ALBION picked up another important point on the road from a battling hard-earned goalless draw with Cheltenham Town.
The Robins were a place above Albion at start of play and both sides looked evenly matched throughout with clear chances at a premium throughout and ensuring that both sides felt they could still win it right to the end. Joe Powell went closest for Albion with a couple of close long range efforts whilst Cheltenham’s in-form pair of Alfie May and Aidan Keena were, on the whole, kept fairly quiet in front of goal, defender Caleb Taylor going closest for the home side, his glancing header stopped on the line by Jasper Moon.
After a two week hiatus as a result of in the international break, Albion returned to action at the Completely-Suzuki Stadium looking to build on the away victory at Port Vale in their previous outing. The starting line-up showed just one change as Academy graduate Thierry Latty-Fairweather, recalled from a productive loan spell at National league North side Hereford, was handed an EFL debut, West Bromwich Albion loanee Zac Ashworth dropping to the bench.
In a lively start, Town midfielder Will Ferry found himself in referee Ollie Yates book with barely a minute on the clock after catching Albion skipper John Brayford with a stray arm in an aerial challenge on the half way line. Ferry quickly got into more attacking mode and drove a low ball into the box that was blocked on the stretch by Sam Hughes. In an eventful start for the Robins man he had a good chance on five minutes when teed up on the edge of the box but blasted wastefully over the bar.
Albion settled and won an early corner which was recycled on the right with Mark Helm given time and space to whip in a dangerous low cross that keeper Luke Southwood just about dealt with under pressure from Taylor.
The Brewers survived a close call on the quarter of an hour mark. A long throw in the Burton box bobbled around dangerously before landing at the feet of defender Tom Bradbury whose shot squirted wide of the post via Conor Shaughnessy’s block.
In a game that was developing into something of a midfield battle neither side could really impose themselves but a good challenge from Powell allowed Dale Taylor to motor down the left and drive into the box but his attempt to find Jonny Smith in the middle was thwarted by Southwood cutting out the cross.
Craig MacGillivray was called into meaningful action in the last minute of the first half when Cheltenham’s Irish striker Keena found space on the right hand side of the box but Albion’s keeper had his angles covered to beat away the danger at the near post. It was the signal for a couple of dangerous corners from the home side but Albion saw it through to ensure that half time arrived scoreless.
Half time: Cheltenham Town 0-0 Burton Albion
Five minutes into the second half Albion had a good opportunity to test Southwood after Brayford had been shoved in the back 25 yards from goal. It was well within range for Powell on his trusty left foot but having whipped the ball over the wall it flew agonisingly wide of the upright as well.
Albion were first to turn to their substitutes bench on 56 minutes in an attempt to break the stalemate. Smith was withdrawn allowing Josh Walker to enter the fray looking for that elusive first goal in Burton colours.
The Brewers enjoyed a spell of concerted pressure in and around the Cheltenham penalty area but could not fashion a clear cut opening before the home side managed to break free of their defensive shackles for a short spell, MacGillivray showing safe hands to catch a speculative effort from ex-Burton man Ryan Broom and then finding himself more stretched to tip Keena’s curling effort over the bar.
The Irishman was just starting to look more dangerous and was close to scoring on 66 minutes when a bouncing ball landed kindly for him and as he went to shoot Shaughnessy got an important block in playing the ball onto the striker and watching anxiously as the ball looped onto the top of the net.
Albion turned to Mustapha Carayol for the final quarter of an hour and within a minute Albion were inches from grabbing the lead. Sam Hughes burst out of defence and when Walker’s ball across the box eventually came back for Powell the midfielder flashed a shot inches wide via a deflection.
Play quickly switched to the other end and a magnificent piece of defending from Moon denied Taylor on the line with MacGillivray dropping on the loose ball almost on the goalie. In a breathless few moments Dale Taylor showed some excellent control to engineer a chance for him with a rasping drive that Southwood got something on to clear.
The game was really opening up in the closing stages as both sides sought a goal to grab the extra two points and Town substitute Taylor Perry was guilty of a wasteful finish after good work from strikers Keena and Alfie May, Perry launching the ball high over the target.
Keena scuffed a decent chance wide as the game entered the final five minutes and May was agonisingly close as well with a chance that came awkwardly to him from a Keena header.
May and Broom flashed efforts across as Albion looked a little nervy heading into three additional minutes but in the end there were no further scares and Albion left with a hard earned and valuable point.
ALBION: MacGillivray; Shaughnessy, Hughes, Moon; Brayford, Helm, Powell, Latty-Fairweather; Kirk (Carayol, 75), Taylor, Smith (Walker, 56).
Substitutes: Amissah, McCann, Gilligan, Mancienne, Ashworth.
Referee: Ollie Yates
Attendance: 3,864 (322 away)