Burton Albion were five minutes away from another precious away victory until they were denied all three points by Carl McHugh's headed equaliser for Plymouth Argyle at Home Park. The Brewers had looked pretty much in control of affairs after Kevin Stewart had marked his debut, on loan from Liverpool, with a deflected goal in the first half.
With two crucial games over the Easter period manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink opted to make two changes to freshen his side up for the visit to Home Park to take on the promotion chasing Pilgrims. Loan deadline signings Kevin Stewart and Denny Johnstone were both handed debuts as Stuart Beavon and Nasser El Khayati dropped to the bench, clearly with one eye on Monday's clash with Wycombe Wanderers.
Burton took to the field in a 4-5-1 formation. Johnstone began as the lone front man with Stewart deployed on the left hand side of a midfield three, Adam McGurk dropping in to the left wing role.
After a bright start from the home side Albion won the first corner of the game with McGurk's delivery forcing Luke McCormick in the Plymouth goal to palm the ball away under pressure in the middle. The Brewers quickly worked the ball back across to McGurk and his low shot from the edge of the box was saved more comfortably by the home keeper.
Plymouth quickly burst upfield and their new loan signing Gethin Jones found space to drill a low shot towards the near post where Jon McLaughlin had to scramble the ball around the upright.
Albion were soon back on the attack and Lucas Akins sent a dipping volley just over before Albion were denied the opener from a superb piece of play. McGurk's slide rule pass picked out the run of Palmer into the box and just as he shaped to shoot home skipper Curtis Nelson got enough of a challenge in to send the ball out for a corner. Palmer curled the ball in and Shane Cansdell-Sherriff found space to thump a header on target only for Bobby Reid, stationed on the post, to head away the danger.
Plymouth put together a flowing move on 23 minutes but were probably guilty of over playing it as when the ball eventually came back to Reuben Reid inside the box he unusually scuffed his shot allowing the Albion defence to clear.
McLaughlin had to come racing to the edge of his area a minute later as a long clearance was allowed to bounce. There were shouts from the sidelines that the Albion keeper had handled just outside his box but neither the referee of his assistant, who was well placed, saw anything amiss.
Akins continued to look a threat down the right and his deep cross was met at the back post by the head of McGurk but although on target it lacked the power to seriously test McCormick.
Albion, it was though who took the lead on 32 minutes. The Brewers were patient in their build up and there looked to be not much on when the ball came to STEWART but the Liverpool youngster had a look up and hit a hopeful shot that looped up off a defender before landing beyond the despairing dive of McCormick and into the back of the net.
Referee Darren Sheldrake showed a yellow card to skipper John Mousinho shortly after play had restarted. It looked as though he might have been fouled as Reuben Reid challenged him for the ball but as he went to ground her brought Reid down as he looked to seize on the loose ball. The referee could have produced a red card as Mousinho was the last man but with Reid going away from goal he opted to just book him.
McLaughlin had a minor scare having to punch a free kick clear on the stroke of half time but half way through Albion were content with their first halfs work.
Half time: Plymouth Argyle 0-1 Burton Albion
A burst of pace from former Albion loanee Jason Banton won the home side an early corner when the game restarted but McLaughlin started the second half as he finished the first with a good punched clearance that allowed the Brewers to counter through McGurk.
Plymouth had a free kick in a dangerous area on 51 minutes as Phil Edwards was adjudged to have blocked his man off and it took a good block from McGurk beyond the back post to stop Lewis Allesandra's shot testing McLaughlin. As the Pilgrims maintained the pressure McGurk was penalised on the edge of his own box, near the bye line, for bundling his man over with Bobby Reid curling the free kick in for Reuben Reid to strike the outside of the post.
Once Plymouth had seen off the danger of a Burton corner on 59 minutes the Brewers made their first change. Debutant Johnstone looked like he was carrying a minor knock as he went off and the Brewers were able to call Beavon off the bench for the final half hour.
Five minutes later and Plymouth made a double change with Olly Lee and Zak Ansah sent on to try and conjure up an equaliser. They replaced Allesandra and Banton to pep up the home attack.
Beavon was working as hard as ever up front and did ever so well to leave Peter Hartley on the seat of his pants before driving into the box and seeing a deflected cross end up sasfely in the arms of McCormick.
Ryan Brunt was sent on as a final change for Argyle as Reuben Reid was replaced in a straight swap in attack.
Albion made their second change on 78 minutes with Matty Palmer, influential as ever in the midfield, replaced by George Taft who went to left back, Damien McCrory pushing forward to the left wing and McGurk moving into a more central role just behind Beavon.
A quick break almost led to a second for Albion on 81 minutes. Naylor broke up play and swapped passes with Beavon before looking up and spotting McCrory on the far side racing forwards. Picking out the pass the former Argyle man looked set to latch onto it but lost his footing at the vital moment allowing a defender to clear.
McGurk went down in some discomfort but was eventually able to continue after some treatment although he was quickly substituted by El Khayati.
With five minutes to go Argyle grabbed themselves an equaliser. A free kick was launched into the box after Beavon tugged back Tareig Holmes-Dennis and Albion got the first half of the job done by clearing at the expense of a corner. When the ball was returned into the centre it was defender Carl McHUGH who got there first to send the ball past McLaughlin.
At the end it was the home side pressing for a winner but the Brewers held firm for an important point on the road.