npower League 2 action from Pirelli StadiumCalvin Zola and Lee Bell ensured that Albion finished 2012 in a play-off position as they scored the goals that ended Southend United's fourteen game unbeaten run going back to October. It was another impressive performance from the Brewers as they completed a second double in a week against a side who will not be beaten twice by many this season. Albion were 2-0 up by half time but this time the visitors were given little encouragement to get back into the game despite Nathan Stanton's dismissal for two yellow cards leaving Albion to play the final quarter of an hour with ten men.
After the Boxing Day victory over Rochdale it was easy for Brewers boss Gary Rowett to name an unchanged side for the visit of League 2's form side. The visitors however were forced into a change as Watford loanee Britt Assombalonga missed out through injury. The Shrimpers were also able to name just the six substitutes such was the injury list at Roots Hall.
Both sides took a while to get used to the sodden pitch which was in remarkably good condition given the pre-match weather conditions. Albion it was though who carved out the first real chance of the match as excellent work by Calvin Zola allowed Jack Dyer to cross in for Robbie Weir who had made the run from deep. He managed to get to the ball but at full stretch could only prod the ball at Paul Smith in the Southend goal.
Southend responded with a swift attack of their own and Anthony O'Connor had to intercept a teasing cross as full back Sean Clohessy raised down the right.
Albion had another opportunity on 14 minutes when Dyer again was the provider, this time from a free kick and Zola's header went wide although it appeared to deflect off Luke Prosser.
The next time the ball went into the box it was a different story as Albion broke the deadlock on 16 minutes. A surging run and cross from Lee Bell had the Southend defence stretched and ZOLA was the man in the middle to throw himself at the ball and steer it past Smith for his 11th goal of the season.
Billy Kee was close to a second on 19 minutes as he struck a low shot on the turn that skidded off the wet surface and forced Smith into a sprawling save.
Southend flew at Burton in search of the goal that would bring them parity but despite numerous opportunities in and around the box the nearest the came in a hectic spell was a shot on the turn from Gavin Tomlin that Dean Lyness pushed around the post. Lyness then came off his line to collect a teasing cross only to be flattened by Cresswell as he challenged.
Tamika Mkandawire also went close as Tomlin found room to pass to him on the edge of the box but his shot, with the outside of his foot, curled just over the crossbar.
Having seen off the Southend threat Albion extended their lead in the 36th minute in slightly fortuitous circumstances. Albion worked the ball well around the edge of the Southend box and the ball seemed to take an age to come for Lee BELL who thrashed it goalwards and with the aid of a kind deflection off Southend skipper Chris Barker Albion were two to the good.
This time Albion made it through to the break with their two goal lead still in tact despite Southend throwing everything they had at Burton in the remainder of the first half.
Half time: Burton Albion 2-0 Southend United
Southend started the second half on the front foot, pretty much as they had ended the first but it was Albion with the first real opening as some superb play by Kee created the chance for Zola to run at goal but he eventually screwed his shot wide of goal.
The visitors then won a hotly disputed free kick on the edge of Albion's penalty area but after Nathan Stanton saw yellow for his part in the decision and a minor bout of pushing and shoving Michael Timlin's low deflected effort was safely smothered at his post by Lyness.
On 69 minutes the visitors made a double change with former Derby winger David Martin introduced as well as Mark Phillips with Barry Corr and Tamika Mkandawire the men to make way.
Things turned nasty on 74 minutes as Southend prepared to take a free kick on the left. More pushing and shoving in the box saw Luke Prosser booked for Southend but crucially Nathan Stanton also saw yellow, his second of the game and referee Gary Sutton produced the red to follow it up and the Brewers were left to play the remaining quarter of an hour with ten men.
Aaron Webster was quickly sent on in place of Billy Kee to shore up the back line but Southend quickly had a great chance to get themselves back in it but Martin screwed his shot wide of the post with Lyness scrambling across his goal line.
Zola had a great chance to put the game to bed with ten minutes to go. Having jinked past two men on the edge of the box he had sight of goal but was denied by a good save from Smith.. Bell then curled a free kick over the crossbar as Burton showed that they were not going to sit on their two goal lead.
Southend pressed for anything to give them hope in the but safe handling from Lyness as the ball bobbled into the six yard box snuffed out any last hopes the Shrimpers had of salvaging something from the game.
In the end Albion's resolve saw them through to to end the year with another win and the promise of an interesting 2013 to look forward to.
BURTON: Lyness; O'Connor, Stanton, Diamond, McCrory; Dyer, Bell, Weir, Maghoma; Zola, Kee. Substitutes: Atkins, Corbett, Webster, McGrath, Taylor, Palmer, Paterson.
SOUTHEND: Smith, Clohessy, Cresswell, Timlin, Corr, Hurst, Prosser, Tomlin, Barker, Laird, Mkandawire. Substitutes: Straker, Eastwood, Martin, Donnelly, Phillips, Bentley.
Referee: Mr G.Sutton (Lincolnshire)
GOALS: Albion - Zola (16), Bell (36)