A miserable 3-0 defeat to Staffordshire rivals Port Vale did nothing to lighten the gloom around the Brewers who now find their winless run stretched to twelve games. Prematch the hosts were hardly in cheerful mood having been put into administration barely hours before kick-off. However it was the home side who galvanised themselves into immediately clawing back three of the ten points they will undoubtedly lose when they appear in court later this week.
Marc Richards put the home side ahead shortly before the break after Ross Atkins had kept out Sean Rigg's header and despite a valiant second half effort from the Brewers it was no real surprise when Vale added more goals in the dying minutes to seal a morale boosting win through Louis Dodds who exposed Albion's fragile defence twice in the final five minutes.
Brewers boss Paul Peschisolido threw both of his two loan signings straight into the fray for their debuts as Albion sought that much needed win to end a run of eleven games without a win. Lionel Ainsworth was given an attacking role as part of a three man front line alongside Jimmy Phillips and former Vale striker Justin Richards. Sheffield United loanee Matt Harriott lined up alongside Jack Dyer in front of the back four allowing Adam Bolder a more advanced role. The only change in defence was Ryan Austin for the injured Nathan Stanton. It was a landmark evening for Aaron Webster who moved himself into second place in the all time Burton appearance makers list with his 568th appearance for the club.
Vale were almost off to a flyer as Jack Dyer conceded an early free kick. Paul Marshall played a lowm ball in for Chris Shuker who had made an intellligent run across the box. Fortunately for the Brewers the experienced striker failed to make good contact as the ball fizzed through the penalty area.
Home full back Rob Taylor was first into referee Mathieson's notebook as he was adjudged to have slid through Ainsworth as they challenged for the ball near the touchline. That came after just ten minutes making it a tricky night for the left back against the lively on loan midfielder.
Albion's first moment of danger came soon after as good work down the left found Adam Bolder in an advanced position inside the penalty area. He was able to cut the ball back but Ainsworth on his left foot could not make god enough contact to seriously test Stuart Tomlinson. Vale immediately had another chance themselves as Doug Loft put in a teasing cross that found Sean Rigg with the forward's volley going just wide of the post.
Vale began to string some good passing moves together and Andy Corbett had to make a timely interception to deny Shuker another chance but the pressure was still on with striker Marc Richards putting his back post header over from the resulting corner.
The best chance so far fell to Vale in the 32nd minute. After patiently searching for an opening the ball went to Louis Dodds wide on the right and he sent in a peach of a cross for Marc Richards but his touch was not quite what it needed to be as he trod on the ball as he tried to slide in and control it with Albion eventually able to scramble it away.
The home side continued to look the more likely to break the deadlock until Doug Loft was yellow carded for bringing Jimmy Phillips down. Aaron Webster's free kick was deflected wide for a corner and Vale were able to clear their lines. Within a minute the home side were ahead. Phillips himself was booked moments later and from the free kick Paul Marshall swung the ball to the far post when Sean Rigg headed back across goal. Ross Atkins managed to palm the ball away bbut only to the waiting RICHARDS who was able to calmly turn the ball home from close range.
Half time: Port Vale 1-0 Burton Albion
It was the hosts who made the brighter start to the second half and Louis Dodds was left to wonder how he had not doubled the lead on 50 minutes. After skipping past a challenge from Aaron Webster a quick drop of the shoulder enabled him to wrong foot Tony James before pulling a low shot just wide of the post. The forward quickly had another chance as hesitant defending almost cost Albion dear, Ross Atkins dropping onto a low shot.
As Albion rocked Rigg latched onto a ball over the top and raced into the box but fortunately for Albion his low centre intended for Marshall was easily cut out by Atkins.
The Brewers quickly had a half chance of their own as the ball bounced around the edge of the Vale penalty area with Andy Corbett volleying goalwards and Justin Richards just unable to divert it beyond Tomlinson.
Adi Yussuf was thrown into the action on the hour mark as Harriott was withdrawn and Albion going to a 4-4-2. There were nervy moments straight after as Atkins spilled a piledriver from Shuker and as he gathered the ball at the second attempt Richards made a not so subtle attempt to bundle keeper and ball over the goalline.
The Albion stopper also needed two attempts to deal with a wickedly curling free kick from Marshall as Vale sniffed a second but Atkins was able to drop onto the ball before Richards could pounce to convert although an offside flag would also have come to Albion's rescue.
Yussuf was well placed to take advantage of some poor defending from Vale not long after coming on but he tried to keep his feet as Lee Collins pulled him back and had he chosen to go down referee Mathieson may well have had to point to the spot.
Aaron Webster was close to an equaliser and what would have been his 100th career goal when another substitute, Chris Palmer, swung in a dangerous corner that the long serving Albion man glanced wide of the far post from the edge of the six yard box.
The game was up for the Brewers on 86 minutes as Vale almost inevitably doubled their advantage. As with the first goal it was Jimmy Phillips who conceded a free kick, this time close to the touchline and when Marshall swung in another teasing free kick DODDS got the feintest touch at the near post to put the ball beyond Atkins.
DODDS could not believe his luck three minutes later as he made it three from close range, prodding the ball past the Albion keeper when Doug Loft's free kick was headed back across the area by substitute Tom Pope.
VALE: Tomlinson, R.Taylor, Griffith, McCombe, Loft, Dodds, M.Richards (Pope, 75), Marshall, Collins, Rigg (Morsy, 73), Shuker (James, 84). Substitutes: Martin, Williamson.
ALBION: Atkins; Corbett (Palmer, 77), Austin, T.James, Webster; Dyer, Harriott (Yussuf, 60); Bolder; Ainsworth, Richards, Phillips. Substitutes: C.Taylor, Gurrieri, Blanchett.
Referee: S.Mathieson (Cheshire)
GOALS: Vale - M.Richards (43), Dodds (86, 89)