BURTON Albion were unable to find a way past returning goalkeeper Matt Duke as visitors Northampton Town held them to a 0-0 draw in the first half at the Pirelli Stadium today.
After a tentative opening, Albion had a flurry of chances, but Billy Kee was twice denied by ex-Brewer Duke, who also kept out Chris Hussey and an excellent diving header by Jimmy Phillips.
Gary Rowett shrugged off the supposed rigours of the festive fixture list and named an unchanged side from that which drew 1-1 at Hartlepool United last Saturday, as Damien McCrory overcame a hamstring to continue his unbroken run of consecutive starts, while Alex MacDonald recovered from a virus to replace Adam Reed on the bench.
The Cobblers included ex-Brewers Kevin Amankwaah and Duke in their starting XI.
It was 18 minutes before either goalkeeper was troubled, when Hussey's left-footed cross from the right wing found Kee unmarked at the far post, but his header was easily claimed.
It was another 10 minutes of sterile domination by the Brewers before they threatened again, Hussey collecting a loose clearance 25 yards out and volleying wide of goal.
Then Burton worked the ball out to the left, where Phillips swung in a cross to the far post, and when Phil Edwards nodded back into the mixer, Kee's weak header was collected by Duke.
Kee fired wide shortly after but the best chance of the half fell to Phillips, who got on the end of McGurk's inviting cross, but saw his diving header beaten out by Duke.
A corner in the 37th minute then eventually fell to Hussey, whose deflected shot almost caught Duke out, but the keeper recovered to claim.
McGurk then took down Palmer's dinked through ball and worked a shooting chance, but from 10 yards out, saw his effort deflected wide.