BURTON Albion ended their recent mini-blip as Zeli Ismail fired an absolute cracker to beat Morecambe.
The 20-year-old winger scorched his first goal in senior football with 20 minutes left at the Globe Arena to end a run of three games without victory for the Brewers.
Albion had dominated a match played on a heavily sanded pitch, with driving winds coming in off the Irish Sea and battering the ground.
But despite their dominance, clear-cut chances had been at a premium, with Gary Alexander going closest in an impressive full debut before Ismail was introduced just after the hour.
It took the on-loan Wolves prospect less than 10 minutes to crash an unstoppable goal from just outside the box after ripping past two Morecambe defenders.
Burton then saw the game out without too many alarm bells for debutant goalkeeper Rob Lainton, taking a seventh away win of the season.
They also recorded a 15th clean sheet of the season, with 13 of them coming in the league.
It was vital that Albion got back to winning ways as soon as possible following their recent travails.
Since the 2-1 win over Cheltenham on January 11, there had been the disappointment of losing 4-1 in the FA Cup at Bournemouth, a tired 0-0 draw at Bury, the 4-2 home defeat to Fleetwood and a flat 1-1 draw with Exeter.
While it was hardly a disastrous spell and a far cry from their difficult September, it was important for Burton to stop the blip becoming a run.
Manager Gary Rowett had called for a return to what makes Albion tick – high-tempo, up-and-at-’em performances.
He got this in no small measure on Saturday, with the central midfield duo of Matty Palmer and Robbie Weir working their Morecambe counterparts out of the game.
Alexander looked useful up front and could provide the focal point the Brewers have missed at times this season.
Then when Ismail was introduced he proved too hot to handle and finished the job, sealing a ninth 1-0 win of the League Two campaign.
If the loan of the promising youngster is extended, a few more goals like that could be just the ticket to seal that top-seven place the club has fought so hard to achieve.
Rowett made three changes for the trip to Lancashire after the 1-1 draw with Exeter.
Lainton came in for his debut in goal in place of Dean Lyness after signing on loan from Bury. Lyness has been battling through a painful thigh injury in recent weeks and needs a break.
Alex MacDonald came in for Ismail on the right wing and Alexander replaced Billy Kee up front for his first start for the club since arriving on deadline day.
The big striker was involved early on in an incident which saw Morecambe left-back Robbie Threlfall come off dazed after 13 minutes.
There was some suggestion from an angry Shrimps bench that Alexander caught the defender with an elbow, but the challenge did not look over the top from the sidelines and there was little reaction from the players closest to the collision.
Lainton got a first touch on the quarter-hour and it was a bit of a wild punch which flew out for a throw-in.
Jack Redshaw then had the ball in the Albion net, but an offside flag was up against the striker.
On 20 minutes, Alexander was very unlucky not to open his Brewers account.
MacDonald played Phil Edwards in down the right with a tidy ball and the right-back found Alexander with an excellent low cross. His powerful shot was somehow touched up and just over the bar by Barry Roche.
Seconds later MacDonald forced Roche into a sprawling save to keep out his low shot.
Morecambe’s veteran midfielder Kevin Ellison then broke through the Albion offside trap with a surging run onto a long ball.
He tried to chip Lainton, but the keeper got a hand to it before flattening the ex-Rotherham man.
Adam McGurk had a header comfortably saved by Roche with half-time approaching before Palmer fired a free kick well over shortly after the restart following a foul on Weir.
Weir then almost got on the end of a MacDonald corner ‘special’ with a low volley but Roche was able to palm the ball away.
MacDonald robbed Tony Diagne, Morecambe’s substitute left-back, and played in McGurk but he fired over from 15 yards.
Ellison, who is always a danger with his runs into the box, headed a Jamie Devitt cross over before setting up the Shrimps’ best chance on 65 minutes.
His attempt at a through ball was blocked by Ian Sharps but the ball rebounded to Redshaw, who got a yard to the side of Damian McCrory in the box before hitting a shot which Lainton did well to save at his near top corner.
Albion then went and got the winner.
It was always the plan to introduce wide-men Ismail and Chris Hussey to freshen things up in the second half and Rowett did not have to wait long for the move to pay dividends.
Ismail got the ball from McGurk and nipped past Diagne before sizing up Ellison and taking the ball past him. He then lined up a shot from around 20 yards on his left foot and unleashed a shell of an effort across Roche and into the top corner.
Burton could have added a second minutes later when Palmer, who deserved a goal for his efforts, got the ball from Ismail and placed a shot across Roche from 22 yards. The keeper was a passenger as the ball kissed the outside of his left post and went wide.
Morecambe tried to throw everything at Albion, but the back four stood firm – with McCrory making one outstanding block from Stewart Drummond using his face, showing the kind of determination the Brewers have got – and will need in their remaining 17 games.