SAM Winnall proved to be Albion’s match winner for the second Saturday in a row as his second half strike secure all the points, the Brewers coming from behind to beat Bristol Rovers 2-1 at the Memorial Stadium
It was a gritty performance from Albion who recovered from conceding after just nine minutes from John Marquis’ predatory strike and when substitute Charlie Kirk equalised just before half time it set up an intriguing second half. Winnall fired home on 55 minutes and Albion rarely looked in serious danger and could have added more goals with the two strikes ultimately pulling Albion five points clear of the League One drop zone.
After the gut wrenching late defeat at Fratton Park on Tuesday evening Dino Maamria stuck to his principles but made two changes to his team for the tricky looking trip to take on Bristol Rovers. Experience was the call as the two changes he opted for saw both Chris McCann and Winnall return to the starting line-up. Having scored last weekend as a substitute, Winnall was looking to strike again on his first League start since October as Josh Walker dropped to the bench. McCann returned having sat out the game against Pompey in midweek and replaced Conor Shaughnessy, still been monitored after his long term injury although the versatile defender/midfielder managed more than eighty minutes in midweek. Gassan Ahadme made the bench for the first time since returning on loan from, Ipswich on deadline day at the end of January. Skipper John Brayford brought up a landmark with his 500th start in the English Football League.
Bristol looked to pose the early threat with experienced winger Scott Sinclair looking to curl a teasing ball into the Brewers box in the opening minutes but Jasper Moon was alert to get back and cut out the danger, Rovers unable to make anything of the resulting corner.
And a promising start for the hosts was rewarded on nine minutes when James Gibbons and Sinclair exchanged passes on the right for the full back to deliver a cross that was food and drink for MARQUIS to head into the ground and past MacGillivray.
Aaron Collins, who bagged a first half brace in then reverse fixture back in August had a go from distance on seventeen minutes but his effort was always going wide even with MacGillivray covering his point and Albion were quickly up the other end trying to carve out an equaliser, Taylor flicking Tom Hamer’s cross the wrong side of the near post.
Collins was closer still on 21 minutes when Gibbons found space on the right to find his skipper on the edge of the box and through a crowded penalty area his shot flashed past the far post.
Albion were quickly forced into a change with McCann appearing to take a knock to the head and unable to continue meaning an introduction for Charlie Kirk.
The game became somewhat scrappy for a phase as both sides probed for the next goal and it should probably have gone the way of Rovers a couple of minutes before the break, Jared Quansah heading Calum MacDonald’s corner over. A minute later and Albion were back on level terms, capitalising on their let off. Winnall battled hard to get the ball forward to Taylor and he was able to help it into the path of KIRK to beat Ellery Balcombe at his near post.
Winnall almost bustled his way through the box for a second with the game in nine added first half minutes and Joe Powell tried to hook a looping effort towards the top corner as well but there was to be no further additions to the scoreline before referee Ben Speedie brought the first half to a close.
Half time: Bristol Rovers 1-1 Burton Albion
A lively start to the second half saw half chances at both ends but a free kick presented Rovers with a good chance to force an opportunity but Antony Evans curled his 25-yard free kick a good distance over MacGillivray’s crossbar.
Albion went in front ten minutes into the half amid a huge scramble in the Rovers box. Both Winnall and Taylor were denied inside the box as Rovers struggled to clear before WINNALL eventually was able to smash the ball home and injuring himself in the process. The striker was unable to celebrate his goal and after treatment limped gingerly back to the dressing rooms as Ahadme replaced him in attack.
Ahadme and Taylor quickly developed a good understanding at the top end of the pitch and they were close to creating a third gol between them on seventy minutes, Ahadme getting the knockdown for Taylor to fire in an angled shot that Balcombe got down well to push around the post.
Kirk was agonisingly close to his second of the afternoon on 72 minutes intercepting a poor ball across the back line but denied by Balcombe on the edge of the area as the winger looked to slip the ball under him.
Taylor had the ball in the back of the net two minutes later, pouncing when Balcombe failed to gather in a long range effort from Oshilaja, only for the assistants flag to rule it out. It looked from replays as if the Forest loanee was actually onside.
Rovers were finding it hard to get forwards although Sinclair did find space on the left hand side of Albion’s box, only to fire his effort wastefully over the bar.
Kirk was then replaced inside the last five minutes holding his hamstring as he left the pitch, although it didn’t look to be too serious. Shaughnessy was the man brought on to bolster the midfield for the remainder of the game.
Rovers roused themselves for a final assault on thew Brewers goal as the game headed into seven added minutes and Evans lashed a speculative effort over the bar as Rovers became more and more desperate to get the ball forward to threaten Albion’s goal. It was all to no avail for the hosts as Albion superbly held out for another crucial victory on the road.
ALBION: MacGillivray Brayford, Hughes, Moon; Hamer, Oshilaja, McCann (Kirk, 25, Shaughnessy, 87), Ashworth; Powell; Winnall (Ahadme, 57), Taylor.
Substitutes: Kean, Walker, Carayol, Wakelin.
GOALS: ROVERS - Marquis (9) ; ALBION - Kirk (44), Winnall (55)
Referee: Benjamin Speedie
Attendance: 8,164 (257 away)