BURTON Albion’s interest in the League Two automatic promotion race effectively ended today as they drew 1-1 at Newport County.
The Brewers can now no longer reach the top three unless there is a massive - and highly unlikely - swing in goal difference between themselves and Rochdale and Chesterfield.
But despite missing out on automatic promotion, there is the considerable consolation of a play-off place, which was sealed today after Oxford lost at Scunthorpe.
The manager made six changes to freshen things up at Rodney Parade.
The only enforced changes saw Marcus Holness replace Shane Cansdell-Sherriff at centre-half after the Australian tweaked his Achilles against Hartlepool, and Matty Palmer replace Robbie Weir in central midfield after the Northern Irishman’s wife went into labour.
David Gray replaced Phil Edwards at right-back and Ashley Hemmings came in for MacDonald on the right wing for his first start since arriving on loan from Walsall.
The other two changes saw Billy Kee and Gary Alexander drop to the bench, with Symes and Knowles paired up front.
It was Symes’ first start since the end of September after groin and knee problems.
For the Exiles, there was no Rene Howe, with the former Brewers striker missing out with a knee injury.
Albion gave themselves another mountain to climb away from home as Dean Lyness somehow allowed Andy Sandell’s speculative long-ranger in after just five minutes, but Michael Symes levelled from the spot before the break after a foul on Dominic Knowles.
Newport, who were overly physical at times, threw everything at the Brewers after half-time, hitting the woodwork and spurning several excellent chances.
However, Albion rode out the storm and almost found a winner themselves as they improved late on following a couple of substitutions.
But it was not to be and now it is the play-offs for Gary Rowett’s men – a fantastic achievement for the second season running.
For a full report, see tomorrow’s Burton Mail.