DETERMINED Burton Albion had to settle for a point at League Two promotion rivals Rochdale last night as Rob Lainton’s clanger handed the Lancashire side a draw.
The Brewers were leading through Zeli Ismail’s first-half finish and despite coming under sustained pressure ,had managed to restrict Dale to half-chances.
However, midway through the second half Lainton, on loan from Bury, came to punch a high ball from George Donnelly but got under it and could only help it over the line.
Had Albion been offered a point at kick-off they would probably have taken it.
Rochdale have the best home record in the division and can really tear teams apart with their passing and movement.
But with the nature of the equaliser it is hard not to feel like two points were dropped.
For poor Lainton, the old adage of a goalkeeper’s mistake usually leads to a goal rings true.
He was otherwise faultless and his kicking was generally excellent.
Overall, it was a battling performance from the Brewers and a point from Rochdale is not to be taken lightly.
They dug in when they needed to and worked hard to frustrate their free-flowing hosts.
There will certainly be easier pickings ahead during the run-in.
Albion boss Gary Rowett made one change from the draw against Dagenham on Saturday, with Lee Bell coming in for Adam McGurk (knee).
Burton lined up with three in midfield to combat Dale’s central three, with Gary Alexander on his own up front.
Matty Palmer and Bell sat deep, with Robbie Weir ahead of them supporting Alexander.
It was a fairly flat start from both sides as they tested each other out.
Ian Sharps won a header from a Palmer free kick on three minutes but the offside flag went up before anyone could get on the end of it.
On eight minutes, Dale had a decent chance to go 1-0 up. Bell, who had got away with a handball, was robbed 40 yards out by Matt Lund, who got the ball the Peter Vincenti wide on the left. He moved the ball rapidly to danger-man Scott Hogan, who got a yard to the side of Sharps before firing a shot which Lainton did well to palm around his near post.
The hosts enjoyed the lion’s share of possession as the half wore on - and it was a surprise when Albion took the lead very much against the run of play.
Jimmy Phillips won a corner down the left and Damien McCrory swung the ball in. Sharps got up well to thump a header at goal. Dale keeper Josh Lillis parried but Ismail was there to slam it in from close range.
The game had been fractious and Albion picked up three yellow cards before the break.
Palmer was fortunate to not be one of them after appearing to dive looking for a penalty on 36 minutes.
Dale should have been level as the half closed, but Michael Rose’s free kick was headed straight at Lainton from close range by Ian Henderson.
Ismail hit a couple of dangerous low crosses at the start of the second half but Dale managed to clear them with Alexander and Weir lurking.
The Brewers suffered a blow 10 minutes into the second half when McCrory limped off with what looked a hamstring injury.
David Gray, normally a right-back, came on for his Albion debut on the left.
Weir pulled off a vital tackle on the hour, nicking the ball from Hogan as he surged into the area following a Dale break.
Bell, too, had been everywhere with headers and blocks as Burton came under pressure.
But the pressure finally told on 66 minutes - and it was entirely avoidable as a Lainton howler handed Dale the equaliser.
Donnelly hit a hanging ball into the area and Albion’s on-loan keeper tried to get a punch on it but could only skew the ball back into his goal, with a desperate clearance on the line from an Albion defender not enough to stop it going over.
The goal was awarded to Donnelly, but could well end up going down as a Lainton own goal.
After Dale levelled they seemed to lose some of their fizz, but Donnelly got free before blasting over from 20 yards with 10 minutes left.
Burton then had a half-chance to nose ahead when Phil Edwards met Palmer’s free kick in a crowded box but directed a header across the face of goal from seven yards.
Lund’s header from Rose’s free kick clipped the bar as the seconds ticked down.
Alex MacDonald then thundered a long range free kick over for the Brewers in the dying seconds of injury time and from the corner Billy Kee almost got a touch as the ball flew across the face of goal.