Burton Albion took a point from their opening day trip to Torquay United thanks to a brace on his debut from Justin Richards. The striker's two goals in four second half minutes set Albion up nicely but a stirring fightback from the hosts brought them level with eight minutes to play and Albion were under the cosh at the end of a high octane second period as Tom Parkes was sent off for a second bookable offence moments later.
The Brewers began their third season in the Football League with a journey down to the English Riveria to face last season's beaten play offs finalists Torquay United. Paul Peschisolido had made seven close season signings and five of them started the match with loanee Ross Atkins making his league debut for the Brewers in goal. Andy Corbett started at right back alongside Nathan Stanton, Leicester loanne Tom Parkes and Aaron Webster in the back four.
The midfield and attack was the same as began the final pre season match against Telford with Cleveland Taylor on the right, Chris Palmer on the left and the reliable partnership of skipper John McGrath, making his 200th start for the club, and Adam Bolder in central midfield.
New signing Justin Richards started alongside Calvin Zola in attack for what Brewers supporters will hope to be the beginnig of an exciting strike partnership between the two front men.
Both sides tried hard to settle down early on in the game with chances at a premium and defences generally on top. The home side were looking to avoid the hangover associated with losing play-off finalists while the Brewers were determined to carry on their unbeaten run from the end of last season.
Nathan Stanton took little over twenty minutes to pick up the first yellow card of the new season as he prevented Torquay striker Rene Howe from bursting through. Referee Danny McDermid deciding that the Albion defender had done so illegally and penalising the former Rochdale man, Kevin Nicholson's free kick was floated towards the back post but defender Brian Saah had strayed offside averting the danger for the Brewers.
Albion burst into life and had a chance on the half hour mark. A raking crossfield pass from Ton Parkes picked out Cleveland Taylor on the right and when he cut in from the bye line only a diving block from Chris Robertson stopped his shot from testing new Torquay keeper Bobby Olejnik.
Justin Richards was looking a threat for Albion and after one shot that went well wide of the target his next effort took a wicked deflection off a defender on the edge of the area forcing Olejnik to grab onto the ball gratefully. A promising partnership with Zola was developing and moments later a flick header on from Zola released his partner but the summer signing from Port Vale was forced down the channel and his eventual shot lacked the power to beat the keeper.
Cleveland Taylor was next to set up the new striker and a superb cross field volley had Richards in behind the defence but his shot was just too near to the keeper - a great chance to open his Burton account.
Torquay quickly upped their game and as Andy Corbett battled Ian Morris on the edge of the penalty area for a bouncing ball the Torquay man took the chance to whip a low shot across the face of goal.
Back up at the other end and Taylor won a corner for the Brewers and immediately the quality of Chris Palmer's set pieces was evident as the home side had to hurriedly clear a succession of flag kicks. The offside flag also came to Albion's rescue again as Rene Howe's deflected shot fell into the path of Danny Stevens who netted, unaware that the flag had denied him the opening goal.
Zola was next to go close for Albion. John McGrath did well to whip on a cross from the left and as the ball bounced it just too too long to come down for the Congolese striker and Torquay cleared.
Albion finished the half strongly with Richards staying onside to pick up a quckly taken free kick but when he won a corner from an attempted cross the referee's half time whistle denied the Brewers the chance to use Palmer set pieces again.
Half time: Torquay United 0-0 Burton Albion
The Gulls started strongly after the break but it was still the Brewers creating chances. Taylor's low pass forward beat an attempted offside trap and Zola raced through but he was denied by the outstretched leg of Olejnik. Torquay responded with a chance of their own, skipper Lee Mansell throwing himself at a Danny Stevens cross but not making contact as the ball flew across the face of goal.
The Brewers stunned the hosts by taking the lead in the 51st minute. A long hopeful ball over the top had RICHARDS alongside Joe Oastler and the striker held off his man before guiding a shot beyond the advancing Olejnik.
With the home side in disarray Albion made it 2-0 four minutes later. A great ball forward from McGrath found Tom Parkes, of all people, galloping down the left. He pulled the ball back and when Oastler deflected it up in the air, RICHARDS reacted quickest to flick a header into the far corner.
Torquay were back in it though on the hour mark. A neat flick on the edge of the box from Mansell had Rene HOWE in on goal and he kept his nerve to take the ball round Ross Atkins and slide it into the empty net.
The hosts were almost back on level terms immediately after when a bouncing ball set up nicely for Eunan O'Kane who lashed a volley just off target.
Re-energised by the goal Torquay pushed forwards again and when Danny stevens broke down the middle and set up Billy Kee the Albion defence looked vulnerable but his chipped chot floated wide of the far post.
Tom Parkes picked up a yellow card shortly after for a foul 30 yards out which allowed the home side to threaten again but the on loan Leicester City defender made amends by heading the free kick away from danger.
Both defences looked rattled and Albion almost had a third when Taylor caught the home defence napping to latch onto a long ball to the back post but he was denied by Olejnik.
Both sides made a substitution with twenty minutes to go. Torquay brought on former Tamworth striker Taiwo Atieno and Albion introducing Jimmy Phillips for Chris Palmer. the tricky winger was straight into the action winning a free kick on the edge of the box after good llink up with Calvin Zola. Home skipper Mansell picked up a yellow card but that was the only punishment as Richards, going for his hat-trick, fired the free kick well over the bar.
Albion made their second change with eleven minutes of the match remaining. Calvin Zola was the man taken off, after a good shift in attack, and it was the fresh legs of Greg Pearson that were brought on.
Torquay grabbed the equaliser with eight minutes to go. A through ball from O'Kane found MANSELL inside the area and as he fell over he swung his foot to guide the ball past Atkins.
If things could not get worse for Albion it did when Parkes picked up his second yellow of the afternoon to see red for a foul on Rene Howe. the striker looked set to bustle his way into the area when Parkes brought him down, the defender walking before seeing the card shown.
With Torquay throwing everything at the Brewers defence ryan Austin was brought on with Justin Richards sacrificed and Albion hanging on.
There was still time for Andy Corbett to pick up a yellow card for an identical foul on Howe that Parkes committed and in exactly the same place. This time Ross Atkins came confidently to collect and ease the danger a little.
Gulls: OLEJNIK, NICHOLSON, ROBERTSON, SAAH, MANSELL, KEE (ATIENO, 70), HOWE, O'KANE, MORRIS (MACKLIN, 74), OASTLER, STEVENS. Subs: ELLIS, MCPHEE, LATHROPE.
Brewers: ATKINS, CORBETT, STANTON. PARKES, WEBSTER, TAYLOR, BOLDER, MCGRATH, PALMER (PHILLIPS, 70), RICHARDS (AUSTIN, 86), ZOLA (PEARSON, 79). Subs: POOLE, JAMES.
Referee: Mr D. McDermid
GOALS: Torquay - Howe (60), Mansell (82); Albion - Richards (51, 55)
Attendance: 3,142 (379 away)