Burton Albion sit top of League 2 at the end of August after a fiery and bad tempered 2-1 victory against Mansfield Town at the One Call Stadium. The Brewers led thanks to goals in each half from Alex MacDonald and Callum McFadzean but were quickly pegged back by Matt Rhead's header with a quarter of an hour to play. Albion were up against it at the end as Robbie Weir received his marching orders for confronting Town midfielder Jamie McGuire after a clash between the two but despite being up against it the Brewers held out for a crucial three points.
After the heroics against QPR in the week Brewers boss Gary Rowett still opted to make three changes for the short trip to Field Mill. The back five unit remained unchanged with the expected changes coming further forward, Callum McFadzean coming back in on the right in place of Marcus Harness with Alex MacDonald switching to the left. Robbie Weir and John Mousinho, who both only played 45 minutes against the Hoops, joined up again in centre midfield as Matty Palmer dropped to the bench. In attack Stuart Beavon returned to side alongside Adam McGurk, the goal hero against QPR.
The early stages were somewhat scrappy as both sides tried to get to grips with a stiff breeze that favoured Albion for the first period. The hosts mustered the first shot on goal on eight minutes when the sought after Sam Clucas launched a shot from 20 yards out but his effort sailed well over the crossbar.
Mansfield also won the first corner on ten minutes and Albion were stretched when George Taft half cleared and a ball back into the box was flicked on by Ollie Palmer inviting Matt Rhead to challenge Jon McLaughlin but the Albion keeper got there first to clear with his feet.
The Stags continued to look more comfortable in the conditions and a raking crossfield ball picked out Lee Beevers who quickly nipped inside Taft before bursting into the penalty area before losing his composure and scooping the ball well over.
Burton came into the game more after a quarter of an hour and Beavon had the team's first real shot on goal when Taft's long throw fell to him but his shot on the turn was quickly closed down and blocked.
Albion did have the ball in the back of the net on 20 minutes but an assistant's flag denied them a goal. Adam McGurk was allowed to run at the home defence but an attempted exchange of passes inside the box with Beavon found the latter in an offside position before John Mousinho fired into the unguarded net.
The Brewers worked a good free kick routine on 24 minutes. Callum McFadzean's ball into the box looked too deep to have any effect but McGurk got up well to head back into the danger area before Alex MacDonald latched onto the ball on the edge of the box, his shot failing to trouble debutant keeper Dimitar Evtimov.
Clucas showed why several clubs have been taking an interesting in him with a mazy jinking run that took him from the touchline deep into the area before his final touch allowed Albion to crowd him out.
Mansfield almost profited from a lucky break on 28 minutes. There more than a hint of handball when Shane Cansdell-Sherriff's clearance cannoned back off Rhead into the path of Ollie Palmer but the striker was allowed to get into the box before Sharps came across and got a vital block to deflect the shot away for a corner.
McGurk attempted a curling shot from outside the box on 41 minutes after industrious work by McFadzean and Beavon around the edge but he failed to get enough curl on it to trouble the keeper.
A minute later and a rapid counter attack gave Albion the lead. McFadzean led a raid from inside his own half skipping past a couple of challenges. The Sheffield United loanee picked out the run of MacDONALD on the left and with acres of space to run into the winger cut inside onto his more favoured right foot and with the aid of a substantial deflection left Evtimov rooted to the spot as the ball bounced into the back of the net.
Mansfield tried to raise themselves to get level before the break and Phil Edwards needed to get in a block on Adam Murray's low shot and the resulting corner was comfortably claimed by McLaughlin to snuff out any remaining first half danger.
Half time: Mansfield Town 0-1 Burton Albion
With the wind at their backs Mansfield had Albion pegged back at the start of the second half and there was a scare for the Brewers defence on 49 minutes as a sloppily conceded corner was almost punished when Robbie Weir headed against the advancing Martin Riley who watched on as the ball bounced off him and just wide of the goal.
Stuart Beavon picked up the first yellow card of the game on 52 minutes. The Albion striker had been flattened to the ground moments before with referee Darren Drysdale taking no action but when Beavon jumped strongly into a challenge with Ritchie Sutton less than a minute later there was a flash of yellow as the referee decided this time to act.
Mansfield continued to look the livelier and Rob Taylor fired a left foot angled drive wide of the target before Adam Murray snatched at a half chance on the edge of the box minutes later sending the ball over the bar.
Rhead was inches away from an equaliser just after the hour mark had passed. Adam Murray floated in a tempting free kick and the burly striker rose highest to flick the ball just wide and into the side netting. Clucas quickly followed up with a chance as he burst through but his low shot was scuffed and dribbled wide of the post.
McLaughlin also picked up a yellow card when he remonstrated too strongly with referee Drysdale after seemingly being clattered by Rhead who watched as a looping header went just over.
A booking for Lee Beevers for a pull back on MacDonald gave McGurk chance to set his sights from a little further out than on Wednesday evening and it proved to be too far out as the striker curled the ball wide of the far post.
The Brewers had the rarity of a two goal cushion on 71 minutes. Callum McFadzean started the move, as he had done with the first goal, with a strong run from midfield. His ball across the box found McGurk who flicked it back into the middle. Robbie Weir was rushing to get into the box and although he was denied by a last ditch challenge the ball squirted out to his right where McFADZEAN had continued his run into the box for a simple finish inside the post.
The two goal advantage lasted less than five minutes. It came from a long ball into the box from a free kick from Murray and with McLaughlin committed to coming for it, RHEAD got up first and flicked it into the back of the net.
Stuart Beavon was withdrawn shortly afterwards in favour of Marcus Harness leaving McGurk as a lone striker. Burton still looked threatening and they were inches away from a third when MacDonald crashed a curling shot against the face of the crossbar.
Mayhem ensued in the last five minutes when referee Drysdale lost what control he had of the game in farcical circumstances. Jamie McGuire's robust challenge on Robbie Weir was over enthusiastic and should have been punished with a booking but escaped with nothing more than a free kick. The Albion midfielder was enraged by the challenge of the Mansfield man and got up before approaching his counterpart and when heads made contact the referee was quick to produce the red card for Weir retaliation.
It all resulted in seven minutes of added time. Prior to that Albion sent on Lee Bell for the remainder of the game to restore some strength to the centre of midfield.
The drama did not end there as Mr Drysdale capped a poor display by failing to take any action when Martin Riley seemed to strike Phil Edwards inside the six yard box after fouling McLaughlin. The referee decided soon after that he had had enough and blew his whistle to end a feisty and tempestuous affair.