A disappointing night at the Pirelli saw Burton Albion surrender their 100% home league record as Cambridge United unsettled the Brewers and went back home with all three points courtesy of a 3-1 win. Tom Elliott bagged a brace and midfielder Ryan Donaldson grabbed the goals as Albion's usually reliable defence at home crumbled gaving previously only conceded one goal all season at home in the League. Lucas Akins grabbed a late consolation but the U's put their three game losing streak behind them to dent Albion's chances of going clear at the top.
Whilst Cambridge wrestled with injury problems affecting their midfield Albion had the luxury of naming an unchanged team and bench in their ultimately unsuccessful search for a sixth successive league win at home.
Although it was the Burton boss Gary Rowett who asked for a high tempo start from his side it was the visitors who had a chance to grab the lead inside the opening minute. Liam Hughes raided quickly down the right and curled over a cross that found Tom Elliott with a free header that fortunately for Jon McLaughlin was straight at him.
The medical team were quickly into action when Robbie Simpson caught Stuart Beavon with a stray elbow drawing blood from the head of the Albion striker and while was receiving treatment on the touchline Callum McFadzean went down with what looked like a knock to his ankle and although Beavon was able to return to the fray McFadzean limped off to be replaced by George Taft with less than six minutes on the clock.
Burton eventually burst forward and a deflected shot from MacDonald looped up and just over the bar.
For a side supposedly short on midfield options Cambridge were knocking the ball around with plenty of confidence with Albion trying to close down and deprive them of space. Albion began to settle and Adam McGurk had a right foot snap shot go just wide of the post with Chris Dunn beaten.
McGurk was only inches away from connecting with a low ball in from Lucas Akins on nineteen minutes. The summer recruit from Stevenage made space for a left foot shot and somewhat scuffed his effort with McGurk almost getting there before Dunn to make more of it.
Albion were getting into their stride now and a superb dinked pass from Robbie Weir picked out his fellow Irishman moments later. His first touch, however, was just a little heavy allowing Dunn to come out and smother at his feet.
Beavon tested Dunn with a low effort before Akins tricked his way into the area before fizzing a deflected shot inches over the crossbar.
After such a good spell of pressure it was something of a sucker punch when Cambridge took the lead on 35 minutes. Dunk, busy and lively down the left, dug out a decent cross into the middle and Tom ELLIOTT made the most of it throwing himself at the ball to divert a header beyond McLaughlin despite the keeper getting a hand to the ball.
Alex MacDonald picked up a booking for a foul on Donaldson which looked harsh given that the Albion man appeared to win the ball inside the centre circle and as the Brewers went in search of an equaliser before the break Weir's looping header dropped wide of the post.
MacDonald had a few hearts in mouths moments later with another challenge that failed to make contact with either man or ball but referee Mick Russell felt the need to have a calming word with the Albion midfielder, conscious that he had booked him shortly before.
Referee Russell then seemed to lose control as the half drew to a close. A terrible challenge right on John Mousinho right under his nose went unpunished with things compounded when Phil Edwards was carded for an innocuous challenge and Mousinho also shown a yellow card for his reaction to being fouled.
A chorus of boos greeted the half time whistle but they were most definitely aimed at the official rather than a Brewers side in need of something after the break to preserve their unbeaten home start.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-1 Cambridge United
On a booking from the first half, MacDonald failed to reappear for the second period with Jacob Blyth the man sent on to pep up the Brewers attack with McGurk switching to the left.
Elliott rattled a shot wide of the post as Cambridge went in search of a second but it was Albion almost camping themselves in the Cambridge half. Dunn had to fling himself to his left to push away a well guided header from McGurk as the visitors defence began to get stretched and Blyth was only inches away from finding the bottom corner as Beavon slid a superb pass through the defence for him.
Just as in the first half Albion were hit by a sucker punch. After weathering the Burton storm Cambridge finally managed to get out of their own half and into the Burton penalty area. A kind break of the ball gave Dunk the opportunity to look up and slide the ball across the six yard box for DONALDSON to tap home.
Albion threw Marcus Harness on in the hope of finding a spark for a fightback but within three minutes the Brewers found themselves three down. McLaughlin had made a smart stop to deny Kwesi Appiah just inside the box but the Crystal Palace loanee quickly turned provider moments later with a neat pass inside Shane Cansdell-Sherriff to allow ELLIOTT to whip a low shot beyond the keeper.
Taft swung in a decent cross from the left for Phil Edwards to steer a header well wide as it looked like it just wasnt going to be Albion's night. Lucas AKINS grabbed a goal after good work on the edge of the box from Beavon and when the ball came to Akins he made room for a shot that squirmed in at the keeper's near post.
McLaughlin denied Elliott his hat trick with a good stop from a close range header and at the other end Harness forced Dunn to save low to his left from a low shot.
Albion kept going to the end with plenty of late pressure but all to no avail as a bad night at the office drew to a close with both players and fans bitterly disappointed at the outcome.