BURTON Albion bounced back from their Port Vale humiliation last night with a 2-0 win over Wycombe Wanderers to get their promotion bid back on track.
Jacques Maghoma’s second-half brace gave the Brewers a first win in five League Two matches – and went some way to exorcising the ghosts of Vale Park.
Instead of the ponderous, intimidated display seen at Vale Park as they surrendered 7-1 on Friday, Albion were full of battle and grew in confidence as the game progressed.
Boss Gary Rowett swung the axe and shocked most onlookers by dropping goalkeeper Stuart Tomlinson and skipper Zander Diamond as part of four changes to his side.
And it seemed to work as Burton climbed back to third spot – and kept a first clean sheet since the 4-0 win at Fleetwood Town on February 16.
It was also the 15th home win of the season and put to bed the aberration of losing 1-0 to Chesterfield last time at the Pirelli.
As well as dropping Tomlinson and Diamond, Rowett left Lee Fowler out altogether and put Jack Dyer back on the bench.
In came Dean Lyness in goal, Marcus Holness at centre-half in place of Diamond, Robbie Weir to central midfield after suspension and Billy Kee up front after shaking off a hamstring injury.
Understandably, the Brewers felt their way into the game after the Vale Park shocker.
Weir, who had a quiet half by his own high standards, had the first effort on 16 minutes, but his shot was blocked in the box after a good break from Maghoma.
Michael Symes, who was sharper than in the last two matches, fired well high and wide on 19 minutes.
Albion gradually settled and began to put together some flowing moves.
At the end of one, Symes was tripped by Gary Doherty and Maghoma hit the resulting free kick into the wall before firing the rebound through a crowded area, with visiting keeper Matt Ingram showing solid hands.
Maghoma was increasingly involved and crashed a low left-footed shot across the face of goal on 33 minutes before the best chance of the half fell to Symes shortly afterwards when his close-range header from Anthony O’Connor’s excellent centre dribbled wide.
The Brewers were enjoying the best chances and territorial dominance as half-time approached, although Wycombe player-manager Gareth Ainsworth worked Lyness on 39 minutes with a dipping 22-yard volley which the keeper did well to smother in a swirling wind.
Albion were cut apart for the first time on 44 minutes, but Joel Grant’s low centre flashed across the six-yard box ahead of the pacy Josh Scowen.
The goal which Maghoma had been threatening all night came on 49 minutes when he hit his 16th of the season.
Lyness’ long clearance was flicked on by Kee and when Michael Harriman failed to deal with it Maghoma was there with a tidy left-footed finish past Ingram.
The Wycombe keeper then pulled off two cracking saves in quick succession to keep his side in it.
First, he flew full-length to his left to push away Kee’s excellent strike from 18 yards before touching away the excellent Lee Bell’s deft flick which was destined for the top corner.
Symes then had a great chance to make it 2-0 on 58 minutes as he took Maghoma’s excellent ball from the left. But, 18 yards out, he had plenty of time to find a finish but snatched at his shot and fired wide.
On 64 minutes, Kee would have fancied finding the net when the ball broke to him near the penalty spot, but in a crowded area he could only nudge the ball straight at the keeper.
The pressure finally told on 68 minutes as Albion extended their lead – and it was another sublime finish from Maghoma.
Harriman, who was enduring a terrible evening, gave the ball straight to Maghoma near halfway and he stormed upfield at last man Winfield, took a touch the side of the big centre-half and hit another tidy left-footed finish past Ingram from around 10 yards.
Symes deserved a goal for his endeavours and bent one just wide on 73 minutes before Kee, who showed great commitment, flayed one across the face of goal.
Wycombe applied some late pressure but never really worked Lyness in the Albion goal.