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Burton Albion go toe-to-toe with bully boys and come out on top

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: September 01, 2014

By Tom Sloan

STRIKE ONE ... Alex MacDonald fires in the opening goal for the Brewers at Field Mill on Saturday. PICTURES BY DAN WESTWELL

STRIKE ONE ... Alex MacDonald fires in the opening goal for the Brewers at Field Mill on Saturday. PICTURES BY DAN WESTWELL

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IF any proof were still needed that Burton Albion can mix it with League Two's tough guys it was provided at Mansfield – in spadefuls.

The visit to Field Mill was always going to be a test of Albion's mettle and they passed it with flying colours.

They also survived a dire refereeing performance from Lincolnshire official Darren Drysdale, who lost control of the match and ended up sending off Robbie Weir late on as the Burton midfielder reacted to a poor tackle.

Before then, Albion soaked up waves of pressure before Alex MacDonald – with his first goal in almost 18 months – gave them a 1-0 half-time lead.

Callum McFadzean then made it 2-0 following an incisive break from Gary Rowett's men.

Matt Rhead pulled one back with a quarter of an hour left as Albion's rearguard was, for once, caught out.

Then, with less than five minutes left, Weir was harshly sent off for the first time in a Brewers shirt after reacting to a poor, lunging tackle from Jamie McGuire.

It was a tackle which could well have earned the Mansfield man a red card, but instead it was Weir who headed for an early bath.

A supposed headbutt on McGuire could not really be seen on any replays. It was one of a succession of poor decisions from Mr Drysdale.

While the red card took some of the gloss off the win, it was still an important result for Albion.

They showed they can beat the more physical teams in the division a week on from a 1-1 draw at Newport County

Importantly, they also added another two names to their list of goalscorers this season.

Already, after just seven games in all competitions, the 10 goals scored are shared by eight players.

It was pleasing to see MacDonald, a whole-hearted competitor, break his duck, while McFadzean's industrious performance also merited his second half goal.

Three points leave Albion top of the table and while such things are meaningless at the end of August, it has been an excellent start to the season.

Rowett made three changes following the 1-0 Capital One Cup win over Queen's Park Rangers.

As expected, Stuart Beavon returned up front in place of Dominic Knowles and Weir came in for Matty Palmer in central midfield.

The other change saw McFadzean replace Marcus Harness and start on the right of midfield.

Lucas Akins was again rested to allow his broken hand heal.

Mansfield boss Paul Cox made five changes following a 2-0 defeat at Dagenham, with on-loan Nottingham Forest keeper Dimitar Evtimov making his debut.

The Brewers began reasonably well in high winds and MacDonald had a shot from distance blocked before Sam Clucas ballooned a volley well over for Mansfield on eight minutes.

Jon McLaughlin had to be alert on 10 minutes as Rhead almost got on the end of an Ollie Palmer flick after a corner had been half cleared by George Taft.

Lee Beevers had a decent chance for the hosts on the quarter-hour as he got hold of Adam Murray's pass and eased past Taft into the box, but he fired well over from 15 yards.

The Brewers had begun to come under pressure, with Murray pulling the strings in midfield.

But on 18 minutes Beavon managed to turn onto a Taft long throw, only for his drilled shot to hit a Mansfield defender six yards out.

MacDonald then spooned a shot over on 24 minutes after McFadzean's free kick was cleared by a Stags head.

Clucas then beat Sharps and John Mousinho before being well shepherded out by Shane Cansdell-Sherriff when he was about to pull the trigger.

Palmer's shot on 28 minutes was deflected wide off Sharps – but it looked like Rhead had handled on halfway before setting his strike partner through.

The first signs of dissent at Mr Drysdale's performance began to seep into the game, with Mousinho warned for something he said to the official.

With half-time approaching, Adam McGurk – the hero of QPR – curled one wide from the edge of the box after being teed up by Beavon.

Then on 42 minutes MacDonald gave the Brewers the lead – and the goal owed a lot to McFadzean.

A Mansfield attack down their left broke down as Rob Taylor was robbed by McFadzean, and the winger took the ball from the edge of his own box, beating Murray as he surged into the Mansfield half.

He then had the presence of mind to pick out MacDonald in acres of space on the wing.

MacDonald cut across the edge of the area and hit a right-footed shot which took two deflections on its way past Evtimov – first off McGuire and then Riley – completely wrong-footing the keeper.

Four minutes after half-time Mansfield came close to drawing level as Taylor's corner hit Palmer two yards out and looped up over the bar.

Taylor then fizzed a shot wide from 20 yards before stabbing over after Taft had headed a corner clear.

Just past the hour, Rhead headed Murray's free kick into the side netting from six yards.

Then, Clucas surged through but pulled a shot wide after Palmer appeared to foul Sharps.

Mansfield were well on top and Rhead headed over from eight yards as he crunched into McLaughlin, who earned a yellow card for his protests at what was clearly a foul on him.

The mood was starting to turn foul but on 71 minutes McFadzean got a second for Albion.

Mousinho laid a nice ball through for the on-loan Sheffield United wideman, who took it on 30 yards before finding McGurk on the edge of the box.

The striker intelligently flicked the ball into the box ahead of the marauding Weir.

The midfielder's shot from 16 yards was deflected away by Riley as Evtimov came out, and there was nothing the keeper could do to stop the unmarked McFadzean side-footing the loose ball into the unguarded goal.

Three minutes later, though, and Mansfield were right back in it.

Murray's free kick was not claimed by McLaughlin and Rhead – who had been a pain to the Brewers all afternoon – got above Cansdell-Sherriff to nod into an empty net.

On 84 minutes, MacDonald thumped an absolute rocket into Evtimov's bar from 22 yards after he cut off his wing and left Sutton for dead. The ball then hit Beevers and fell just over.

Two minutes later and the game exploded as Weir saw red for his reaction to Maguire's poor stamped tackle on him.

He was enraged and, after Mr Drysdale had failed to punish the tackle, pursued Maguire and gave him a piece of his mind. The Mansfield player claimed a headbutt – replays showed no real contact between the players – and Weir was off.

Mr Drysdale had totally lost control as the tackles flew in, with a late one on Harness also going unpunished.

Another brawl started in the Albion six-yard box in the dying seconds.

Phil Edwards took exception to a late challenge on McLaughlin from Riley as he went for a header.

Edwards got up in Riley's face and the Mansfield defender seemed to push his head towards the Albion right-back.

This time the referee took no action and after nine minutes of stoppage time blew to end what had needlessly become a nasty scrap – with the right result for the Brewers.

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