Burton Albion are through to the second round of this season after a 2-0 victory over Skrill Premier side Hereford United. Goals in each half from Adam McGurk and Matty Palmer, his first senior goal, saw off Martin Foyle's side who belied their lowly position in the league to give Albion a test that made sure they were on their mettle although Dean Lyness in the Burton goal was rarely extended.
Manager Gary Rowett made three changes to the side that slipped to a disappointing league defeat last weekend against Morecambe. With Jordan Pickford temporarily recalled to parent club Sunderland, Lyness returned in goal. Shane Cansdell-Sherriff served his one match suspension meaning a recall for Zander Diiamond whilst Lee Bell also returned to the side at the expense of Jimmy Phillips, Palmer moving out to the right hand side of midfield.
Burton were all over the visitors from the start with Chris Hussey seeing a teasing free kick headed clear by Rod McDonald. The home side continued to press in the early stages and a sweeping move saw Albion hit the bar through an overhead kick from Phil Edwards and Hereford desperately scrambling the ball clear under intense pressure.
Hereford eventually broke free of their defensive shackles to earn a free kick just outside the Burton area. Robbie Weir was harshly punished for what look like a clean challenge on Dan Walker and Frankie Artus' left foot delivery was headed wide of the target by McDonald.
Adam McGurk had an opening on the quarter of an hour mark as the ball bounced kindly for the forward who had to wait an age for the ball to come down out of the sky and by the time he had made the opportunity to try and lob the keeper, Rhys Evans had advanced far enough out to get a block in to keep out his effort.
Albion went into something of a sloppy period as the half wore on and Hereford grew in confidence as they saw more of the possession and in good areas too. Damien McCrory had to make two excellent headed clearances as Hereford pumped dangerous balls into the box but Dean Lyness was still relatively untroubled.
Burton had their best chance yet on 36 minutes as a sliderule pass from Matty Palmer found Billy Kee in the box. He was able to turn back inside and although Zander Diamond missed the original ball in Adam McGurk skied a relatively easy chance. A minute later and Burton had the lead that their pressure had deserved. Chris Hussey won a corner on the left and then drilled in a low corner that McGURK fired into the top corner at the near post. A move that Burton fans have become used to seeing following similar goals at Fleetwood and Wimbledon this season.
Robbie Weir was close to a second shortly after but his driven effort careered off Frankie Artus and the wrong side of the post. McGurk was then close to his second as good foraging in the box by Zander Diamond presented him with a chance that he fired into the side netting.
Hereford pressed again as half time approached but Burton's defence did not let anything slip as Albion went in at the break one in front but with the game far from won.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-0 Hereford United
The Bulls were forced into a half time change. Goalkeeper Rhys Evans had received treatment during the first half and failed to reappear for the second period with Daniel Lloyd-Weston coming on to replace him.
The first seriosu test for the new keeper was a low drilled effort from Damien McCrory on 53 minutes. Albion waited to try and create a clear opening but it failed to come and as the ball bounced back out to the edge of the area the left back tried his luck.
Frankie Artus drilled a low shot through a crowd of players with Lyness doing well to get behind the ball and save and as the pace of the game suddenly intensified Matty Palmer found himself free on the right side of the penalty area.
On the hour mark Hereford made their other two substitutions with Jonathan Brown and Sam Smith coming on to try and conjure up an equaliser. Brown quickly got himself involved and sent in a teasing cross from the left hand side of the penalty area that just needed Michael Rankine to throw himself at it at the far post but fortunately for Albion the ball dropped just wide of the upright.
Adam McGurk and Robbie Weir both found themselves in the book as the half wore on and Frankie Artus was also yellow carded as the game became somewhat scrappy. McGurk played a neat backheel that was intended for Billy Kee but all it did was prompt a swift Hereford counter attack that resulted in Brown heading Rankine's cross well over the bar.
Artus had home hearts racing with a thunderous shot that flew wide from twenty five yards with Lyness scrambling across his line.
Albion's first change came on 76 minutes and it was something of a surprise when Chris Hussey was replaced by Jimmy Phillips. McGurk was close to a second with a deflected effort that had the keeper stranded before Hereford won a corner and full back Daniel Leadbitter wastefully lashed a low shot from the edge of the area wide.
With eight minutes to go it was time for a second Burton change and Dominic Knowles was introduced for Billy Kee. Two minutes later and Albion had their second goal of the afternoon. The hard working McGurk found Palmer and he was able to advance forward before hitting a left foot shot that flew perfectly beyond Lloyd-Weston and nestled in the back of the net from twenty yards out.
It was enough to eventually extinguish Hereford's cup spirit although when Dean Lyness came for a ball into the box and got crowded out there was an opportunity to put the loose ball into the Burton net but once again the ball fell wide of the post with nobody in white able to convert.
There was to be no tense finale this time around as Albion booked their passage into the second round and an away trip to fellow League 2 promotion hopefuls Fleetwood Town.