PIRATES ALL AT SEA AS KEE UNLOCKS TREASURED POINTS
Burton Albion kept within touching distance of League Two’s chasing pack as they recovered from a goal down to topple the much fancied Bristol Rovers on Saturday.
Recently relegated Rovers looked to be picking up from where they left off in their 5-2 demolition of Rotherham last time out when Matt Harrold headed them into an early lead. However, Paul Peschisolido’s men refused to cave in and roared back with intent, securing victory with a duo of sumptuous first half goals from Cleveland Taylor and Billy Kee.
It was the perfect way for Albion to bounce back from the 2-0 reverse to Cheltenham at the Pirelli Stadium the previous week. Burton were made to cling on to the final seconds against Paul Buckle’s improving side. The Brewers weren’t at their sparkling best by any means but were clinical in front of goal and, once they went ahead, were determined not to let the Pirates back in.
Much of the away side’s frustration was owed to the resoluteness of Albion’s back four and goalkeeper, who answered everything Rovers opted to hurl at them.
Aaron Webster, in particular, risked life and limb to preserve the Brewers’ slender advantage, as the Pirates huffed and puffed but failed to engineer enough clear cut openings to return home a point or three better off. Significantly, it bought a welcome return to Albion’s home form – their first win in three at the Pirelli.
Peschisolido made two changes from the side that slumped tamely to defeat in their last outing. Danny Blanchett was dropped from the squad and replaced by Aaron Webster at left back, whilst goal poacher supreme Kee deputised in attack for top scorer Justin Richards who had a back strain. Dangerman Jacques Maghoma was the surprise inclusion among the Albion subs. His injury was originally expected to sideline him for up six weeks.
The Brewers were slow out of the blocks and found themselves under pressure from the whistle. Tony James picked up an early booking for a late challenge as Bristol attacked at will.
Some delightful one-touch football on the edge of the Burton penalty area carved an opening for Scott Rendell, whose shot was blocked by Webster.
Albion escaped that scare. However, they were made to pay for their sluggish start when the visitors drew first blood on 14 minutes.
Jimmy Phillips clumsily tripped Rendell at the right corner of the box. Pirates’ midfielder Craig Stanley whipped the ball in with interest and striker Matt Harrold duly met it with aplomb, planting a bullet header past the helpless Ross Atkins.
The Brewers were eager for a quick-fire reply and Calvin Zola just lacked the inches to connect with Taylor’s left foot cross. Flying winger Taylor also had his centre smothered by Pirates’ keeper Scott Bevan, with attacking options lurking in the box.
In spite of a few brief glimpses of Albion’s attacking ability, it was Rovers who continued to look the more composed team and they spurned a golden opportunity to double their lead on 22 minutes. Rendell neatly slipped veteran marksman Scott McGleish in on goal, but he scuffed his shot horribly wide with only Atkins to beat. A second goal would have been a killer blow for the hosts. McGleish’s miss was to prove costly.
With pressure mounting on Albion’s rearguard, Peschisolido decided to tinker with his line up in a bid to combat Rovers’ dynamic 4-3-1-2 formation. Winger Phillips was drafted into a more central role, with Taylor occupied as a lone wide man, momentarily switching to the left flank in the process.
The shake up paid dividends almost immediately when, out of the blue, the Brewers conjured up a leveller.
Taylor’s pace and trickery was too hot to handle down the left and he was hacked down. From the resultant free kick taken by the same player, Bristol had two chances to clear the ball, but twice only half finished the job. Following up on the edge of the box was Taylor who lashed home into the near bottom corner, leaving the hefty 6-ft 6 figure of Bevan with no chance.
That goal sparked Albion into life and, eight minutes later, they stunned the visitors by turning the encounter on its head.
Crafted with precision and carried out to devastating effect, it was a goal worthy of winning any game. Energetic as ever, Phillips picked up the ball inside his own half before driving forward and spreading the play to right back Kevin Amankwaah. The recent recruit burst along the byline at pace and showed the necessary calmness to send a delicate dink into the path of Kee, who buried it beyond Bevan from 10 yards. That was his fourth of the season.
In first half injury time, Zola’s cross-cum-shot was palmed away by Bevan and Adam Bolder couldn’t latch on to the rebound as Albion searched for a third.
The Brewers were forced to withstand some heavy Pirates pressure shortly after the interval, though, they were not too far away themselves when Zola headed the wrong side of the post from a Taylor corner.
Both sides exchanged half chances that lacked the necessary power or placement to trouble either keeper, as the second period petered out.
Pirates’ sub Joe Anyinsah had the pick of the bunch, as he attempted to capitalize on a defensive miscommunication, but contrived to skew the ball wildly too high.
Burton had an injury scare with 15 minutes remaining when Tony James collided with Atkins. To a collective sigh of relief, the Welshman was able to continue. James and centre half partner Ryan Austin performed an imposing double act to repel Bristol until they eventually ran out of ideas.
In a late rally, Rovers’ might have equalised in the dying seconds. First, Cian Bolger’s fierce drive was deflected wide and then Webster was on hand to heroically throw himself in the path of Rendell’s goalbound shot.