BURTON Albion took another excellent point away from the Pirelli Stadium to stay on the fringe of the League Two automatic promotion race.
A visit to York City was always going to be a major test for the Brewers – but it was one they passed comfortably.
And on a day when Rochdale, Scunthorpe and Fleetwood all drew it was important Albion did not lose.
Three points would have been ideal, but a 0-0 draw at a side unbeaten in 10 and on a run of six straight wins is a decent return.
Gary Rowett’s men had the lion’s share of the chances at Bootham Crescent on Saturday, with Billy Kee hitting the bar with a brilliant volley in the first half and Matty Palmer having a one-on-one saved after the break.
York, shorn of top scorer Wes Fletcher through injury, did not create too much but, like Burton, were pretty solid.
For a 0-0 draw it was an entertaining encounter, with neither side giving an inch.
Former Albion midfielders Russ Penn and Adam Reed lined up against their old club and Reed had a point to prove after his contract was cancelled early so he could join York at Christmas.
But the 22-year-old had a frustrating afternoon as he was outshone by Palmer, whose rapid development was a major reason for Reed’s departure.
A midfielder nearer the other end of his career, Lee Bell, was outstanding for Albion and really settled the midfield down, making one crucial clearance to bail his side out. It was a far cry from his uncharacteristically poor performance at Scunthorpe a week earlier.
Albion could well need their captain’s nous and defensive abilities in the final few games of a fascinating season.
Rowett made just one change to his starting line-up, with Robbie Weir (hamstring) replaced in central midfield by Bell.
Ashley Hemmings took his place on the bench after arriving on a month’s loan from League One Walsall.
Gary Alexander was also among the substitutes after recovering from a knee injury, but Michael Symes missed out.
The Minstermen had a golden chance to open the scoring as Albion shot themselves in the foot after just seven minutes.
There seemed little danger as Shane Cansdell-Sherriff looked to pass the ball back to Rob Lainton, but he slipped and fell over under pressure from Michael Coulson, who robbed him and surged into the box.
The striker rounded Lainton but Bell got in to make a crucial, goal-saving block as Coulson pulled the trigger.
Burton threatened for the first time on 12 minutes as Callum McFadzean fired in a low corner which Adam McGurk helped over the bar in a clever set piece routine which brought goals at Fleetwood and Wimbledon.
There was more daftness at the back from the Brewers soon after as Lainton’s clearing kick was partially charged down by the lively Coulson.
The game then settled down and Albion increasingly came into it.
Phil Edwards headed a David Gray cross over in the area on 27 minutes after a spell of good pressure from the visitors.
McFadzean then tricked his way between two York defenders and got into the box before firing a rising shot which keeper Nick Pope caught at his near post.
Just after the half-hour Ian Sharps teed up Bell, whose powerful rising strike from 22 yards was caught by the keeper.
On 37 minutes, York tried to hit back as John McCombe headed a Will Hayhurst corner just over from six yards.
Seconds later Kee tried an audacious lob from fully 50 yards but the ball drifted wide. A few feet to the right and he would have had Pope in very serious trouble.
Kee then chested a pass down and crashed a smashing volley on the turn from 22 yards which hit the top of the bar and went over.
Coulson hit a free kick from 25 yards just wide after a Palmer foul on Reed and Ryan Bowman shot straight at Lainton as York finished the first half well.
Just 12 seconds after the restart there was a nervous moment for Albion as a Hayhurst cross was chopped into Lainton’s arms by Sharps.
The big defender then had a chance at the other end as his header from Palmer’s corner flew into Pope’s hands.
Palmer had a great chance to score with the hour looming. Kee found him with a nice pass into the box and the young midfielder, one-on-one with Pope, beat the keeper but he was able to scramble back and save on the line.
York made a couple of changes to chase the game and Reed had a free kick headed wide by Keith Lowe before Albion hit back through the lively McFadzean, whose effort from a tight angle went narrowly wide.
With time ticking away, Alex MacDonald came on and was lively up front, earning a free kick in the D with five minutes to go. Unfortunately, his effort from the kick thumped straight into the wall in what was the final chance of a fascinating encounter.