Burton Albion returned to the top of Skybet League 2 with an impressive 2-0 victory over Portsmouth side in front of the Sky cameras at the Pirelli Stadium. Briefly deposed from top spot by Saturday's results Adam McGurk and Lucas Akins drove the Brewers back to the top and two points clear of the early chasers. The game had barely settled when McGurk was provided with a tap in after just over a minute and a thunderbolt of a shot from Akins after the break secured a hard earned but well deserved three points for Gary Rowett's men.
With Robbie Weir's red card at Mansfield rescinded leaving the midfielder available for selection there was only the one change for the Brewers as Akins returned to the side on the right wing. The move to bring the summer signing from Stevenage back into the side paid immediate dividends. Picking up a loose ball on the right after Robbie Weir had been challenged the winger played an excellent ball in to Stuart Beavon. The Albion striker who signed a three year permanent deal with the club on Monday showed great skill and awareness to pull off his marker and put the ball across the six yard box with a cross cum shot that left McGURK with a straightforward finish and the clock showing less than 90 seconds.
It was just what Albion needed to settle any early nerves as Portsmouth tried for a quick reply.
Albion came close to a second on the quarter of an hour mark. Again it was the combination of Akins and Beavon, this time the latter turning inside for a left foot shot that was deflected just wide for a corner.
Portsmouth's first real moment of danger came on eighteen minutes. Phil Edwards was pulled up for a foul on James Dunne and when Albion only half cleared to the edge of the box Jed Wallace lashed a rising drive just over the bar. Albion went straight up the other end and were themselves just inches from doubling their advantage. McGurk drifited out to the right to pick up possession and chipped a delightful cross into the middle that Beavon stretched for but couldnt quite reach and Alex MacDonald lurking at the back post was just unable to make contact to turn it home.
Former Albion loanee Ryan Taylor kept Jon McLaughlin on his toes with an overhead kick from ten yards that the Brewers keeper held onto firmly. Craig Westcarr also warmed the palms of McLaughlin on 23 minutes as the ball bounced on the edge of the box sitting up nicely for the striker to try his luck.
McLaughlin was almost caught out by a near post corner from the tricky Ricky Holmes on the half hour, diving full length to his near post to push the ball around the post before Taylor could make contact and a spell of pressure for the visitors was broken after another corner when Danny Hollands launched a shot into orbit under pressure on the edge of the box.
Portsmouth continued to enjoy good spells of pressure and they came close again on 44 minutes, a cross from Alex Wynter met by a header from Westcarr who was denied as Ian Sharps got in an important block to deflect it out for a corner.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-0 Portsmouth
Stuart Beavon was almost quicker onto the scoresheet than his strike partner McGurk was in the first period. A burst of pace through the middle opened things up but his raking low shot was blocked on the edge of the box. John Mousinho also set his sights only to be blocked with keeper Paul Jones going the wrong way and Alex MacDonald suffered the same fate.
James Dunne suffered the same fate as play switched to the other end, Shane Cansdell-Sherriff the man getting in an important block. Pompey upped the pace a little and as Albion stoood off a little Johnny Ertl was allowed plenty of time and space to pick out a low cross to Wynter who amid a scramble inside the six yard box was denied by McLaughlin. Albion really should have doubled their advantage moments later. The Akins and Beavon combination were at the heart of things again, Beavon laying a lovely ball across the area where McGurk dummied the ball as it rolled nicely into the path of John Mousinho who tried to pass it into the net allowing Jones to get right behind it.
The goal Albion threatened came their way on 56 minutes. It was a superb move deserving of the finish it got. Alex MacDonald, working hard as ever down the left put in a low right foot cross that picked out McGurk, instinctively he found Beavon and when he could not make room for a shot he found Robbie Weir on the edge of the box. Looking up he found AKINS on the right side of the area and the winger cut inside before unleashing a fierce shot that almost burst the back of the net.
Portsmouth were not reeling for too long as they looked for a route back into the game and Burton's defence was looking a little suspect as Jed Wallace robbed George Taft before drilling a low ball across the six yard box that Albion struggled to clear and when the ball was eventually returned into the danger area, Cansdell-Sherriff was tussling with Taylor allowing Dunne to latch onto a shot that was high, wide and not very handsome.
With just over 20 minutes to go Portsmouth were building up a head of steam and Hollands lashed an angled shot just wide of the post as Albion soaked up some pressure.
Albion responded well and Akins, again superbly set up by Beavon drove towards the box before firing wide.
McGurk departed the action shortly after having picked up a knock whilst trying to block Hollands' earlier shot. Young Leicester striker Jacob Blyth entered the fray and he was clodse to getting himself an early goal when Beavon layed the ball into his path only for a good block inside the area to deny him.
Beavon was in sparkling form and he was again at the heart of things as a combination with Akins set up Robbie Weir for a piledriver, the midfielder's well struck shot not clearing the crossbar by much.
Cansdell-Sherriff also picked up a knock that eventually forced him from the action. Callum McFadzean was brough on allowing Taft to move across to his favoured centre back position and the Sheffield United loanee slotting in at left back.
Whilst Pompey saw a fair amount of the ball in the closing stages Albion's defence remained resolute and despite an additional six minutes being indicated the Brewers were rarely threatened and duly took their place at the summit of League 2