Burton Albion and Northampton Town produced a festive five goal cracker at Sixfields as the Brewers overcame a 2-1 deficit to snatch all three points against the ten men of the Cobblers. Chris Palmer and Justin Richards both came off the bench in the second half to inspire the Brewers to victory, Palmer smashing home a 25 yard piledriver on 66 minutes and Richards converting a penalty two minutes from time after Cleveland Taylor had been fouled by Kelvin Langmead as he prepared to shoot.
An unbelievable start to the game saw the Cobblers ahead after just 45 seconds through loan striker Saido Berahino before Taylor equalised barely 45 seconds later. The Cobblers took the lead from the penalty spot through Michael Jacobs before home skipper John Johnson was red carded for an elbow on Albion counterpart John McGrath.
Brewers boss Paul Peschisolido made just the one change to the side that drew against Dagenham & Redbridge in the last pre-Christmas fixture. Top scorer Billy Kee was restored to the starting line-up at the expense of Justin Richards. The former Port Vale striker, still returning to full fitness after a back injury, dropped to the bench where he was joined by Darren Moore, fit again after injury, Andy Corbett, Chris Palmer and Andres Gurrieri.
It looked set to be a tricky fixture as the lunchtime kick-offs did not help Northampton's plight at the bottom of the table and the Cobblers went into the game knowing that a defeat by two goals or more would send them to the bottom of the table. If a new manager in Aidy Boothroyd was not enough to fire up the Cobblers for their first victory since October 1st this certainly made Albion's job tougher.
the game got off to a frantic start with two goals in the opening two minutes. Former Albion man Lewis Young won a corner off Aaron Webster and although Calvin Zola cleared John Johnson's header off the line Albion couldnt clear their lines and when the ball fell for on loan striker Saido BERAHINO after a point blank save from Ross Atkins the young striker buried the ball from close range.
Albion were immediately stung into action and a speculative cross from Jacques Maghoma somehow found Cleveland TAYLOR in acres of space at the far post and he had time to take a touch and fire a low shot across debutant keeper Shane Higgs and into the far corner of the net. All with barely ninety seconds on the clock!
John McGrath saw yellow for a foul on Johnson in the eleventh minute and from the resulting free kick Ryan Austin was adjudged to have fouled Kelvin Langmead in the area and up stepped Michael JACOBS to fire home the resulting penalty.
Eighteen minutes in and the home side were reduced to ten men. As the ball bounced around in the midfield Johnson and McGrath went up for an aerial ball and when McGrath went to ground the home skipper was red carded for an elbow on the Albion skipper. Billy Kee took the resulting free kick from thirty yards out and forced a fingertip save from Higgs over his own crossbar.
There was no let up in the action as both sides looked for some seasonal cheer. Taylor put a corner kick right into the hands of Higgs and at the other end Austin had to head away successive long throw ins until Maghoma was able to break clear only to make a hash of his final ball forward.
Albion's defence continnued to look hesitant at times none more so than when a hopeful ball forward had Austin looking for an offside flag and when Jake Robinson made a late run forward the defence were at sixes and sevens as the ball got played back to Jacobs who save his effort blocked by Austin.
The frustrating thing for Albion was that for all the good approach play, the final ball into the box was lacking. Taylor had a great chance to test the dence on forty minutes but his low cross failed to beat the first man, Symptomatic of a lot of Albion's first half moves.
Two minutes before half time Albion had a good chance to go in level at the break when a throw from Amankwaah was flicked into the path of McGrath who tested Higgs with a curling low shot but the keeper was able to get enough on it to keep the home side's lead in tact.
The half ended with Jacobs wasting a free kick with a shot well wide of the target after Webster had fouled Lewis Young thirty yards from goal.
Half time: Northampton Town 2-1 Burton Albion
The second half started at a more sedate pace until Taylor forced Higgs to tip his cross over the bar. However the hosts had a chance gifted to them to extend their lead when Atkins made a hash of a clearance and gifted the ball straight to Berahino who from a tight angle squared the ball across an open goal and watched as the ball struck the far post and bounced out. A real let off for the on loan Albion keeper.
Albion went up the other end and won a corner and amidst an almighty scramble Adam Bolder's ball into the box was headed just wide by Aaron Webster. Moments later Albion made their first change with skipper John McGrath taken off to be replaced by Chris Palmer.
And it was the substitute who got Albion on level terms just after the hour mark. Northampton were vainly appealing for handball against Calvin Zola as the striker controlled the ball in the area but he laid the ball off to PALMER twenty five yards out and he smacked a thunderous effort into the roof of the net for his first goal for the Brewers.
There is never a more dangerous time than when you have just scored and Albion needed a fine reaction save from Atkins to deny Andy Holt with a towering header inside the Albion penalty area.
Albion made a second change in the 66th minute in an attempt to snatch all three points. Justin Richards was the man called upon and Calvin Zola the man who made way. Cleveland Taylor quickly went in search of his second goal of the game with a volley that flew into the side netting and a neat pass from Richards had Maghoma surging to the edge of the area only to see his effort blocked.
Northampton decided to go for the win and sent on Adebayo Akinfenwa in place of Lewis young with eighteen minutes to go.
The next clear chance fell to the Brewers and it was Adam Bolder who was picked out by Aaron Webster's cross but the former Rams midfielder could not get quite enough power on his header to beat Higgs. Andres Gurrieri was brought on for Maghoma and the young Argentine quickly had a stinging shot beaten away by Higgs as the Brewers began to turn the screw. Billy Kee was also not far away from converting a Webster cross as Albion pressed for a winner.
Gurrieri went even closer in the 85th minute with a header than smacked the post and then in the 86th minute the Brewers were handed a penalty of their own. Kevin Amankwaah surged forward andf put in a teasing cross and as Taylor lauched himself for an overhead kick he was fouled by Kelvin Langmead with referee Madley pointing to the spot. Justin RICHARDS was the man given responsibility for the penalty and he made no mistake sending Higgs the wrong way.
Ryan Austin produced a superb tackle deep into stoppage time to deny Langmead from atoning for his error and a header from the resulting corner had to be hastily cleared before Albion could relax with the points in the bag.
NORTHAMPTON: Higgs, Young (Akinfenwa, 72), Crowe, Tozer, Davies, Robinson (Corker, 74), Berahino, Holt, Johnson, Jacobs, Langmead. Substitutes: Kaziboni, Hall, Hornby.
BREWERS: Atkins; Amankwaah, Austin, James, Webster; Taylor, Bolder, McGrath (Palmer, 55), Maghoma (Gurrieri, 77); Zola (Richards, 66), Kee. Substitutes: Moore, Corbett.
Referee: Mr. A.Madley (West Yorkshire)
GOALS: Northampton - Berahino (1), Jacobs (12 pen); Albion - Taylor (2), Palmer (61), Richards (88 pen)
Attendance: 5,044 (590 away)