A frustrating and disappointing start to 2012 as Burton turned in one of their most lethargic performances of the season in going down 2-0 to relegation threatened Hereford United at the Pirelli Stadium. The Bulls were without a win since October but dug in and took advantage of some generous Albion defending to secure three points from their first ever Football league win against the Brewers but Albion squandered chance after chance and only remain in the play-off places courtesy of a late equaliser for Crawley Town at Oxford United.
Albion took to the field wearing their blue and white away kit after Hereford made the error of only turning up at the Pirelli Stadium with their black shirted away kit. The Brewers line up showed just one change to the one that played on Saturday at Morecambe with Tony James making a timely recovery from injury to replace Nathan Stanton who was suffering with a shoulder injury picked up in the New Years Eve fixture.
The home side certainly saw plenty of the ball early on but were unable to create any clear cut chances to put the struggling visitors under pressure at the back. Aaron Webster put in a teasing cross that Adam Bartlett collected comfortably and Billy Kee had an effort deflected straight into the arms of the keeper after good work by Calvin Zola to create the chance.
Having seen off all of the early Burton pressure the visitors stunned albion by taking the lead in the 23rd minute. Tony James only sliced Joe Colbeck's cross towards the far post and when the ball was laid off to Will EVANS on the edge of the box he got past John McGrath all too easily and advanced forward before calmly finishing into the bottom corner.
Two yellow cards in a minute saw the Bulls Ryan Green go in the book for a foul on Webster and Andy Corbett followed moments later after a foul on Yoann Arquin who went rather easily to ground. Albion failed to deal with the free kick resulting from the latter decision and when Joe Colbeck helped the ball on after the initial free kick had been cleared Tom Barkhuizen was left all alone to head wastefully over the crossbar from close range with Ross Atkins berating his defence.
Zola almost created a chance for himself shortly afterwards when he worked his way along the bye line but he shot into the side netting from an acute angle. John McGrath was also close with a dipping volley over the crossbar as the Hereford defence closed him down on the edge of the penalty area.
Hereford continued to take the game to the Brewers and skipper Delroy Facey had chance to turn and fire wide and Colbeck, looking dangerous in midfield only found Atkins with a low drive from the edge of the area.
Albion had one more chance to equalise before the break but Billy Kee was denied by a vital deflection from close range as he looked all set to add to his twelve goals for the season.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-1 Hereford United
Paul Peschisolido made a change for the second half and it was Billy Kee who made was for fellow striker Justin Richards. Andy Corbett almost immediately warmed the hands of Adam Bartlett with a hopeful ball into the box and Cleveland Taylor did the same with a snap effort after Hereford only half cleared the ball.
Hereford were showing themselves to be prepared to run for every ball and on loan forward Tom Barkhuizen epitomised that by chasing down a ball into the corner and allowing Delroy Facey to put the ball into the danger area where Simon Clist picked up a loose ball to drive an effort just wide of the post with Ross Atkins at full stretch.
The Brewers second change came in the 57th minute and saw skipper John mcGrath taken off to be replaced by Andres Gurrieri. Jacques Maghoma moved into the centre of midfield to partner Chris Palmer allowing Gurrieri to take up a place on the left side of midfield.
Things went from bad to worse for the Brewers in the 64th minute as Andy Corbett was shown a straight red card for bringing down Tom Barkhuizen as he burst onto Joe Colbeck's pass through the middle. Just when Hereford thought they might put the game to bed Ross Atkins came up with an excellent penalty save diving low to his left to keep out Barkhuizen's spot kick.
The Brewers response was to reorganise again and introduce Adam Bolder with Cleveland Taylor the man sacrificed. Delroy Facey almost immediately squandered an chance to put the Bulls two goals up but his attempted lob only found the waiting arms of Atkins.
Zola was agonisingly close to finding the qauliser in the 76th minute but having been picked out by Gurrieri's pass he watched as his shot was deflected just wide of the far post.
The second goal that Hereford wanted came in the 78th minute and it stunned the Brewers. There seemed no danger when a hopeful ball came to Aaron Webster but a poor first touch allowed Yoann ARQUIN to gather and hit a speculative long range drive that beat Atkins and nestled in the far corner.
It all became a little bit desperate for Albion as they fought against the odds but it summed up their day when Gurrieri found Palmer with a superb pass and then Palmer put in an excellent cross to the far post that eluded the head of Zola when it looked as though the former Crewe man was destined to score.
An almighty scramble in the dying seconds of normal time also summed Albion's day as Zola was denied by the keeper and a clearance off the line as Hereford manfully defended their hard earned clean sheet to hand Albion just their second home league defeat of the season but probably their most disappointing.
GOALS: Hereford - Evans (23), Arquin (78)