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14:50 29th December 2009

Brewers Put Boot into Cobblers

Another Saturday afternoon thriller at the Pirelli Stadium and another three League 2 points in the bank but this was far from a straightforward victory. Any latecomers to the Brewers latest Football League encounter risked missing Albion take an astonishing 3-0 lead inside the first eleven minutes. Shaun Harrad was on target with barely 100 seconds of the game gone and two goals from Michael Simpson shortly after Albion the perfect start. Having been booed off at half time, Stuart Grays Northampton side came out all guns blazing and made for a tense finish with two second half goals with Albion hanging on at the end to take the win.

Team selection was easy for Paul Peschisolido ahead of the game following the impressive away win at Llincoln City last weekend. No injuries meant that an unchanged squad was in order looking for back to back wins and clean sheets for the first time as a Football League club.

Stoke City loanee Ben Marshall whistled a shot past Artur Krysiaks post within forty seconds of the start but Albion got a dream start as Cobblers goalkeeper Chris Dunn had a nightmare. The young keeper miscontrolled a backpass from former Arsenal protg Paul Rodgers and Shaun Harrad was on him in a flash to nick the ball away and roll the ball into the empty net for his 50th goal in a Brewers shirt with less than two minutes on the clock.

Dunn was wishing the ground would open up and swallow him up in the seventh minute when he allowed Albion to grab a quickfire second. The defence failed to completely clear a cross from Jimmy Phillips and although Michael Simpson didnt get the best of contacts on his shot, it was enough to squirm through the keeper and into the goal.

There was no doubting the quality of Simpsons third in the eleventh minute as Albion again exposed a brittle Northampton defence. Phillips again swung over a teasing cross and Harrad laid the ball into the path of the former Leyton Orient man who drilled a rising 18 yard shot in off the underside of the crossbar.

Harrad was almost through on goal in the 23rd minute from a defence splitting pass from John McGrath but he was crowded out on the edge of the box by two Northampton defenders before he could get his shot away.

There was no let up in Albions attacking intent and Phillips had Dunn casting anxious glances towards his post as another shot flew just wide of the post in the 33rd minute.

The first real threat from the Cobblers came in the 39th minute but giant Polish goalkeeper enhanced his burgeoning reputation with a fine stop. Luke Boden, signed yesterday from Sheffield Wednesday threaded a ball through to Steve Guinan but from the edge of the area he cold not beat the 6 4 stopper.

It was that bad for Northampton that before the half time whistle had been blown manager Stuart Gray had made two tactical changes with skipper Craig Hinton and full back Rodgers both withdrawn and not looking happy to be taken off.

Northampton made a brighter start to the second period and Guinan wasted a gilt edged chance to get the Cobblers back into the game in the 50th minute but picking up McKays knock down he got his feet in a tangle and allowed Krysiak to claim comfortably.

McKay swung a boot at a loose ball in the 52nd minute but Krysiak was perfectly positioned to catch again as the visitors cranked up the pressure.

Paul Boertien picked up the first yellow card of the game in the 54th minute as he brought down substitute Gary Mulligan on the edge of the box but the Albion defence held firm from the resulting free kick.

With the visitors pushing forward Albion were looking for opportunities on the break and they really should have made it four in the 57th minute from a set piece. John McGraths free kick was headed on by Ryan Austin but Shaun Harrad blazed a first time shot from eight yards over the bar.

Albion made their first change in the 63rd minute. The hard working Greg Pearson was withdrawn and Russell Penn introduced to sit just behind Shaun Harrad in more of a 4-4-1-1 formation.

Northampton began to lose their discipline and both Abdul Osman and Ben Marshall found their way into referee Shoebridges notebook for cynical fouls on Harrad and Jimmy Phillips.

Northampton got themselves a lifeline in the 71st minute. Krysiak made a fine save from Luke Boden but the ball fell loose to Guinan who had the easy task of applying the finishing touch from inside the six yard box.

The game was set up for a barnstorming last ten minutes when Ryan Gilligan scored from the penalty spot. As the ball bounced around in the Albion penalty area, Guy Branston stuck out a leg and brought down Billy McKay giving his teammate the chance to reduce arrears further.

Harrad whistled a curling free kick just wide of the target in the closing stages and Albion hearts were in their mouths in stoppage time when Guinan latched onto a ball in the crowded Albion penalty area but the experienced striker dragged his shot wide of the post.

Albion man of the match: Michael Simpson Back in tandem with John McGrath, Albions midfield looks in safe hands and popped up with two important goals against the Cobblers.

    Data provided by Press Association


    Burton Albion moved into the £7million Pirelli Stadium in 2005