BURTON Albion ended a tumultuous week by snatching a point off Exeter City in a dour encounter at the Pirelli Stadium.
The promotion-chasing Brewers had been caught up all week in non-footballing matters as the tribunal of former employee Kerry Miller moved Albion from the back pages to the front.
After winning their case, unfortunately Burton could not make it a double when the Grecians came to town.
Ian Sharps’ unfortunate own goal gave Paul Tisdale’s side the lead just after half-time but it only lasted two minutes as Adam McGurk popped up with his first goal since November to level the match.
Thereafter there was precious little goalmouth action, with the pitch doing neither outfit any favours.
The match played a week earlier against Fleetwood had cut the Pirelli surface up and by full-time on Saturday it again looked a mess.
Groundsman Simon Marshall and his team will have their work cut out to get the pitch in a decent condition again this season.
However, the pitch was the same for both sides and is not an excuse.
Albion were simply under par and did not really threaten Exeter enough, although the introduction of new striker Gary Alexander on the hour at least gave the Brewers some muscle going forward.
It will be much-needed during the run-in as Albion look to repeat their excellent first half of the season.
They need a quick turnaround, though, after failing to win their last three in the league.
But Gary Rowett’s men have proved they can rarely be kept down for long this season – and few would bet against them kicking off another unbeaten run soon.
Rowett made three changes from the side which lost 4-2 at home to Fleetwood on January 25.
McGurk returned in place of Dominic Knowles up front after recovering from flu, while Shane Cansdell-Sherriff replaced Zander Diamond at the back.
He had missed just four games after breaking his cheekbone in three places on January 1.
The final change saw Lee Bell replaced by Zeli Ismail, with the on-loan Wolves man going to the right wing and Matty Palmer returning to the centre of midfield.
Right-back David Gray was not signed from Stevenage in time to play on Friday, while Adam Buxton had been recalled by Wigan after just one appearance for Burton.
Exeter fashioned the first chance on six minutes when the dangerous Liam Sercombe and solid Matt Grimes combined for the latter to fire a shot at Dean Lyness’ goal from 22 yards.
The ball flew just wide but the Albion keeper had it covered.
Seconds later, the Brewers broke up the other end and Ismail found McGurk, but the striker’s shot from a tight angle was saved by ex-Albion keeper Artur Krysiak in the Grecians goal.
A long ball from Cansdell-Sherriff then threatened to carve the Exeter backline apart, but Pat Baldwin was able to clear after McGurk had beaten Krysiak to the ball on the edge of the box and lobbed it over him and towards goal.
On 10 minutes, the ball was in the Burton net after a corner, but referee Keith Hill immediately signalled a foul on Lyness in a ruck of players.
Albion put together their best move of the half on 19 minutes.
After Palmer had fallen on the ball on the edge of the area, McGurk showed great presence of mind to spread play out to Jimmy Phillips, in space on the left.
He beat veteran defender Danny Butterfield before crossing to Kee, whose downward header was deflected for a corner.
Burton’s final chance of the half fell to McGurk on 25 minutes, but he miscued a volley from Ismail’s centre and the ball sailed harmlessly over.
Two minutes later, John O’Flynn headed a Sercombe cross into the Albion net, but again the goal was disallowed, this time for offside.
Sercombe squandered a decent opportunity for Exeter on 38 minutes when he fired disappointingly wide from 12 yards after the visitors had broken through the tidy O’Flynn.
Sercombe then turned provider, lifting a ball over the back four for O’Flynn, but the striker shot over under pressure from Damien McCrory.
Half-time came and went and the match seemed to be going nowhere until a slice of misfortune for Sharps.
Sercombe, who was probably the best player on either side on the day, found O’Flynn in the area and the striker hammered a shot at goal.
Lyness did superbly to save it but could only push the ball out against the covering Sharps and back into the net.
It was reminiscent of one of Albion’s goals against Fleetwood at the same end a week earlier when the ball ricocheted in off Mark Roberts.
To go 1-0 down just after the break was a blow to the Brewers – but they responded and were level less than two minutes later.
Ismail got down the right and found McGurk with an accurate low centre. The striker got in ahead of Butterfield and diverted a neat finish across Krysiak from 16 yards and into the bottom corner.
It was another quality strike from the ex-Tranmere man, his ninth of the season in all competitions.
It was well-timed from McGurk, with Rowett lining up Knowles and Alexander to come on.
As it was, Alexander made it on for Kee and within seconds had a header saved by Krysiak. A tiring McGurk was then withdrawn.
On 67 minutes, Phil Edwards pulled off a brave block in the area as Aaron Davies prepared to finish Sercombe’s cross.
Scot Bennett then fired another dangerous Sercombe cross over from 12 yards – he should really have hit the target.
Shortly afterwards, Davies, who had been booked for a crude early chop on McGurk, was fortunate to stay on the pitch when he cynically tripped Ismail as the Albion man looked to go past him.
As the final 10 minutes began, Burton suffered a blow in their bid to win the game as Cansdell-Sherriff sustained what looked like an ankle injury.
With all their substitutes used, Rowett moved the Australian out of the firing line to the left wing and put McCrory to centre-half and Hussey to left-back.
With injury time under way, the final chance of a game short on goalmouth action fell to Davies, but his header from O’Flynn’s dinked cross was dealt with by Lyness.