High flying Walsall unseated Albion at the top of the Sky Bet League One table courtesy of a 2-0 victory at the Banks's Stadium. Liam Kinsella netted on his first League start of the season to give the Saddlers the lead late in the first half before a stoppage time Tom Bradshaw penalty put the seal on the victory for Dean Smith's men.
It was the first time Albion had lost by more than a single goal and in truth it was a tighter game than the scoreline suggested. The late penalty, given against Phil Edwards for handball put a gloss on the result but in truth Albion could not argue that the home side probably deserved the points, a resolute defence denying Albion much in the way of clear chances. Substitute Timmy Thiele probably had the best opportunity to grab a point but Kinsella did superbly to deny him. The Saddlers made the most of a good first period where they were the better side and were able to resist all that the Brewers could throw at them in a determined and improved second half.
After grinding out the 1-0 victory over Southend United last weekend manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink made two changes to his starting line-up for the first ever League Staffordshire derby with the second placed Saddlers.
Enigmatic winger Nasser El Khayati was not risked after the dead leg he picked up against the Shrimpers so Matty Palmer kept his place having replaced the Dutchman against United. Tom Naylor, so close to being credited with the goal against Southend, dropped to the bench as Calum Butcher returned to the side. Wolves loanee Zeli Ismail made his long awaited return to Burton colours amongst the substitutes along with Tom Flanagan.
Palmer quickly showed the fluidity in the Brewers attacking ranks starting in the centre but quickly drifting out to the right to latch onto a glorious angled pass allowing him to pull the ball back towards Lucas Akins on the edge of the box. Unable to get the ball out from his feet the striker was challenged and Walsall were able to clear.
From early on there were some full blooded challenges going in. Stuart Beavon did exceptionally well to chase down his own header pressuring Andy Taylor into a loose ball that both Palmer and Reece Flanagan went in for and when that fell loose Akins was challenged by Saddlers skipper Adam Chambers who earned himself a talking to from referee Tim Robinson but on this occasion the man in the middle kept his cards in his pocket.
Mark Duffy tried to catch Craig MacGillivray off his line but put his effort well wide before there were half hearted shouts for penalties at either end. Referee Robinson decided that skipper John Mousinho had been fouled rather than fouling his man in the Burton box to the displeasure of the Saddlers fans massed behind the goal before Akins went to ground trying to get on the end of Matty Palmer's cross but again Mr Robinson was not impressed.
Walsall were looking dangerous when they broke from their packed midfield but it was a long range effort from Romaine Sawyers on the half hour mark that brought the first save of any note from either keeper. Wriggling free of the attentions of Calum Butcher just outside the box the ex-Baggies man took aim for the bottom corner, denied by a good save from Jon McLaughlin.
When Rico Henry got goalside of Phil Edwards for the first time there was danger for Albion at the back but the young winger picked out a decent pass to Sam Mantom who fired wide. Moments later Henry got inside his man once more and when the ball was worked across the field via Sawyers to Liam KINSELLA at the far post who made no mistake drilling the ball into the bottom corner of McLaughlin's goal. A good way for the youngster to mark his first senior goal.
Henry was then carded, rather harshly, for a clumsy foul on Akins as they both went for a loose ball and the resulting free kick culminated in Duffy curling a shot wide when the ball was not cleared properly bu the Saddlers back line.
The first half ended with a nasty clash of heads. Both Kinsella and Damien McCrory went up for the ball on the half way line and the Burton man was left in some distress before returning to the action as the Brewers tried to profit from a late corner. Duffy's blocked effort signalling the end of the first half action.
Half time: Walsall 1-0 Burton Albion
Sawyers quickly had an early second half chance but slipping on the edge of the box his scooped shot failed to trouble McLaughlin.
Albion won a couple of corners and though MacGillivray comfortable collected the first, the second was close to providing an equaliser - an errant header from a Walsall defender sending the ball towards the goal where a combination of Mantom and the post kept the ball out.
It was certainly a more purposeful Albion at the start of the second half and Palmer fired towards goal although MacGillivray's save was comfortable low to his right.
Beavon had to temporarily leave the field to receive treatment before returning to the action suitably bandaged to continue.
Mantom fired wide of the post fro the edge of the box when O'Connor's clearing header fell nicely for him.
Burton were busily preparing for a substitution when Reece Flanagan fired a dipping shot over so at least when Jerome Binnom-Williams joined the action in place of Akins it was still only 1-0.
Beavon's shot on the turn briefly got Albion going again but it had all become rather scrappy by this stage. The Brewers, in need of an equaliser, threw on Timmy Thiele to partner Beavon up top with Duffy making way. The German brought a new energy to the Brewers attack and using his pacy runs soon gave the home defence something new to think about.
The attacking move that all Albion fans wanted to see came on 78 minutes. Calum Butcher was withdrawn prompting the introduction of Ismail. The Wolves loanee was immediately full of running although Walsall seemed to handle him well as he shook off his ring-rustiness. A misplaced pass from Palmer to Mousinho gave Walsall the chance to pile forward outnumbering the Burton defence but they failed to work it right and Mantom's shot deflected wide of the goal.
Albion's best chance came late on, inside the last five minutes and Thiele looked all set tp sweep home Beavon's low cross only for Kinsella to make sure that his earlier goal still counted for all three points.
With the game already in stoppage time Sawyers run into the box was halted by the hand of Edwards, referee Robinson taking his time before pointing to the spot. The previously becalmed and quiet Tom BRADSHAW confidently stroked home the spot kick.
Mousinho spurned a good chance to halve the arrears with virtually the last kick of the game, volleying over from a corner when it appeared easier to hit the target. A disappointing end to a frustrating afternoon for the Brewers although they remain second in the table, only denied top spot on goal difference.