BURTON Albion put the icing on their Christmas cake at the Pirelli Stadium on Saturday to strengthen their League Two promotion hopes with a second victory in four days.
Albion shattered Southend United’s 14-game unbeaten run with a display of grit and determination to sprinkle more
festive cheer all over their rain-soaked pitch.
Calvin Zola gave Albion the start they needed against in-form opponents with his 11th goal of the season.
But, for once, it was Lee Bell who claimed the attacking plaudits as Albion completed the double over the Shrimpers — just as they had done against Rochdale on Boxing Day.
Bell broke free of his usual disciplined role in front of the back four to deliver a pin-point cross that invited Zola’s predatory finish — and then added his name to the scoresheet with a late Christmas gift as his deflected 25-yard flew past Southend goalkeeper Paul Smith.
Albion had been in a similarly advantageous position against Rochdale, only to be pegged back before Billy Kee grabbed a second-half winner.
This time, however, they left nothing to chance as the Shrimpers were left to huff and puff without success, despite the Brewers having to negotiate the final 15 minutes with 10 men after the dismissal of defender Nathan Stanton for a second yellow card.
The Shrimpers have made huge strides since the Brewers beat them at Roots Hall in early October, but there was only one side that showed the compulsion to secure all three points.
Visiting boss Paul Sturrock summed it up nicely when he observed: “I saw a team with appetite and zest playing a team that just thought it was going to happen.”
The victory lifted the Brewers back into the play-off places and gave them renewed momentum going into 2013.
Their position and points tally is almost identical to a year ago when the wheels came off in spectacular fashion with a 15-game winless run that cost Paul Peschisolido his job as a potential promotion challenge developed into a relegation struggle.
On the evidence of Saturday, however, it is difficult envisage such a spectacular fall from grace with a manager as driven and focused as Gary Rowett at the helm.