Zeli Ismail's first goal in a Burton Albion shirt secured a first away victory of 2014 as the Brewers battled to a 1-0 win over Morecambe at the Globe Arena. Previously an unhappy hunting ground in League 2, Albion probably just about deserved the three points as they battled a very heavy pitch, wet and windy conditions and a resilient and doughty Shrimps side. It had looked like being a familiar story as Albion pressed and pressed, creating chances without being able to finish them but when it came the winner was a moment of individual brilliance. Ismail picked up the ball on the right hand side of the area and cut inside to the edge of the box before drilling a low bullet of a shot that left Morecambe keeper Barry Roche rooted to the spot as it flew into the back of the net.
With Dean Lyness struggling with a leg injury new loan signing Rob Lainton was handed an instant debut for the Brewers. The goalkeeper signed on loan from League 2 rivals Bury had been training with the team ahead of his move and took his place behind an unchanged back four, Shane Cansdell-Sherriff recovering from an ankle injury that hampered him at the end of last week's game against Exeter City. Gary Alexander was handed a full debut in attack as he replaced Billy Kee partnering Adam McGurk and there was also a return to the side for Alex MacDonald who came in for Zeli Ismail on the right hand side of midfield.
The conditions prior to kick-off gave a strong indication that this was not going to be a game for the purist with a large portion of the pitch in front of the main stand kept under cover for as long as possible prior to the game and other areas very heavily sanded.
Morecambe took the early initiative but it was Albion who forced the first save from either keeper, Adam McGurk firing a low deflected effort into the body of Barry Roche after picking up Alexander's lay-off from a long throw. The wind in particular was making accurate passing and crossing difficult but Morecambe were thankful to left back Robbie Threlfall for being in the right place to head Jimmy Phillips' teasing cross off the line as Albion continued to probe for the early breakthrough. Threlfall was in the thick of it again on ten minutes as he and Alexander challenged for an aerial ball. Both players only had eyes on the ball but the Morecambe man came off worse and left the pitch still somewhat dazed. Unable to continue he was replaced two minutes later by Tony Diagne.
Lainton made his first contribution coming to punch the ball clear as it swirled on the wind and he was actually beaten by a shot from Jack Redshaw on the quarter of an hour mark but the flag of the assistant ruled out the effort for offside.
Burton were only inches away from the first goal themselves on 19 minutes following a lovely move down the right. Alex MacDonald played in Phil Edwards on the overlap and his low cross was met with a firm low shot by Alexander. The ball looked destined for the back of the net until Roche got down and somehow got just enough onto the shot to deflect it onto the roof of the net as it looped up off his body. Roche also had to go down low to his right to push out a shot from MacDonald as the Brewers kept up the pressure but it remained scoreless. Lainton then had to use all of his 6 ft 4in frame to deny Kevin Ellison as he broke onto a ball over the top, the new keeper spreading himself well to deflect the ball wide for a corner.
It was the Brewers doing most of the attacking, particularly down the flanks where Phillips was seeing plenty of the ball. Morecambe were going more for a direct route, Ellison trying a thirty yard effort that Lainton had to get right behind and safely gather in.
Albion had one late chance in first half stoppage time when Palmer swung in a cross that McGurk headed towards goal. It should have been a routine claim for Roche but he made a meal of it and needed to snatch it at the second attempt as Alexander tried to pounce.
Half time: Morecambe 0-0 Burton Albion
An early free kick opportunity came Albion's way just two minutes into the second period when Robbie Weir was unfairly bundled off the ball but after carefully placing the ball Matty Palmer disappointed with his final delivery curling the ball well wide of the target from 25 yards.
A corner kick on 51 minutes gave the Brewers another chance to press home their advantage and this time Robbie Weir was his low shot bounce up only to be headed clear by Ellison watching the post.
MacDonald took aim with a long ranger that was blocked on route to goal and the combative winger seized on a poor piece of defending to rob Diagne and race forwards playing a neat pass into the path of McGurk who watched in horror as the ball bobbled as he hit it forcing him to balloon his shot well off target.
MacDonald battled hard to win Albion another corner on 61 minutes but it was his final action before Rowett made a double change to inject fresh legs on the wings. Chris Hussey replaced MacDonald and Zeli Ismail came on for Phillips on the opposite flank. The next chance of the game, however, fell for the home side and after some neat interplay between substitute Jack Sampson and Jamie Devitt, the latter swung in a teasing cross to the far post that seemed to reach Ellison before he was ready for it as he headed over the bar from a good position.
Ellison was soon involved again as he provided Jack Redshaw with a chance to wriggle into space inside the box before forcing Lainton to save at his near post with a rising drive.
Burton's third change came with twenty minutes to go and it was an attacking change again as Billy Kee was given time to try and find a goal with Alexander the man making way. Kee had only been on the pitch for seconds when he helped a ball into the path of McGurk who in turn fed ISMAIL. The Wolves man looked to have cut inside the wrong way, taking himself away from goal but a thunderous shot left everybody rooted as it flew into the bottom corner of the net.
Morecambe sent on Padraig Amond with a little over ten minutes to play but it was Albion who went closest to extending their lead as Palmer fired on goal and with Roche beaten he watched as his shot clipped the outside of the post.
Hussey was beginning to see plenty of the ball on the opposite flank and Roche twice had to smother low driven attempts from the former Coventry man. Morecambe came back again at the Brewers and tricky striker Redshaw almost conjured up an equaliser when he forced Sharps into a hurried clearance and full back Shaun Beeley drove through a packed penalty area with the ball evading everyone on its way through to the safety of a Burton goal kick.
As the game ran into stoppage time a superb block by Damien McCrory prevented Stewart Drummond's piledriver from testing Lainton but it was the last test for Albion on a day when their battling abilities came to the fore to get back to winning ways.