A TAP-IN from Lucas Akins proved the difference as Oxford United slipped to an opening day defeat at home to Burton Albion.

The winger could not miss late in the first half, after Stuart Beavon had exploited a defence which included Michael Raynes, who was still feeling the after-effects of a heavy fall.

It came at the end of a half which United had largely controlled with some bright, passing football.

But after falling behind, they created very little in an uneventful second half as Burton closed out the victory.

Michael Appleton's first line-up for a competitive game saw five players make their United debuts.

George Long got the nod in goal, Joe Riley was preferred to David Hunt at right back, while Michael Collins was the fulcrum in midfield.

Junior Brown played in an advanced role, just behind Carlton Morris, who made his first appearance in senior football.

The 18-year-old, given the No 9 shirt, made an impressive start leading the line.

He was involved in a move which carved out the game's first shooting chance, on five minutes.

Riley began a move which ended with a fizzing shot from Josh Ruffels, which goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin punched clear unconvincingly.

Burton's No 9 also looked lively, with Beavon twice testing Long in the opening 20 minutes.

The visitors were limited to sporadic attacks on the break, though, as United made a decent start.

Patient in possession, they were content to keep the ball at the back and wait for an opening.

Riley provided a good outlet on the right, tempting Alex MacDonald into a booking for a reckless lunge early on.

The on-loan Bolton full back also showed quality on the ball, swinging in a 21st-minute cross which Potter headed straight at McLaughlin.

Despite not creating any gilt-edged chances, United were in control for the opening half hour, but their rhythm was upset late in the half.

Michael Raynes sustained a head injury after falling awkwardly when challenging a high ball.

After treatment he looked a little groggy, but was cleared to come back on.

Burton suddenly took the initiative when play resumed and they carried much more of a threat going forward.

And on 42 minutes they took the lead when the dangerous Beavon was allowed to burst into the area and prod a ball across goal, which was tapped in by Akins.

It was a soft goal to concede and Appleton responded by bringing on Johnny Mullins to replace Raynes, who looked as though he had not recovered from the knock.

The game was flat for a spell after half-time, with no real pattern.

It suited Burton, who were happy to protect their lead and frustrate United, who struggled to break them down despite dominating possession.

Morris glanced a header wide just before the hour mark, but it was a rare moment of drama at either end as the game drifted.

Appleton brought on Danny Hylton, another debutant, and Callum O'Dowda to change the game in the final 20 minutes.

It was to little avail. Hylton had one chance as the Burton defence backed off, but he delayed too long and the threat was snuffed out.

Aside from a Josh Ruffels fired into the side netting in the final minute, that was as good as it got late on, as United were unable to build any pressure on a Burton defence which closed out the victory.

Oxford Utd: G Long, Riley, Raynes (Mullins 44), Wright, Newey, Collins, Ruffels, Potter, Rose (O'Dowda 77), Brown (Hylton 70), Morris.

Unused subs: Meades, Hunt, Crocombe, Roberts.

Burton: McLaughlin, Edwards, Sharps, Taft, McFadzean, Akins, Mousinho, Weir, MacDonald (McGurk 75), Knowles (Palmer 68), Beavon (Kee 86).

Unused subs: Lyness, Slade, Cansdell-Sherriff, Harness.

Referee: Darren Handley (Lancashire).

Attendance: 5,370 (395 visitors).