BURTON Albion went out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy last night after a 1-0 defeat to Notts County at Meadow Lane.
The Brewers were sunk by Callum McGregor’s first-half winner in front of a paltry crowd of 1,240 as they suffered their first defeat of the season in normal time.
But it was a decent performance from Albion against the League One side, who were well on top for much of the second half.
And if referee Darren Bond had awarded a spot kick for a clear tug on Brewers substitute Adam McGurk, the result may well have been different.
As it is, Burton are out of the competition.
This will at least reduce the number of games they have to play as chasing promotion from League Two is the clear priority.
With Oxford United arriving on Saturday, Albion boss Gary Rowett will surely be glad he did not start McGurk, Rene Howe, Lee Bell, Rory Delap or Chris Hussey – the challenges ahead are far more important than the Football League Trophy.
The Brewers boss made the maximum five changes from Saturday’s side.
Out went Delap, Bell and Hussey, who were rested completely, with McGurk and Howe dropped to the bench after Saturday’s 1-0 win at Accrington Stanley.
In came Phil Edwards, Matty Palmer, Jack Dyer, Robbie Weir and Dominic Knowles in a 4-1-3-2 formation.
Palmer started in front of the back four with Knowles partnering Michael Symes up front for his full Brewers debut.
Notts had a similar formation, but with two holding midfielders and just one striker.
Ex-Derby County defender Dean Leacock was at centre-half.
The Brewers started well, with Knowles having a cross blocked by Manny Smith before Symes set up Damien McCrory, only for the left-back’s right-footed effort to be charged down.
On 23 minutes, McCrory’s 30-yard free kick flew well over after a foul on Weir.
Notts started to impose themselves on the game and carved Albion open twice down the visitors’ right.
But left-back Enda Stevens could not find the killer final ball.
Yoann Arquin hit one from 20 yards just after the half-hour but Dean Lyness was equal to it.
The Brewers keeper pulled off an even better save moments later, diving full-length to tip away Arquin’s header.
But on 39 minutes the hosts had the lead – and there was little Lyness could do about it.
McGregor was given too much time and space by the Albion midfield as he broke before firing a drive into the top right corner.
With half-time looming, the goalscorer should have done better when driving a Curtis Thompson cross over the bar from 10 yards.
Albion began well in the second half but it was Fotheringham who had the first effort at goal, volleying well wide following a spell of pressure from the home side.
Marcus Holness drove a 22-yard free kick into the wall after a foul on Adam Reed before McCrory, from the other side, forced Bartosz Bialkowski into a superb save to keep out his looping free kick.
On 63 minutes, McCrory slipped the ball into Reed but his ball was just too far ahead of Knowles.
Rowett brought McGurk and Howe into the action with just over 20 minutes left to try to salvage something.
And on 74 minutes it almost worked as McGurk found Howe with a clever cross and the striker’s dinked finish was only just pushed out by Bialkowski.
Marcus Harness came on for his first-team debut on 76 minutes and a minute later the Brewers should have had a penalty.
McGurk surged down the left past Thompson and into the box. The defender had clearly been tugging his shirt for some time but when the 24-year-old finally went down – in the box – the referee was not interested.
Presumably Mr Bond felt McGurk went down too easily and was looking for it.
It was all Albion towards the end, with Harness blazing wildly high and wide with eight minutes left.
Ian Sharps then missed a golden chance in stoppage time, heading Edwards’ cross over when unmarked at the back post – but in the final shake-up it matters little for a competition in which the Brewers are yet to taste victory since coming into the Football League.
GOAL: McGregor 39
MAGPIES (4-2-3-1): Bialkowski; Thompson, Smith, Leacock (capt), Stevens; Liddle, Labadie (Nangle 41); McGregor, Fotheringham, Bell; Arquin. Subs not used: Spiess (gk), Coombes, Bennett, Lavell-Moore.
BREWERS (4-1-3-2): Lyness 7; Edwards 7, Sharps (capt) 7, Holness 7, McCrory 8; Palmer (McGurk 68) 6; Reed 6, Weir 6, Dyer (Harness 76) 6; Symes (Howe 68) 6, Knowles 7. Subs not used: Morch (gk), Slade.
BOOKINGS: Magpies - Leacock 45+2 (foul on Knowles), Nangle 55 (foul on Reed). Brewers - Holness 90+1 (foul on Nangle).
REFEREE: Darren Bond (Lancashire) 5.
ATTENDANCE: 1,240 (236 visitors).
BREWERS STAR MAN: DAMIEN McCRORY - delivered some quality balls into the box and was a live wire down the Burton left.