BILLY Kee grabbed the only goal against former club Accrington Stanley to secure a precious League Two victory for Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium yesterday.
The Northern Ireland under-21 international celebrated his recall by manager Gary Rowett with his fifth goal of the campaign.
Kee’s strike came after just 10 minutes — but any hopes Albion had of cruising to victory were quickly dashed as Stanley went on to dominate the first hour of the game.
However, the visitors were unable to turn possession into clear-cut scoring chances as the Brewers offered stout resistance under pressure.
But Rowett’s men were still grateful that Stanley had to pull former England star James Beattie from their side after he picked up an injury in the warm-up.
The recently-appointed player-coach would surely have seriously tested Albion’s ability to hang on to their lead as the visitors passed the ball around to good effect and also delivered plenty of crosses into the Burton box.
Skipper Zander Diamond returned to Albion’s defence after suspension and there was also a recall for Kee as manager Gary Rowett reverted to a 4-4-2 formation after successfully using Calvin Zola as a lone striker in the FA Cup second round win at Crewe Alexandra
Stanley included Albion old boy Rommy Boco in an attacking role in support of Padraig Amond, who was the late inclusion in their starting line-up after the non-appearance of Beattie.
There was an early scare for the Brewers when a dangerous Lee Molyneux cross was deflected narrowly wide of the far post by Piero Mingoia.
And Marcus Holness had to tidy up another nervous moment for the Brewers in front of his own goal after a slip by Diamond allowed Amond to steer a low cross past Albion keeper Dean Lyness.
Those moments somehow set the tone for the game, with Stanley always capable of creating problems for the Brewers without managing to finish off any of their moves.
After a decidedly uncertain start, the Brewers suddenly burst into life to take the lead in virtually their first attack.
The goal owed much to the persistence and determination of Jacques Maghoma to get in a cross from the left.
Kee held the ball up back to goal but then peeled away from his marker to receive a precise return pass from Zola before side-footing into the far corner from 10 yards.
A Chris Palmer cross grazed the angle of bar and post but Stanley still looked dangerous going forward, though skipper Luke Joyce could not get enough curl on a right-foot shot from 20 yards in the 19th minute.
Albion could have increased their lead twice in quick succession midway through the first half.
First, Diamond could only poke the ball straight at keeper Paul Rachubka after Kee got a glancing header to a Palmer free kick.
Then Kee narrowly missed the target as he attempted to repeat his goal from further out after receiving a Maghoma pass.
Diamond had another chance in the 28th minute only to head wide from another well-flighted Palmer free kick.
Despite these promising moments for the Brewers, it was Stanley who continued to give Albion something of a lesson in terms of passing and movement.
But the visitors had so far failed to reveal the cutting edge Beattie might have given them, with Amond shooting tamely into the arms of Lyness after getting past Holness.
Diamond had to hook the ball to safety when the previously assured Lyness fumbled a Molyneux cross.
Despite being in front, Albion had looked far from convincing and must have been relieved to hear the half-time whistle.
Nothing much changed immediately after the break as Stanley continued to press for the equaliser.
It almost came from the unlikely source of on-loan keeper Rachubka, whose huge clearance had Lyness back-pedalling to tip the ball over his own crossbar.
Another spell of neat attacking football by the visitors ended with Joyce driving a low shot well wide.
With a stiff breeze now blowing in their faces, Albion still could not find any fluency and it took them until the 57th minute to win their first corner kick of the game.
Lyness came to the rescue again to turn a skidding low shot from Long round a post as the Brewers continued to find themselves under the cosh.
When the hosts did get forward, Palmer was well off target with an ambitious long-range shot.
Albion made their first change just after the hour mark when Cleveland Taylor replaced Palmer.
The winger could have marked his arrival on the pitch with a goal in the 69th minute, but blazed his shot over after Anthony O’Connor’s cross from the right broke loose as Kee challenged.
Rachubka then had to make a one-handed save to deny Zola after Taylor flicked on another O’Connor cross as Albion began to look more threatening.
Kee had two shots deflected wide as Stanley’s grip on the game continued to loosen.
Taylor got in an excellent cross from the right but Zola planted his header straight at the keeper.
As the game spilled into added time, Maghoma missed the target with a free kick from a good position.
Boco had a late chance for Stanley but volleyed high over the crossbar.