BURTON Albion’s final game against lower-league opposition ended in a largely forgettable 1-0 victory at Mickleover Sports to win the KC Trophy.
It was, though, a night to remember for Albion’s academy, who ended the match with no fewer than eight scholars or graduates on the pitch.
One of the few senior players included, Billy Kee, scored the only goal of the game immediately after the restart – his eye-catching interchange with Dominic Knowles one of the highlights of the match.
Another was a third consecutive clean sheet, and indeed the Brewers have not conceded since the first minute of their opening friendly.
That defensive solidity was a hallmark of last season, and if they can maintain that into the coming campaign it will, with the goal threat they look to have added in the likes of Stuart Beavon and Lucas Akins, be a potent combination.
Perhaps most important though, was the reason for the match being held, for a second consecutive year, which was in memory of Keith Calladine, a supporter of both clubs who passed away two years ago.
The match was organised by the KC Trust, set up by Keith’s son Paul to provide defibrillators in Derbyshire to prevent others suffering the same fate as his father, and the proceeds went to the British Heart Foundation.
As promised, it was a youthful Albion line-up, with new signing Jon McLaughlin immediately installed between the sticks.
The only other new face in the XI was that of Lloyd Foot, a former Southampton centre-half brought in on trial and in as a late replacement for Liam Slade, who would have made it nine academy players on the pitch had he played.
Foot was partnered by Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, with trialists Christian Ribiero and Jordan Cranston occupying the right and left full-back positions respectively.
The midfield was entirely made up of academy players, in Marcus Harness, Matty Palmer, Joe Doyle and Sam Austin, while Kee – back from a knee injury – and Knowles led the line.
Inside the first three minutes, Harness hung a decent cross into the area and Knowles headed straight at Sports keeper Chris Martin.
Simeon Osheboke headed a good chance just wide of McLaughlin’s goal, and the best chance of the opening 20 minutes also fell to the hosts, as Ashley Grayson’s curling shot from distance rattled the woodwork with the visiting keeper beaten.
And Osheboke had another chance in the 26th minute, collecting a through ball into the channel after Foot missed an interception, beating Ribeiro for pace and forcing McLaughlin into an impressive-looking save.
From the resultant corner, McLaughlin called for the ball, but failed to honour that claim, and was lucky that the Albion defence made sure his slip was not costly.
Albion’s most lively moment came in the shape of two good chances within a few second of each other, as first Harness tricked his way through the Sports defence before firing just wide, and then Knowles did similar from the opposite flank.
Martin was not troubled by either shot, nor from Austin’s speculative effort from the left wing soon after.
Whether Rowett had a word with the players at half-time, or whether they had a word with themselves, they immediately looked better after the break, and took the lead a minute in.
Knowles and Kee exchanged passes twice before the latter was set free inside the area, and from a reasonably tight angle on the left, he finished well to beat Martin.
They should have made it 2-0 on the hour mark, as Kee found Palmer with a great through ball, but the young midfielder’s shot was well saved by Martin, who got quickly to his feet to save again, this time from Knowles, seconds later.
Callum Lloyd whistled a shot over McLaughlin’s bar before a raft of changes for both sides led to an even more disjointed final 25 minutes.
Ben Fox, the first Burtonian to emerge from the club’s own academy, made a second appearance in the space of 24 hours and looked solid and confident sitting in front of the back four
SPORTS: Martin, Bryant, Grocott, Graham, Wiley, Osheboke, De Girolamo, Grayson, Ashton, Demidh, Lloyd; subs (all used): Junior Griffiths, Esposito, Smythie, Villums, Gibbs, Reynolds, Hurst, Levitt.
BREWERS: McLaughlin (Hornby 65); Ribeiro, Foot, Cansdell-Sherriff (O’Brien 65), Cranston; Harness, Palmer (Shelton 65), Doyle (Gatter 80), Austin; Kee (Dnanga 65), Knowles (Fox 70); subs not used: none.