Burton Albion produced another sparking cup performance to enhance their growing reputation as they dumped Championship promotion chasers Wigan Athletic out of the Capital One Cup. After going a goal behind to a quality finish from Marc-Antoine Fortune the Brewers showed all their powers of resilience and determination to equalise on the stroke of half time through substitute Dominic Knowles and take the game to Wigan after the break with Stuart Beavon notching his first goal in Albion colours seven minutes after the break.
The Brewers were never fazed by their higher ranked opposition and if the quality of some of their football can be replicated over their league campaign then this has all the makings of an exciting campaign for all those involved with the club.
Shane Cansdell-Sherriff and Adam McGurk came in for their first starts of the season as Callum McFadzean and Dominic Knowles dropped to the bench. George Taft moved over to left back to accommodate Sherriff and McGurk was picked to partner Stuart Beavon in attack.
The Latics side, meanwhile, was littered with players who have experienced football in the top echelons of the English game. Fortune and Shaun Maloney spearheaded the threat with Martyn Waghorn an ever willing worker alongside them and with the likes of Ivan Ramis and Roger Espinoza also on the field the visitors exuded plenty of strength as they looked to try and brush Albion aside.
Albion quickly strung together an excellent move with two of their new signings prominent. Taft collected possession and launched the ball forwards towards Beavon, although not the tallest, the Preston loanee got up and well and headed the ball perfectly into the path of McGurk who took a touch and fired in a low shot that keeper Ali Al-Habsi collected comfortably to his right.
Beavon then showed his sharpness again on seven minutes cutting back inside and seeing a left foot shot deflected wide. It was all Burton at this stage and a flowing move gave Phil Edwards the chance to overlap and cross in from the right with both McGurk and Lucas Akins rising in the box, the latter heading just wide of the target.
Fraser Fyvie played his side into trouble on 11 minutes with a suicidal ball across his defence and Akins was on it in a flash but his rising drive was always going to clear the crossbar.
Wigan finally roused themselves and the imposing figure of Marc-Antoine Fortune did well to find Aaron Taylor-Sinclair on the left but fortunately for Albion Shane Cansdell-Sherriff was in the right place to get a vital block on his driven cross.
The Brewers probably should have been in front on 21 minutes as the industry of Akins won another Albion corner. Alex MacDonald drilled in a targetted delivery and McGurk rose unmarked to send a downward header wide of the upright.
Wigan were struggling to carve out clear opportunities but a mishit clearance from Edwards presented a chance on the edge of the box to Fyvie but he screwed his shot horribly wide of the mark.
Somewhat against the run of play the visitors took the lead on 27 minutes. FORTUNE made his presence felt inside the box. Fyvie went on a run down the right and when his ball deflected up off a Burton defender the former West Brom striker turned sharply and with the angle narrowing against him he drilled a low shot across Jon McLaughlin finding the dar corner with unerring accuracy.
Robbie Weir quickly found McGurk with a beautifully threaded ball but the Albion forward could not quite generate the room for a shot and the danger had passed for the visitors.
McGurk only lasted until the 37th minute when he seemed to take a bang on the hip that left his struggling and after attention from the physio he was qucikly replaced in the attack by Dominic Knowles.
The Latics almost grabbed a second when skipper Shaun Maloney scuffed a shot that almost seemed to catch McLaughlin out and there was a bizarre moment moments later as Omani keeper Al-Habsi lost his bearings and needlessly handled outside of his area to earn himself a booking. There was no further punishment as Albion failed to profit from the free kick and another yellow card quickly followed when Akins took one for the team, bundling Fortune over as Wigan looked to catch Albion on the counter.
Albion finally got the equaliser their first half performance deserved on the stroke of half time and once again it was the industry and skill of Beavon that underpinned the goal. The striker worked hard on the left to create a crossing opportunity and it looked as if the chance had gone as the ball flew across the edge of the box but the alert John Mousinho picked it up beyond the far post and drilled the ball back into the middle for KNOWLES to sweep home from close range.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-1 Wigan Athletic
Wigan were first to threaten in the second period as Fortune almost turned provider with a drilled cross that needed a combination of Sharps and Edwards, along with a strong palm from McLaughlin to deny Waghorn. Albion quickly broke from the resulting corner with Knowles foraging well and finding Beavon who showed a sublime touch to keep the move going. Knowles joined the attack again and was only denied a second by a deflection on a shot from the edge of the area although the referee missed it and gave a goal kick.
Seven minutes into the second period the Brewers were ahead. Akins produced another strong run down the right and when he delivered the ball in towards Knowles the Albion scorer was tightly marked and could not do much but the ball fell favourably for BEAVON to sweep the ball home from twelve yards.
Beavon, with an excellent night's work in the bag, took his leave from the game just short of the hour mark to a rousing chorus of applause and taking his place was Billy Kee, still building his fitness after a niggly injury at the end of last season.
Albion were almost undone as they tried to attack in search of a third. MacDonald tried to keep the ball in on the left but had his pocket picked by Waghorn who nipped past Taft with ease and surged into the Burton half linking up with Roger Espinoza but once the Latics got a sight of goal the ever dependable Sharps was there to snuff out any chance of a goal.
Wigan had by now thrown on Grant Holt in search of an equaliser but it was Fyvie who fired in a blockbuster of a shot from 25 yards that McLaughlin comfortably plucked out of the air.
When Mousinho was bundled over twenty five yards out on 74 minutes it presented Albion with a chance to put daylight between the two sides but Kee fired the free kick agonisingly over the angle of post and bar. It was almost a case of shoot on sight and even Taft, bursting forwards from left back , fired a rising drive over the bar. Akins also had sight of goal moments later as more superb work involving MacDonald crafted an opening for the summer recruit from Stevenage. The ball took an age to settle down for the winger and his eventual shot was a little hurried and missed the target.
Fortune showed great skill and touch, for a big man, as he twisted and turned inside the box before drilling a low cross cum shot that went inches wide of the far post.
Waghorn's frustrations got the better of him on 85 minutes as he recklessly went in on Knowles with referee Pat Miller calming things down and showing the former Leicester striker a yellow card. The Latics were desperately searching for an equaliser and a thumping effort from James Tavernier did not clear the crossbar by much.
Fortune still posed a threat with some probing runs down the right channel and it took another expertly headed clearance from ex-Wigan man Edwards to preserve Albion's lead.
Three minutes of injury time failed to produce a meaningful opportunity for the visitors and it was another League Cup scalp for the Brewers to savour as they await the draw for round two.