Derby County recorded a comfortable 2-0 victory over non-league opposition Matlock Town during their first pre-season outing yesterday afternoon.
Experienced striker James Collins opened the scoring after latching onto the end of a wicked Joe Ward cross in the first half, but it was former Burton Albion starlet Ben Radcliffe who caught the eye with his second half finish to wrap up the victory.
18-year-old Radcliffe was on the Brewers’ books last season, although he spent the majority of his time out on loan in the National League North with Banbury United.
Whilst with the Puritans, Radcliffe made 43 appearances and hit the back of the net twice in England’s sixth tier before returning to Burton in May.
The teenager made his senior bow for Dino Maamria’s side during a 1-0 victory over Cambridge United in which he featured for 72 minutes. That was one of three occasions he made it into the Brewers’ squad last season, but his first appearance would also be his last.
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It was announced on Friday that Derby County’s Under-21s would have a ‘fresh look’ ahead of the 2023/24 campaign, and Radcliffe is one of the first additions in what is likely to be a hectic summer for the Rams’ academy set-up.
Derby also have ex-Rangers duo Charlie Lindsay and Tony Weston on trial for their Under-21s, so competition is expected to heat up.
Could Radcliffe break into the first team?
Making his unofficial Derby debut against the Gladiators, the midfielder was brought into the game on the half-hour mark as a replacement for Tom Barkhuizen, and it is safe to say he made his presence known.
In the closing stages of the game, he played a neat one-two with last season’s vice captain Max Bird, bursting into the area before cooly finishing into the back of the net in front of the travelling Derby supporters.
The Rams have an impressive track record of promoting youth talent. It is early days, of course, but you would have to imagine that if he were to produce a few more eye-catching performances with the first team over pre-season then he may just give boss Paul Warne something to think about.