Burton Albion returned to winning ways after their first home defeat of the season to Cheltenham Town last time out. The omens did not look good for the Brewers when Pirates striker Matt Harrold pounced to thump home a header inside the first quarter of an hour but they showed their resilience to weather the Bristol storm and hit back with strikes from Cleveland Taylor and Billy Kee before half time. An even second half presented little in the way of clear cut chances but despite probably having the balance of play the visitors struggled to carve out clear cut chances and the Brewers were able to grab the three points and move back up to eighth place in the npower League 2 table, only outside the play-offs on goal difference.
After last Friday's defeat against Cheltenham there were two changes for the first ever visit of Bristol Rovers to the Pirelli Stadium. Aaron Webster was restored to left back in place of Danny Blanchett whilst a back injury to leading scorer Justin Richards meant that Billy Kee was recalled to the attack to partner Calvin Zola. There was a surprise return to the substitutes bench for Jacques Maghoma after an ankle injury that had forced him to miss the last few games, the midfielder having come through training on Friday to rake his place in the squad.
The visitors started the brighter of the two sides and Tony James conceded an early free kick that earned him a booking inside the first four minutes of the game.
Scott Rendell, many times a thorn in Albion's side, almost got the first real chance of the game on target in the 12th minute. A good run down the right channel presented him with a chance to try an angled effort but Aaron Webster tracking back got in a vital block.
Albion found themselves behind a minute later. A soft free kick conceded by Jimmy Phillips just outside the box allowed Rovers to send their big guns forward and a pinpoint delivery from Craig Stanley to the back post picked out Matt HARROLD who thumped home his header from close range.
The Brewers were not far away from summoning up an immediate equaliser as Cleveland Taylor had his first real chance to impress with a teasing cross that was just over the head of Calvin Zola who had peeled off his man. The winder caused problems again in the 18th minute with a teasing low cross that Scott Bevan just got down to before Billy Kee could pounce.
Rovers really should have been two goals to the good byt he time the first half was half done. Good work in the midfield allowed Rendell to pick out Scott McGleish unmarked just inside the area. As Albion looked in vain for an offside flag that didnt come the veteran striker turned and fired a low shot across the goal and fortunately for Burton wide of the post.
Calvin Zola looked to try and get Albion back on level terms as he battled hard for the ball but with little support the Congolese front man tried his own luck and dragged a shot across the face of goal and harmlessly wide of Bevan's post.
Cleveland TAYLOR was pivotal as Albion equalised in the 27th minute. The winger won and took a free kick just outside the penalty area. Bristol Rovers only half cleared the ball to the far side of the area. Kevin Amankwaah put the ball back into the danger area and when the ball deflected out to Taylor on the edge of the area he lashed in an unstoppable shot through a ruck of players and inside the right hand post of the unsighted Bevan.
From one goal behind Albion were 2-1 up by the 35th minute. Ryan Austin's backpass to Ross Atkins initially seemed to have the goalkeeper in trouble but he found Jimmy Phillips who surged forward and found full back Amankwaah raiding down the right. The former Bristol City youngster looked up and picked out a peach of a cross for Billy KEE to time his run to eprfection and sweep the ball past Bevan from eight yards.
Both sides pushed for more goals before the half time whistle but Albion were happy to go in at the break having overturned their early deficit.
Half time: Burton Albion 2-1 Bristol Rovers
The visitors again started brightly in the second period and won a successio of corners in the early stages allowing the likes of Bolger and Harrold to pose a threat in the Albion penalty area. The Brewers cleared the danger and immediately broke forward to win a corner of their own that saw Zola flick a header into the side netting with Bevan scrambling. The striker was also influential in a flowing move moments later linking well with Aaron Webster who dinked a delightful ball in that was just too high for Kee, trying to sniff out a second of the game.
Rovers threatened to use their height in the box in the 56th minute as Albion conceded another dangerous free kick just outside their own area. Stanley again delivered but this time Harrold seemed to mistime his jump and could only place a tame header straight at Atkins.
Ryan Austin looked set to net his first of the season just after the hour mark. Tony James won a corner from an unusually advanced position and when John McGrath slung the ball to the far post Austin, celebrating his 250th appearance in a Burton shirt, timed his run to perfection at the back but could not quite keeep his header down.
Albion made their first change in the 66th minute. Goalscorer Cleveland Taylor was the man to make way as Jacques Maghoma returned to the fray for the first time since Gillingham away earlier this month. The substitute was almost immediately on the scoresheet after good work by Zola. The striker battled hard to win the ball near the touchline and then played a neat pass to Maghoma on his outside who fired a low shot across Bevan but beyond the far post too.
There was concern for Albion at the back with a quarter of an hour to go as Tony James picked up a heavy blow that left him needing treatment on the edge of his own six yard box. The influential defender was okay to continue after receiving attention from the physio and Rovers immediately tried to exploit any weakness with some teasing crosses that Albion managed to deal with although sometimes at full stretch.
Billy Kee was providing a good outlet for the Brewers and he worked an opportunity for himself to shoot in the 83rd minute but after holding off his man and making a run across the pitch the former Torquay striker drove his shot too high.
The lively front runner was brought off to a great ovation with four minutes left as Chris Palmer was introduced to try and see out the closing stages. The ovation was well deserved as the young striker was later named as the sponsor's man of the match.
Ryan Austin, another contender for the man of the match award, had to be alert late on to get a good block on Joe Anyinsah's shot and Cian Bolger saw a vicious shot deflect wide. There was to be another chance for the visitors but when the ball fell to the feet of Scott Rendell six yards out it looked all set for the big striker to equaliser but Webster epitomised the Brewers solid defensive display with a diving block to preserve Albion's lead and ensure that the visitors returned back to the West Country pointless.
ALBION: Atkins; Amankwaah, James, Austin, Webster; Taylor (Maghoma, 66), Bolder, McGrath, Phillips; Bolder, Kee. Substitutes: Poole, Corbett, Palmer, Yussuf.
ROVERS: Bevan, Sawyer, Woodards, Bolger, Stanley, Campbell (Norburn,63), Gill, Harrold, McGleish, Brown, Rendell. Substitutes: Carayol, Anthony, Anyinsah, Zebroski.
Referee: D.Whitestone (Northamptonshire)
GOALS: Albion - Taylor (27), Kee (35); Rovers - Harrold (13)