Derby County bagged their first pre-season victory of the summer with a 1-0 victory over Burton Albion, as summer signing Michael Jacobs curled a 20-yard winner early in the second half at the Pirelli Stadium.
The 23-year-old midfielder, snapped up in the summer from Northampton Town, beat the offside trap and swept a right-footed effort into the bottom corner of the net just a few minutes after the interval.
After starting their pre-season campaign with a 2-1 reverse at Mansfield Town on Wednesday, Derby stepped things up against the Brewers and looked sharper and livelier for their first pre-season outing four days earlier.
Rams boss Nigel Clough started the game with trialists Valentin Gjokaj and former Newcastle United defender Michael Hoganson – with the latter coming in for Gareth Roberts (tight hamstring) at left-back.
Elsewhere, goalkeeper Ross Atkins started between the sticks for the Brewers, ahead of a potential loan move to the League 2 outfit which was agreed earlier in the summer, after completing a season-long loan deal with the side last season.
And it was the shot-stopper who was first called into action inside the opening eight minutes of the game. Coutts whipped in a devilish cross from the right, the ball fell kindly for Nathan Tyson, who’s snap shot from inside the penalty area took a big deflection on its way to goal, but Atkins was on hand to claw the ball behind with an excellent reflex save from point blank range.
Moments later the Rams once again came close to taking the breakthrough. Right-back John Brayford burst clear and delivered a low cross into the penalty area. Jamie Ward got to the loose ball first and cleverly flicked it on to the onrushing Jeff Hendrick, but the Irish under-21 international midfielder could not get over the ball, and sent his close-range volley over the crossbar.
Inside the opening half-an-hour Clough’s men continued to dominate proceedings, as Jacobs and Ward both had snapshots from 20-yards drift over and wide respectively.
However, despite the Rams’ consistent spells of heavy pressure, it was the home side who came closest to taking to lead with their first serious attack of the game.
Trialist Dele Adeobla ghosted into the Rams’ penalty; outmuscling three defenders before poking an effort goalwards. The returning Frank Fielding managed to palm the ball away, but only as far as Robbie Weir, who rifled an effort onto the underside of the crossbar from 10-yards out before Derby cleared.
The Rams started the brighter of the two sides in the second-half, and it took just four minutes for Clough’s men to take the lead their play deserved.
In a swift counter-attacking move, Tyson released Jacobs on the half-way line. The former Northampton Town winger cut inside from the left and kept his composure, as he swept the ball past Atkins into the bottom corner from 20-yards.
On the hour mark, Burton’s Jacques Maghoma flashed a 25-yard effort into the side netting of Fielding’s near post, before the Rams made a flurry of substitutions that included the introduction of striker Theo Robinson.
Although the Brewers continued to battle away, it was the Rams who looked most likely to score as Brayford saw a close-range header cleared off the line by Damien McCrory, whilst trialist James Caton’s fierce drive was beaten away by Atkins.
Clough introduced defender Mark O’Brien for captain Richard Keogh with 13 minutes remaining, with the 19-year-old making his long-awaited return to the Rams line-up since suffering a cruciate ligament injury in December last.
Derby finished strongly late on and substitute Ben Davies could have added a late second, but Atkins kept out his shot and the Rams saw out the closing stages to get a win, and another satisfactory workout, under their belts.
Derby County: Fielding (GK) (Deeney 60); Brayford (Naylor 70), Gjokaj (Buxton 77) Keogh (O’Brien 77), Hoganson (Bailey 77); Coutts (Doyle 70), Hendrick (B. Davies 70), Bryson (Hughes 45), Jacobs (Caton 60); Ward (Bennett 60), Tyson (Robinson 60).
Burton Albion: Atkins (GK) Corbett, Diamond (Stanton 50), Taylor (M. Palmer 70), Weir (Dyer 77), Adebola (Patterson 54), Yussuf (Williams 45), McCrory, Maghoma, Holness, Bell.
Subs Not Used: Lyness (GK), C. Palmer.