BURTON Albion recorded a first victory and a first clean sheet of the season in a terrific away performance at Exeter City this afternoon.
A first Brewers goal for Deji Oshilaja and Davis Keillor-Dunn's fourth of the season secured a fantastic three points, with the Brewers solid and threatening all over the pitch throughout.
One change was made from last Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat at home to Portsmouth, with Deji Oshilaja coming in for Calum Butcher in a straight swap in midfield.
It was a cagey opening period with neither side seriously threatening in the opening 20 minutes or so.
Victor Adeboyejo saw a flash of a chance and went for an overhead kick, but conceded a free kick in catching Adam Hartigan with his foot, while a dangerous low ball from Archie Collins at the other end flashed across the six-yard box but ran behind for a goal kick.
The first shot on target for Albion came through Joe Powell in the 24th minute. A quick counter from the back saw the ball worked to Powell in the centre circle, where he drove forward into space. He looked to have lost out to the centre-halves but kept his foot in and won the ball back, unleashing a snap shot with the outside of his boot that Jamal Blackman did well to parry away.
It was Albion who grew into the game from there - and just shy of the half-hour Powell, from a corner, had two efforts from inside the box that were blocked by red-and-white shirts before the ball was worked to Keillor-Dunn, who stabbed an effort at goal from close-range but saw it deflect narrowly wide of the far post.
Oshilaja was next to see an effort diverted behind by a defender, again from a corner, after Hughes’s header was blocked.
Albion kept pushing and were inches from taking the lead - though there was more than a hint of controversy about Josh Key’s goalline clearance, the ball seeming to bounce off his outstretched elbow on the line, referee Neil Hair completely unmoved by Albion’s protests.
HALF-TIME: EXETER CITY 0-0 BURTON ALBION
The hosts came out stronger at the start of the second half, with Jay Stansfield looking increasingly threatening - the young striker had the ball in the back of the net from a well-worked move but the offside flag had long been raised, and Stansfield forced Ben Garratt into a smart reflex stop a few minutes shy of the hour after turning a low cross from substitute Harry Kite at goal from close range.
But it would be the Brewers to break the deadlock on 63 minutes. Terry Taylor stood over a free-kick won by John Brayford just inside the Exeter half on the right-hand side, and Brayford would meet that delivery into the box with a header. It was heading to Exeter’s Pierce Sweeney but OSHILAJA stepped in, created space and drilled a superb left-footed effort to the far corner from the left-side of the box.
And it was two just six minutes later, again from a free-kick. This time Powell’s whipped ball found Hughes at the back post - too low for a header, Hughes took his time and lofted a neat ball over the defenders in the six-yard box where KEILLOR-DUNN was waiting to side-foot it home on the half-volley, the ball hitting the ground and then the roof of the net.
It could have been 3-0 just moments later, once again a ball into the box caused problems and Brayford took it down well, sending a low cross-shot across the box which Hamer ran onto, placing an effort to the bottom corner but finding himself denied by a superb save from Blackman.
Exeter retained a threat but were unable to find their way through a resolute Brewers backline - the closest they came to beating Ben Garratt came in the eighth minute of added time, the Brewers keeper pulling off a stunning reflex save to deny Archie Collins.
And so Albion, backed fantastically by 146 Brewers making the long journey south, took a deserved first victory back to Burton upon Trent.
FULL-TIME: EXETER CITY 0-2 BURTON ALBION