Tom Naylor's third goal of the season sent Albion back to the top of Sky Bet League One as hosts Peterborough United were caught cold on a blustery night at the ABAX Stadium. Naylor tapped home from close range in just the third minute of the game, converting Mark Duffy's cross and a determined and disciplined rearguard action ensured that all three points returned to the Pirelli Stadium with Nigel Clough's men.
Peterborough's much vaunted attacking line-up and open style of play under manager Graham Westley failed to break down a stubborn Albion defence who yet again kept a clean sheet against one of their promotion rivals on their own patch, something that is becoming the hallmark of this Brewers said that continue to impress with their solid, if unspectacular performances. Posh went into the game having scored 53 League goals, the second highest in the league this season but could not find the net at home for the second game running.
Albion keeper Jon McLaughlin was rarely troubled and only really had one save to make whilst Posh had their own keeper and skipper Ben Alnwick to thank for keeping them in the hunt with some important saves when Albion broke on their hosts.
The disappointment of Saturday's home defeat to Shrewsbury prompted changes for the away game at free scoring Peterborough. Robbie Weir's return from a two match suspension was no surprise as Callum Reilly dropped out. Shane Cansdell-Sherriff returned at the heart of defence to partner John Mousinho as Anthony O'Connor dropped to the bench whilst Lucas Akins returned to the starting line-up, Nasser El Khayati finding himself on the substitutes bench. After picking up a facial injury in Saturday's game with Shrewsbury, Derby loanee Mason Bennett was not risked. With honours even after one league game and an FA Cup game between the two sides it was set for an intriguing clash at the ABAX Stadium.
After allowing Peterborough most of the early possession Albion caught their hosts with the perfect counter with just two and a half minutes on the clock. Stuart Beavon, harrying and chasing things down, picked up a pass from Calum Butcher to take possession just inside the Peterborough half and set off towards goal. The overlapping run of Duffy was picked out to his right and after cutting inside into the box a drilled ball to the far post picked out Tom NAYLOR, completely unmarked to score probably the easiest goal he will ever get from all of three yards out.
Peterborough continued to enjoy the lion's share of possession and it took a well timed headed clearance from John Mousinho to get Michael Smith's right wing cross away as midfielder Erhun Oztumer got forward well to almost connect inside the six yard box. That was just shy of the quarter of an hour mark and represented the first real chance on the Burton goal.
Burton were happy to play on the counter and Posh were grateful to Alnwick on 21 minutes as Butcher played Duffy in to his right and the winger's low shot to the near post was pushed around the post.
With half an hour on the clock Albion should have doubled their lead. A concerted spell of pressure around the Peterborough box won the Brewers a succession of corners and from the last one Duffy's deep ball to the back post reached Mousinho who tried to stab it in but saw his effort somehow blocked on the post and cleared.
Duffy's effort from long range ten minutes from the break was not far over but it came once again from Peterborough carelessly surrendering possession inside their own half.
New Posh signing Shaquile Coulthirst showed his pace and trickery to pull a dangerous ball back through the six yard box with no Peterborough man there to get a touch and when Oztumer played Marcus Maddison in on the right his low ball across was pushed to safety by Jon McLaughlin. The ball may well have been beating the far post anyway but Albion's stopper made sure.
There was a stoppage just before half time as Calum Butcher and another of Posh's new signings, left back Harry Toffolo, clashed heads going for a loose ball on the edge of the box. Butcher got to his feet after some attention from Nick Fenton but Toffolo remained prone just outside the six yard box for some time receiving attention. It proved to be a long stoppage with the Norwich City youngster leaving the pitch on a stretcher in quite a bad way. Striker Lee Angol was sent on to replace him as Posh reorganised. The injury and subsequent treatment took ten minutes and resulted in a subdued atmosphere for what remained of the first half.
Butcher was denied by Alnwick as he latched onto a flick by Beavon and from the resulting corner Mousinho saw a goalbound header clawed away by Alnwick. The Albion skipper had his head in his hands. It was an excellent save from an excellent header.
Angol almost got on the end of a deep cross into the Burton box as Peterborough pushed for an equaliser but McLaughlin snuffed out the danger ensuring that it was Albion who led at the break.
Half time: Peterborough United 0-1 Burton Albion
The hosts came out brightly after the break and pushed forward with purpose. The main scare in the early stages was a flicked header from midfielder Chris Forrester who ghosted in onto a deep angled cross in from the left but McLaughlin watchfully saw it go just wide of the far post.
Albion seemed content to sit in and let Peterborough have possession in front of them and probe with angled balls forward. They almost got caught as one such cross found its way out to Smith on the right and he let fly from just outside the box with a rasping shot that didnt seem to miss by much.
Suddenly as the game hit the hour mark it seemed to open up with Albion, through Duffy, picking off a stray pass to burst forwards and almost get Naylor in for a second time but Posh went straight up field and another angled ball in from Maddison on the left was almost perfect for Coulthirst, the former Spurs youngster inches away from diverting it past McLaughlin. It was proving a dangerous outlet on the left hand side and one that Albion needed to cut out.
Beavon picked up a knock just after the hour mark and was replaced by Timmy Thiele adding height to the Burton attack as well as the German's undoubted pace.
Posh also made a change with nippy winger Jon Taylor playing no further part and being replaced by youngster Martin Samuelsen.
Graham Westley made his third and final change with more than twenty minutes left to play and it was another attacking change to try and rescue the situation. Ivory Coast striker Souleymane Coulibaly was the man that the Posh boss turned to in search of the elusive equaliser.
Damien McCrory swept a free kick well over from just outside the box went Butcher was sent tumbling. It was a good chance to put the game to bed and Albion almost paid the price shortly after. An angled ball in, this time from the right, picked out Coulibaly but fortunately for the Brewers defence he could not quite sort his feet out and it was scrambled away at the expense of a corner which Albion dealt more comfortably with.
Half chances began to come Albion's way as the home side pushed forward more and more in the closing stages. Akins hit one hopeful shot from all of thirty yards that didnt trouble Alnwick but it was a sign that Posh could not go on the attack throwing caution to the wind.
Thiele did put the ball in the back of the net after latching onto a great through ball from Naylor on the breakaway but the flag of the assistant denied him. It was the correct decision. Just.
Anthony O'Connor was sent on as a very late substitute with the game deep into four minutes of stoppage time. He replaced Butcher who had enjoyed another very industrious game in the centre of Albion's midfield.
Smith's late effort from distance proved to be a frustrated last attempt from the Posh and it said it all about a frustrating night for the hosts when their keeper Alnwick was named their man of the match.