BURTON Albion’s 10-match unbeaten run ground to a halt in the Pirelli Stadium mud as determined Fleetwood Town finally got one over on the Brewers.
Albion have enjoyed a cracking run against the Cod Army, starting with a 4-0 thrashing in February last year before a 3-2 win in Lancashire at the start of the current season.
Gary Rowett’s men then beat Town in the FA Cup – after a replay – before Saturday’s thrilling clash brought the run to an end.
David Ball gave Fleetwood a first half lead before a bizarre own goal from Mark Roberts drew Burton level just after half-time.
Nathan Pond’s header, which should have been disallowed for a foul, put the visitors back in front two minutes later before another own goal, this time from Alex Marrow, restored parity just after the hour.
Albion went chasing a winner and were punished on the break with a Jon Parkin goal before Junior Brown sealed Fleetwood’s win deep into five minutes of added time.
It was a disappointing end for Burton, who created enough chances to at least draw the game – it was also the first time they had conceded four at home in the league since a 4-0 defeat to Aldershot in April, 2012.
They will have wished referee Darren Drysdale had called the match off when a deluge before kick-off left much of the Pirelli pitch saturated, with one patch in front of the dugouts a large puddle.
But the efforts of Simon Marshall and the rest of his Albion groundsman got the pitch playable in time for a late kick-off at 4pm, with the “Blotter” water soaker machine borrowed from Derbyshire CCC proving invaluable.
In a flat first half there was little between the sides before Ball netted and thereafter the Brewers made much of the running, but did not capitalise on what they created.
With Adam McGurk ill and Michael Symes still sidelined by a knee problem, Rowett was down the bare bones, with Billy Kee and Dominic Knowles his only fit frontmen.
Efforts to sign another striker will now be stepped up before the transfer deadline on Friday.
It would be worrying if Albion were not creating chances, but they are – they just need to start taking more of them.
At least they do not have too long to reflect on the result, with a trip to struggling Torquay tomorrow night.
Burton have only had one rough patch this season and Rowett will be looking to avoid another, instead kicking off another unbeaten run to keep his side in the promotion mix.
The Albion boss made two changes on Saturday from the previous week’s 0-0 draw at Bury.
McGurk was ruled out by illness, so Knowles took his place up front.
Zeli Ismail was replaced by Lee Bell in the starting XI to give the manager some attacking impetus from the bench.
With Bell in central midfield, Matty Palmer moved to the right side.
The Brewers had the first chance on 13 minutes when Alan Goodall fouled Knowles 30 yards out, slightly to the left of centre.
Palmer hit the resulting free kick low around the wall but Fleetwood keeper Scott Davies got down to turn the ball away.
Ball broke the deadlock on 19 minutes with a tremendous finish from just inside the area.
Stewart Murdoch played a neat ball for the striker to get a yard of space in the box and he hammered an unstoppable shot across Dean Lyness and into the top corner.
The Brewers regrouped after going behind and enjoyed the better chances for the remainder of the half.
Kee teed up Jimmy Phillips with a tidy pass just after the half hour and the winger’s powerful shot from a tight angle was going in until it deflected off a Fleetwood boot and just wide.
Zander Diamond headed just wide from a corner as a disappointing half – not helped by the pitch inevitably cutting up –came to a close.
It took just four minutes after the break for Burton to level, and what a bizarre goal it was.
Knowles had a good opportunity to shoot from a Phillips cross but took too long and the ball was cleared to the right.
Palmer immediately returned the ball from out wide and Davies punched it, but only straight against the back of skipper Roberts and back into the net.
Burton deserved their stroke of luck, but two minutes after levelling lady luck deserted them.
The visitors won a corner and Steven Schumacher swung it in beyond the back post where Pond gave Sharps a good shove in the back before heading past Lyness.
Almost unbelievably, Mr Drysdale nor his assistant saw the foul and the goal stood.
Ball almost increased their advantage seconds later when his shot was deflected wide off an Albion boot.
Just past the hour, Burton were level through another own goal.
After a Sharps header from a corner was hacked off the line by Parkin, Phillips dinked a centre up to the back post and Marrow, in trying to clear, succeeded only in slicing the ball into the top corner.
With their record for scoring late goals it looked like being Albion’s day, but Fleetwood were always a danger on the break.
Diamond had to pull off a magnificent tackle on 66 minutes to rob Ball as he surged through.
Albion then went back up the other end and Knowles forced a fine reaction save from Davies as he teed one up from 15 yards.
Phillips then tracered a shot inches over the bar from the edge of the area with Davies well-beaten.
As the game swung from end to end, Murdoch had a great chance to nick a goal as he charged through onto Ball’s pass but, with pressure coming from Robbie Weir he could only fire a low shot into Lyness’ legs.
Finally, the goal which looked inevitable came on 77 minutes – and it was an avoidable one for Burton.
Diamond slipped in the mud and Albion were a man short as the ball flew out to Conor McLaughlin.
He got in just ahead of McCrory to slide a cross in and Parkin, in space with Diamond desperately trying to get back, finished from close range.
Burton chased the game, with a Kee free kick saved and a Diamond header blocked, before they were caught in the fourth minute of injury time.
Fleetwood broke down the left, with substitute Mikael Mandron looking a mile offside.
He reached the byline and crossed for Brown to tap in from a yard and complete Albion’s miserable afternoon.