On 72 minutes, Hughes went on a mazy run forward and somehow surged into the box before his powerful low shot was blocked by McLaughlin.
MacDonald hung a teasing cross up with 12 minutes left after a Palmer free kick was cleared, but Albion could not quite get a head on it.
On 84 minutes Hendrick got hold of a Craig Forysth centre in the box and turned, but blasted a powerful shot inches too high.
With seconds left, Cansdell-Sherriff did well to get back and put Russell off as he charged through onto Ward's pass. The striker eventually lifted his shot over McLaughlin's bar.
GOALS: Hendrick 43 (Rams).
BREWERS: McLaughlin; Edwards, Sharps (capt) (Slade 73), Cansdell-Sherriff, Taft; Palmer, Mousinho (Kee 63), Weir (Doyle 82); McGurk (MacDonald 63), Beavon (Knowles 56), Akins (Harness 73). Subs not used: Lyness (gk).
RAMS: Grant; Christie, Keogh (capt), Buxton, Forsyth; Hendrick, Eustace (Hughes 46), Bryson; Ward, Martin, Russell. Subs not used: Roos (gk), Freeman, Hanson, Bennett, Sammon, Rawson, Galero, Buntaku, Naylor.
REFEREE: S Bratt (Leicestershire).