JOHN Brayford was Albion's unlikely two-goal hero at the Keepmoat Stadium as the Brewers snatched a late point from a thrilling 2-2 draw with Doncaster Rovers
Albion had never mustered a goal in three previous visits to take on Rovers and after the Brewers centre back had given his side an early lead on eight minutes the home side roared back in the second half with two goals from debutant Tyler Smith, on loan from Sheffield United before Brayford found himself in the right place in the Rovers penalty area to calmly head home a 90th minute corner and secure a precious point on the road.
In a thrilling game both sides had good chances to score more than just the two but wasteful finishing from both attacks would have left both managers scratching their heads as to how they had not got the three points.
Nigel Clough's team selection showed three changes from the side that surrendered all three points to Gillingham last weekend. In an attempt to make amends there were returns to the side for Jake Buxton and Marcus Harness after illness had ruled both out of the game with the Gills. Ben Turner and Will Miller made way whilst there was a first start for loan signing Josh Clarke who slotted in at right back as Ben Fox dropped to the bench.
Albion made a brisk start and could easily have been aherad inside four minutes. Marcus Harness' persistence down the right won a cheap corner and when his own delivery was only half cleared to Scott Fraser on the edge of the box his chip to pick out Lucas Akins in the middle saw the Albion man steer a header just wide of the target.
As Albion continued their impressive opening Akins was able to find space to exploit on the left before driving the ball across and hitting the post at keeper MArko Marosi's near post. And they got their reward on eight minutes from the unlikely source of BRAYFORD. Fraser this time burst forwards and won a corner and when the delivery from the left was flicked on towards the back post, there was Albion's experienced defender turning to hook the ball hopefully back across goal and watching it drop inside the post before wheeling away to celebrate his first goal since March 2016.
Doncaster were struggling to gain their composure and Akins was almost in again but for a vital and important interception from Matty Blair. The pace of Leeds loanee Mallik Wilks looked a threat and when he cut inside and rifled in a shot Brad Collins had to on his toes to block smartly and see off the danger.
The game erupted on the quarter of an hour mark when referee Paul Marsden pointed at the penalty spot to penalise Brayford for a handball but after protests from all in yellow and word in his ear from his assistant the referee reversed his decision after finally deciding that it was a Rovers hand that had made contact in the box. Albion very nearly added insult to Rovers sense of injustice by going straight up the other end and going within inches of doubling their lead with a left wing cross just inches away from the boot of Boyce inside the six yard box.
It was a game that was amazingly open with both sides showing defensive susceptibility and home keeper Marosi was more than relieved to cling to Stephen Quinn's shot at the second attempt as Harness almost seized on the loose ball in front of him.
The game did eventually settle down as the half progressed but the pace picked up again on 38 minutes as Boyce stumbled in the box and stayed down after a knock to the head and Rovers quickly countered through John Marquis to win a corner at the other end. Once Boyce had been attended to Rovers whipped in a dangerous corner that Collins was tempted off his line by to punch clear from danger as the Brewersd clung on to their hard earned lead.
Probably Rovers best chance of the first half came late on when Ali Crawford's cross was only cleared to Marquis fifteen yards out but the alert Reece Hutchinson threw himself in front of the shot to block at close range and see off the threat of Rovers leading scorer.
Half time: Doncaster Rovers 0-1 Burton Albion
Rovers made a double change at the break and there was something of a surprise as Wilks failed to reappear, replaced by Alfie May with skipper Tommy Rowe also seeing his game ended with Tyler Smith sent on to try and make an impact down the right.
The changes certainly had the desired effect as Rovers poured forwards in the opening stages and on 54 minutes they had their equaliser. It was no surprise that the two substitutes were involved as well with May sending in a fabublous whipped cross that SMITH got to first to divert into the net off the inside of the post.
The goal prompted an immediate change for Albion with Jamie Allen sacrificed in place of Kieran Wallace in an attempt to stiffen the midfield up and a switch to more of a 4-2-3-1 formation to try and prevent Rovers from dominating the midfield.
It was working well until a swift counter had a suspiciously offside looking Marquis burst through on goal but having done the hard bit of getting around Collins and setting up a clear sight on goal he managed to lift the ball over the crossbar. A real let-off for Albion.
Rovers were looking the more likely to snatch a second and they missied another great chance on 71 minutes when Marquis this time found space on the right and pulled a ball back right to the feet of James Coppinger but the hugely experienced midfielder turned and somehow slid his effort wide of the upright from close range.
The home side continued to push forwards and when SMITH latched onto a ball over the top on 75 minutes this time the composure was there as the youngster showed his more experienced team mates how to finish.
Albion had to try and find a response and after sending David Templeton on for a struggling Fraser, Boyce and Akins provided a threat down the right before Albion's leading scorer forced a good save from Marosi at his near post.
Rovers almost extended their lead as they tried to put the game to bed with May steering another excellent delivery just wide of the far post from Coppinger's delivery in from the left.
As Albion looked to try and finish the game with a flourish there was a chance for Will Miller to get involved in place of Clarke and with the clock ticking into the 90th minute the former Spurs youngster won a corner that provided the chance for BRAYFORD to score his second of the game, heading home after Boyce had returned Templeton's corner into the danger area. No Burton goals for the defender since August 2008 and then two in ninety minutes! What an afternoon for the popular former youth player who almost forgot how to celebrate a goal after watching his second of the afternoon find the back of the net.
It was certainly a confidence boost after the late disappointment against Gillingham. It might not have been a winner but it still felt good at the end.