npower League 2 action from the Priestfield StadiumThe Brewers were unable to stop the Gillingham juggernaut as it powered on at the top of npower League 2 with a 4-1 victory over Gary Rowett's men.
Albion's eight game unbeaten run came to an end in disappointing fashion although there can be no denying that the Gills are the best team that the Brewers have faced so far in the League. It was a day for defenders as three of the Gills goals came from their back line, Tom Flanagan and Matt Fish giving the home side a 2-0 half time lead before left back Joe Martin rounded things off with a stunning fourth. Zander Diamond had got the Brewers back in it at 2-1 before man of the match Myles Weston had restored a two goal lead for the home side.
Calvin Zola made a welcome return to first team action after missing the last three matches through a hamstring injury picked up against Northampton Town. After passing a Friday fitness test the Congolese striker joined the Brewers squad in Kent and lined up alongside a recalled Matt Paterson in attack. Robbie Weir was also restored to the Burton line-up having served a one match suspension although it was winger Cleveland Taylor who made way with Jack Dyer deployed on the right side of midfield.
Before the shrill of the whistle had died down Gillingham had an opportunity to take the lead. An early ball forward found Myles Weston behind the Brewers defence but from just inside the box he fired across Stuart Tomlinson and wide of the far post.
Gillingham continued to have the better of the opening exchanges and the Burton woodwork was rattled after five minutes by Lewis Montrose when a free kick came back out to him twenty two yards out and he took aim and struck Tomlinson's left hand upright.
Jacques Maghoma took a nasty tumble into an advertising hoarding as he and Matt Fish tussled for a crossfield pass and once back on the field instantly brought down the Gillingham player with referee Lee Collins deeming a warning sufficient admonishment.
Albion's first real chance came in the 12th minute as Maghoma wriggled through a couple of challenges around the edge of the Gillingham box and teed the ball up for Zola to lash a first time shot inches wide of the post.
Weston again showed his pace just before the quarter hour mark when keeper Stuart Nelson launched a long ball forward and Tomlinson had to race off his line and head clear on the edge of his own box before the Gills man could get there with Chris Whelpdale denied a shot on the vacant Burton goal as Albion's midfield recovered.
The goal that the home side had been threatening came on 21 minutes as the heavy pressure finally told. A throw in from the right was helped into the middle and defender Tom FLANAGAN was the man on the spot to pounce on the loose ball to emphatically smash the ball home from close range.
The Brewers had an early chance to equalise but as Matt Paterson found himself in space inside the area his toe poked effort could not quite find its way past Stuart Nelson in the Gills goal.
There was another let off for Albion moments later when Tomlinson hared off his line to challenge Charlie Allen but the midfielder skipped around the Brewers keeper only to see Anthony O'Connor head clear off the Burton line.
The Gills continued to search for a second and both Jack Payne and Chris Whelpdale held their head in their hands as they missed good chances to score again from inside the Burton area.
Weston again showed good awareness and speed of thought as he took aim from twenty five yards trying to catch Tomlinson out but the former Crewe stopper got down well to his right to push the ball away for a corner.
The referee did well to play on when Paterson was tripped just outside the area and although his cross could not quite find its man the ball came out to Damien McCrory who lashed in a long range effort that was blocked away by Adam Barrett deep inside his own penalty area.
Within a minute Albion were two behind. The defence failed to effectively clear Matt FISH's ball into the middle and when the ball came back out to the full back he fired in via the hand of Tomlinson and the crossbar to double the home side's lead.
Burton immediately had two chances to get themselves back into the game. Jacques Maghoma flashed a free kick inches over the crossbar after Robbie Weir had been brought down and then home skipper Barrett produced a superb piece of defending when Paterson latched onto Maghoma's through ball to chip over Nelson only for the defender to get back and hack clear off his own line.
Half time: Gillingham 2-0 Burton Albion
The only change for the start of the second half was a home one. Midfielder Jack Payne, yellow carded in the first half, was replaced by young academy product Bradley Dack.
The youngster also found himself in the referee's book just moments after coming on for an untidy challenge on Calvin Zola that left the Albion striker needing attention.
An early flurry of corner gave Albion some hope and Zander Diamond won an aerial battle to head down and towards goal only for another home boot to clear off the line.
The Gills responded through and after dumping McCrory on the seat of his pants with a neat turn on the edge of the area, Weston had Tomlinson scrambling at his near post to smother another teasing shot.
The Brewers were back in it though on 54 minutes. Some good possession football around the edge of the Gillingham box finally paid dividends when Paterson's scuffed shot squirted through to Zander DIAMOND whose shot took a sizeable deflection, sufficient to put the ball past Nelson.
Five minutes later and the Gills had restored their two goal lead. A long ball forward found Myles WESTON isolated with Rob Kiernan and a quick burst of pace was just enough to create the time and space for an unerring left foot shot across Tomlinson and into the far corner of the net.
Albion were reeling and moments after the home side introduced Nottingham Forest loanee Robbie Findley they had a fourth. A long throw in was cleared out as far as Joe MARTIN and the son of former West Ham defender Alvin Martin smashed home an unstoppable effort into the top corner of the net, out of the reach of Tomlinson.
It could have been worse for Albion soon after as Findley raced onto a long clearance and when Robbie Weir tugged him back on the half way line, referee Collins showed some leniency to only book the Albion player when a red card was a distinct possibility.
With twenty two minutes to go Albion made a double change of their own with both strikers replaced and Billy Kee and Justin Richards coming on to try and make a late impact.
To their credit Burton continued to push forwards and only a smart save from Nelson denied Maghoma of a goal in what was the last action for the former Tottenham man as he was substituted shortly afterwards by Cleveland Taylor.
The Gills were playing well within themselves and keeping Burton at bay although Weir was clearly disappointed to smash a shot well over the bar from twelve yards having shown the desire to get to the ball first and create the chance for himself.
Albion survived at 4-1 when Tomlinson made an excellent save with his feet to deny Dack a goal in stoppage time, the young midfielder ghosting past the defence before trying to slide the ball in from close range.
Even later in added on time Anthony O'Connor was denied a first goal in Burton colours by a fingertip save from Nelson and from the resulting corner the keeper made another fine stop to deny Rob Kiernan.
GILLS: Nelson, Fish, Martin, Payne (Dack, 46), Flanagan, Whelpdale, Kedwell (Strevens, 66), Allen, Montrose, Weston (Findley, 62), Barrett. Substitutes: Strevens, Frampton, Davies, Burton, Forecast.
BREWERS: Tomlinson; O'Connor, Diamond, Kiernan, McCrory; Dyer, Bell, Weir, Maghoma (Taylor, 77); Zola (Richards, 68), Paterson (Kee, 68). Substitutes: Atkins, Corbett, Stanton.
Referee: Mr. L.Collins (Surrey)
GOALS: Gills - Flanagan (21), Fish (40), Weston (59), Martin (63); Brewers - Diamond (54)
Attendance: 7,268 (58 away)