Burton Albion are back on top of League 2 after a first away win since November saw Cheltenham Town put to the sword by clinical finishes from Stuart Beavon, Adam McGurk and Phil Edwards. 3-0 up inside 50 minutes Albion briefly let the Robins back into the game via debutant Wes Burns' smart finish but Paul Buckle's new look Town side were no match for the Brewers.
Beavon fired home his fifth of the season when Darragh Lenihan's shot was only half blocked and McGurk doubled Albion's lead nipping in between two defenders to head home. Edwards had the Brewers three up after just 49 minutes when he was left totally unmarked to head home McGurk's left wing corner.
After the battling 1-0 victory over fellow promotion chasers Bury last weekend Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, perhaps unsurprisingly, opted to go with the same starting line-up for the tricky looking away game at Whaddon Road. The Robins began the day just two points above the League 2 relegation zone and went into the game having made a string of new signings in an attempt to pull themselves clear of trouble, all new signings keen to impress their new boss.
Ivan Calero began his Burton loan spell on the bench replacing Ian Sharps amongst the substitutes, the remaining substitutes were also unchanged from the victory over the Shakers.
It took quite some time for the game to ignite as both sides probed and looked for some fluency on a tricky surface. Jordan Wynter, one of the five new signings for Paul Buckle's side had the first real effort on goal. After getting the better of skipper John Mousinho on the left touch touchline the former Bristol City youngster cut inside but his low shot was always comfortable for Jon McLaughlin inside his six yard box. That effort took thirteen minutes to come and within a minute Darragh Lenihan was lashing a volley well wide as it dropped just on the edge of the box.
Albion broke the monotony of the first half with a goal on 21 minutes. With Adam McGurk and Lucas Akins having swapped wings early on it was McGurk who cut inside from the right and picked out Akins lurking out on the left. Finding himself crowded out he threaded a ball into the centre where Jacob Blyth found Lenihan just outside the box. The midfielder's raking shot was blocked but fell invitingly for BEAVON who sent a left foot shot arcing into the net out of the reach of Trevor Carson.
Cheltenham won a flurry of corners around the half hour mark when Mathieu Manset harried Mousinho into putting the ball behind but after a couple of scares Robbie Weir rose highest in the box to head clear to clear Albion lines. The Irishman was guilty of dwelling on the ball moments later allowing Wynter to steal possession but his ball out to Denny Johnstone on the left was quickly blocked as the young striker shaped to shoot.
Albion went two up on 36 minutes. Akins sent in a cross from the right, Blyth got an important flick on and as the Cheltenham defence pondered inside the box McGURK stole in to head over Carson and into the roof of the net.
Troy Brown finished the first half by picking up the first yellow card of the game when he felled Blyth after the striker had nicked the ball away from him near the touchline. McGurk took the resulting free kick but as soon as the ball had been cleared referee Jeremy Simpson brought the first half to a close. A forty five minute spell that had hardly been rich in terms of the quality of football but Albion's finishing had been of the highest order.
Half time: Cheltenham Town 0-2 Burton Albion
Clearly in need of something to change for them Cheltenham Town made two changes at the start of the second half. Jake Gray replaced Matt Richards on the left hand side of midfield and Eliot Richards was introduced in place of Manset to try and pep up the Robins attack. An early free kick picked out skipper Matt Taylor inside the six yard but he headed wide when he really should have found the back of the net although an offside flag would have ruled it out had he successfully beaten McLaughlin.
Ruthless Albion went up the other end and increased their lead on 49 minutes. A swift break won a corner and when McGurk swept in a left foot outswinger Phil EDWARDS was granted the freedom of the penalty area by some woeful Cheltenham defending to thump home a header and put Albion in complete control.
The home side roused themselves and got themselves back into it on 56 minutes through one of their debutants. A through ball caught Albion out and drifting in from the right, Wes BURNS got there first to drill a rising shot beyond McLaughlin.
Suddenly Cheltenham had the wind in their sails and there was mild panic at the back for Burton when substitute Grey dinked a delightful ball towards the back post that McLaughlin managed to palm clear but when the ball was returned to the middle it was all hands on deck until Taylor scooped a close range shot over to relieve the pressure.
Albion were inches away from a fourth on 65 minutes. A superb counter attack found Akins latching onto a sliderule pass from Lenihan but Carson did superbly well to come out and stop the Burton man from getting a clean shot away. The Robins stopper was then scrambling across his goal when Beavon let fly a minute later, his shot flying wide of the far post.
Cheltenham made their third change on 77 minutes with Liverpool loanee Lloyd Jones replacing fellow centre back Troy Brown.
Edwards went close to doubling his tally with a similar header on 78 minutes. Although the marking was better this time from the home defence they could not stop Albion's right back connecting with another header, this time Carson making a save on his goal line.
Weir collected a yellow card on 79 minutes when he slid in on Burns as he delivered a cross from the right but Albion were able to clear the danger from the resulting free kick to douse any late threats of a Cheltenham comeback.
Albion got their first glimpse of new signing Nasser El Khayati when he replaced Beavon for the last eight minutes of the game. He was followed inside the lasdt five minutes by Ivan Calero who came on for McGurk.
An otherwise excellent afternoon for the Brewers ended on something of a disappointing note with Blyth pulling up abruptly as he chased a long ball from El Khayati and went down clutching his thigh. It took some time for the ball to eventually go out and the Leicester loanee was stretchered off to be replaced by Tom Naylor for the closing moments of stoppage time.
When the final whistle sounded moments later it heralded Albion returning to the top of League 2 after a good day at the office, both in terms of Albion's result and other results in League 2 favouring the Brewers.