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True grit shines through as Albion battle to draw

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: December 16, 2012

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BURTON Albion earned few plaudits from the purists in the crowd at the Proact Stadium on Saturday.

But the end justified the means as a manfully disciplined and determined performance again helped them to emerge as Chesterfield’s bogey side.

The Brewers completed the double over the Spireites in their title-winning campaign two years ago and even threw in an FA Cup win for good measure.

A fourth successive victory eluded them — but a share of the spoils left the home side frustrated and hugely disappointed.

It must almost have felt like a defeat for Paul Cook’s men, who had the Brewers ducking and weaving in a second half of siege-like proportions.

But Albion manned the barricades to good effect and made the most of their good fortune to hang on for a valuable point after Marc Richards had cancelled out a Jacques Maghoma goal.

Albion unashamedly went into the contest intent on spoiling the pre-Christmas party as home fans arrived in expectation of a fifth successive victory.

Despite his winning goal against Accrington Stanley, Billy Kee was left out of the starting line-up as Calvin Zola was asked to operate as the lone striker.

The back four was unchanged in a 4-1-4-1 formation in which Lee Bell was named as the defensive midfield player.

There were recalls for Cleveland Taylor on the right and Jack Dyer in the middle of the park.

Taylor’s inclusion was the one attacking concession by Rowett in a set-up designed to stifle the home side.

It worked a treat in the first half, but much less so after the break when Lady Luck entered the fray to reward Rowett’s men for their doggedness and resilience in the face of an onslaught.

The Spireites had to make a late change to their starting line-up when former Arsenal and Fulham star Luis Boa Morte picked up an injury in the warm-up  — a repeat of Albion’s previous game when ex-England striker James Beattie had to drop out of the Accrington side.

Liam Cooper headed wide of the far post as the Brewers found themselves under pressure after failing to clear an early corner kick.

There was also a minor scare for Rowett’s men in the ninth minute when a Richards shot bounced awkwardly after being left by Marcus Holness, forcing Dean Lyness to make a hurried save.

Cooper was dangerous at another set piece as the Spireites continued to make the running, but his firm downwards header bounced over the crossbar.

After defending pretty well, Albion almost fell behind to an error by Lyness in the 21st minute.

The keeper completely misjudged the flight of Mark Randall’s curling free kick and breathed a huge sigh of relief when the ball went past the far post.

Albion struggled to retain possession but opportunities for them to make sorties forward began to come their way as the contest settled into a more even phase.

Loose play by the home side almost resulted in the Brewers taking the lead in the 31st minute after a foul 22 yards out on Maghoma, but Bell’s superbly flighted free-kick bounced to safety off Tommy Lee’s right post.

Three minutes later Albion made their resurgence count with a classic route one goal.

Zola headed on a Lyness clearance and Maghoma pounced to get in behind Drew Talbot and rifle an angled shot into the far corner.

The goal gave Albion the confidence to go forward again, but Robbie Weir fired disappointingly high and wide.

The Spireites almost found themselves back on level terms when Albion’s defence momentarily switched off in the 41st minute.

Jay O’Shea was left unmarked at a corner and his shot almost found its way through a crowded penalty area, with Richards having a nibble at the ball before Lyness managed to scramble it to safety with the help of a post.

Albion again found themselves under pressure as half-time approached but Randall thundered a header too high.

Maghoma thought he had put the Brewers into a 2-0 lead three minutes after the break as Zola climbed well to meet Anthony O’Connor’s cross but did not make his header with his usual power and direction, giving Lee the chance to make a save.

Maghoma pounced to force the ball over the line but referee Geoff Eltringham decided it had been kicked out of the hands of the keeper.

Bell got an important head to a shot from Tendayi Darikwa as the home team again cranked up the pressure.

Randall went desperately close to breaking Albion’s resistance in the 59th minute with a superbly-struck free kick only to be denied by the post with Lyness comprehensively beaten.

Albion had to hang on grimly and quickly enjoyed another huge stroke of good fortune when Richards headed a Sam Togwell cross against a post.

Richards made no mistake when opportunity knocked again in the 73rd minute.

This time he peeled away from Holness as Randall crossed from the left and planted his header well out of the reach of Lyness into the opposite corner.

With Albion clearly on the ropes and their opponents now in fully cry, a home win looked the inevitable outcome.

But the pressure abated and the Brewers negotiated the closing stages with relative ease.

And a frustrating afternoon for the home team was completed in added time when veteran substitute Jack Lester foolishly threw Albion skipper Zander Diamond to the ground and was shown a straight red card.

 

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