Billy Kee's stoppage time equaliser earned Burton Albion a second round replay at the end of a hard fought tie against League 2 promotion rivals Fleetwood Town. The game had a goalless stalemate written all over it until Jeff Hughes rose to head home for the Cod Army on 83 minutes but with the last chance of the game, Kee, a substitute for Adam McGurk in the first half, turned onto a long throw to fire Albion level and take the tie back to the Pirelli Stadium a week on Tuesday.
For Albion's third visit of 2013 to Highbury Stadium manager Gary Rowett opted to make changes as the Brewers went in search of a place in the third round of the FA Cup for the second year running. Dominic Knowles returned to the bench as Rene Howe earned himself a recall after some impressive performances from the bench in recent weeks. Matty Palmer also found himself rested to the substitutes as Alex MacDonald returned to the side in a wide midfield role.
Although Fleetwood had most of the possession in the opening minutes it was Albion who roused themselves to create the first chance of the game in just the third minute. Lee Bell's ball forward was headed back into the path of Alex MacDonald by Rene Howe but the former Burnley man's rising shot went over the crossbar.
The first real opportunity for the home side came at the end of a good move in the seventh minute. Some patient build up play worked the ball to Matty Blair wide on the right and his curling cross was aimed for Jon Parkin in the centre but Ian Sharps did enough to ensure the ball ended up safely in the arms of Dean Lyness.
It signalled the start of a spell of pressure for the Cod Army and Lyness had to come to Albion's rescue on ten minutes when the Brewers struggled to clear their lines effectively from a corner and Conor McLaughlin's neat pass inside to Antoni Sarcevic opened up the chance for a curling shot that was destined for the top corner until the Albion man flung himself to his right to beat it away to safety.
Albion responded again with a brace of chances just before the quarter of an hour mark. Adam McGurk forced Scott Davies into a scrambling save with the rebound just eluding Alex MacDonald in the centre and when Albion won a corner moments later some neat interplay allowed MacDonald to drive the ball across goal where Chris Hussey somehow managed to blaze over with the goal at his mercy.
Both sides continued to look lively in attack with MacDonald seeing a rasping shot deflected for a corner before Fleetwood won a corner that ended with a low drive from outside the box flying over the bar. As the corner came in though Dean Lyness came to punch clear and seemed to sandwich his own man, Adam McGurk, between himself and Jon Parkin. The Brewers striker stayed down and after lengthy treatment left the field on a stretcher with his head in a brace to be replaced immediately by Billy Kee.
Albion looked bright from the restart and after a spell of good pressure they looked closest to breaking the deadlock. A superb teasing cross from Hussey evaded three of his own team mates by only inches in the centre and from probably a better position Rene Howe seemed to have the defence fatally backing off but rather than shoot he opted to try and find Kee giving the home side the chance to clear.
Jon Parkin was proving to be more than a handful for the hosts and he managed to find a yard of space on Ian Sharps to turn and hit a low shot wide and another effort was similarly off target as the half drew towards the end.
With the half into five minutes of added time due to the injury to McGurk, Phil Edwards was able to cut in from the right hand side and lash in a low left foot shot that was blocked by a desperately diving defender on the edge of his own six yard box.
Half time: Fleetwood Town 0-0 Burton Albion
Albion came flying out of the traps at the start of the second period and could have been ahead after just twenty seconds. Kee controlled Edwards long ball forward and a sliderule pass into Howe gave him the chance to set his sights. His low twenty yard shot was arrowing towards the bottom corner of the net until Davies flung himself low to his right to push it out with the aid of the post.
With the game becoming scrappy as the second half progressed chances were few and far between but both Howe and Kee saw chances from the edge of the box blocked as defences continued to pe the prevalent force in the match.
Robbie Weir's lung bursting run on 63 minutes threatened to brighten up the half as he nicked possession in his own half before surging through and unleashing a shot from 30 yards out that was always rising and never really threatening the goal. It immediately sparked Fleetwood into action and a similar run from Gareth Evans ended with a spectacular shot from 30 yards that had Lyness beaten all ends up but which cannoned back out off the post.
Chris Hussey squandered another good chance for Albion on 68 minutes when a hanging cross from MacDonald came to him with more time than he realised and he disappointingly scuffed his effort wide without even troubling the keeper.
Burton made a double change on 73 minutes with attack definnitely the intention. Jimmy Phillips took over from Alex MacDonald on the wing and there was a straight swap in attack where Dominic Knowles replaced Rene Howe.
Fleetwood saved their first change until the 76th minute and it was Junior Brown, the man who helped turn the earlier League fixture between the two sides, who made his entrance as a replacement for Antoni Sarcevic.
Brown certainly helped get FLeetwood going forwards and it was from his corner that the home side took the lead in the 82nd minute. Jeff HUGHES had stung the palms of Lyness with a thundering low drive and from the resulting corner it was the former Notts County man who got his head onto the ball to guide it through a crowd of players and beyond Lyness' attempts to keep it out.
Billy Kee fired a dipping shot straight down the throat of Davies as time began to run out for Gary Rowett's men and with the game in added time Ian Sharps stayed in an advanced position to bring the ball down and fire in a shot that was blocked.
With the game in the final minute of added time Albion grabbed a deserved equaliser. Phil Edwards hurled in a long throw which was excellently brought down by Billy KEE. The striker had little room to work in but he turned superbly to squeeze the ball inside Davies left hand upright to earn Albion a replay.