Burton Albion secured their first home win of the season thanks to goals from Justin Richards and Calvin Zola as struggling Plymouth Argyle were put to the sword at the Pirelli Stadium. Richards opened the scoring in first half stoppage time with a well taken goal to make it three in as many matches and Zola scrambled home a second to give the Brewers breathing space with a little over half an hour to go. Home nerves were jangling at the end though as on loan midfielder Will Atkinson netted from close range in stoppage time at the end of the game.
After impressing in the Johnstones Paint Trophy defeat against Sheffield United on Tuesday Jimmy Phillips maintained his place in the side at thre expense of Chris Palmer who dropped to the bench. Adam Bolder returned to the midfield after serving his one match suspension and he was paired back with John McGrath in the heart of Albion's midfield.
The Brewers were first to threaten in the early minutes as John McGrath was given chance to flight in a free kick from 20 yards out but the skipper put the ball too near to keeper Jake Cole who collected comfortably. Albion threatened again on fuve minutes when good work from Phillips resulted in a low cross that neither Zola or Richards could get on the end of.
Plymouth began to settle down and they pushed forward with former Wales inernational Carl Fletcher forcing Ross Atkins into a save with the game just ten minutes old.
Phillips tried to open his account for the season shortly after after a mazy run from the wing brought him into a central position, a low shot forcing a good save from Cole who had to push the ball wide of his post.
Burton were gradually turning up the pressure on the Plymouth defence and there were half hearted shouts for a penalty when Jacques Maghoma went down in the box. The winger to his credit got straight to his feet and carried on but the Brewers were unable to capitalise as Calvin Zola was crowded out.
Tom Hitchcock followed his team mate Durrrell Berry into the referee's book after a late challenge on Adam Bolder. The Albion midfielder was perhaps lucky to escape punishment as well for a heated reaction to the tackle.
Albion had the ball in the back of the net in the 28th minute but an assistant's flag ruled out the goal. A poor pass in midfield allowed Calvin Zola to eventually break free from the mauling arms of Fletcher and when he laid the ball off for McGrath he then found Richards down the right. The striker looked up and picked out his partner at the back post but Zola had unfortunately strayed offside.
Cole came to the rescue of the visitors in the 38th minute as Albion went the closest yet to opening the scoring. Adam Bolder's angled free kick found Ryan Austin on the edge of the area. He guided a header back inside the area for Calvin Zola who flicked the ball towards goal. The ball looked to be looping over the former Barnet keeper but he stretched and got a vital touch on the ball to keep it out.
Plymouth almost grabbed the lead with two chances late in the half. Former Norwich winger Luke Daley was denied by Ross Atkins from a low shot and thenTom Hitchcock lacked the composure to put a shot on target when he was excellently picked out by Ladjie Soukouna with an angled pass.
Albion finally made the breakthrough in the first minute of stoppage time. A ball out from deep by Aaron Webster was flicked on by Zola and as the Plymouth defence looked vainly for an offside flag to go up, Justin RICHARDS exploited the space on offer to flick the ball over his head and that of Simon King to run on to it again before smashing a shot past the defenceless Cole.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-0 Plymouth Argyle
Plymouth came out in determined mood at the start of the second half but a couple of early corners were dealt with by the Albion defence.
The Brewers responded by going close themselves with Zola climbing higher that Cole but not being able to convert and the tall striker flicked another chance on at the near post with nobody gambling at the back post to double the Brewers lead.
It was not to prove a key opportunity missed as Albion got their second goal on 57 minutes. Aaron Webster's long throw into the penalty area caused panic and confusion in the Plymouth six yard box and ZOLA, having put off keeper Cole with his original leap, latched onto the loose ball to slam home Albion's second.
Plymouth almost grabbed a goal for themselves moments after going two behind. A swift move ended with full back Durell Berry receiving the ball just inside the area but his ferocious shot had too much power and crashed back down off the underside of the crossbar.
Zola responded by thrashing a shot of his own against the crossbar on 66 minutes. Richards sent his partner away with a good pass from his own half and the former Crewe frontman teased Simon Walton on the edge of his own area before cutting inside and curling a superb effort that looked destined for the top corner before smashing the face of the crossbar.
Plymouth made a double change with 20 minutes to go with the dangerous Berry replaced at full back by Jamie Griffiths and young striker Mathew Lecointe introduced for Hitchcock. Experienced defender Simon King was also substituted shortly after, replaced by Ben Gibson.
The changes initially injected some life into the visitors but a raking shot from Jacques Maghoma put Albion back in the ascendency. It was the last significant action for the former Tottenham midfielder who was replaced by Chris Palmer for the final ten minutes. With five minutes to go there was also a late appearance for Adi Yussuf in place of goalscorer Justin Richards,
Ross Atkins had to come to his side's rescue as a quickly taken free kick caught Albion napping but the on loan stopper did well to deny Luke Daley a late goal for the Pilgrims.
There was a tense end to the game as Plymouth finally got themselves on the scoresheet as the game ticked into stoppage time. The Pilgrims worked the ball to Soukouna in the left channel and the young Frenchman delivered a perfect cross for on loan midfielder Will ATKINSON to net Argyle's first goal for over 400 minutes. It was not enough though to deny Albion the points they richly deserved for a first home win of the season.
ALBION: Atkins; Corbett, James, Austin, Webster; Phillips, Bolder, McGrath, Maghoma; Richards, Zola. Substitutes: Poole, Moore, Palmer, Yussuf, Blanchett.
ARGYLE: Cole, Berry, Williams, Fletcher, King, Nelson, Daley, Walton, Hitchcock, Soukouna, Atkinson. Substitutes: Larrieu, Young, Gibson, Griffiths, Lecointe.
GOALS: Albion - Richards (45+1), Zola (57); Argyle - Atkinson (90+1)