npower League 2 action from the Pirelli StadiumA thriller at the Pirelli saw Burton again squander a two goal lead for the second match in succession but this time go back in front only to be pegged back again in a 3-3 draw against Northampton Town. Games against the Cobblers always seem to have goals and this was no different although four of the goals were scored by central defenders. Calvin Zola had Albion in front on eight minutes and when Kelvin Langmead, ironically the scorer of the games only goal last time the sides met at the Pirelli, put through his own net on 54 minutes it looked like the points were safe for Albion. Langmead though, inspired a comeback by heading in at the far post from a free kick and his defensive partner Dave Artell grabbed an equaliser. Zander Diamond scored his second of the season with a towering header but it was former Albion loan winger Alex Nicholls who produced a sharp finish to secure a point for Aidy Boothroyd's men.
Gary Rowett gave instant debuts to new loan signings Rob Kiernan and Luke Rooney. Despite Nathan Stanton reporting fit after a achilles injury picked up against Bradford City on Tuesday Kiernan, on loan from Wigan Athletic, paired up with Zander Diamond at the heart of defence with Rooney slotting in on the right side of midfield. Up front both Calvin Zola and Matt Paterson returned to the side after being rested on Tuesday as did Jacques Maghoma on the left.
Albion made a bright start showing no lethargy from their cup exploits on Tuesday. Maghoma was quickly on the ball putting in a teasing cross but the presence of David Artell was just enough to prevent Calvin Zola getting in a header on goal.
Robbie Weir then seized the chance to surge forward with a break from the halfway line and when nobody bothered to close him down he tried his luck but was off target with his shot.
The Brewers did not take long to make their pressure count and took the lead in the eighth minute. Rooney quickly impressed with his delivery in from the right with Zola heading against the underside if the bar. While Albion appealed that the ball had crossed line Northampton seemed to stop and when Jacques Maghoma immediately returned the loosed ball from the left hand side, ZOLA turned and fired home from close range.
The visitors took a while to settle down and their first real moment of danger came in the 21st minute when Kiernan rashly brought down Ishmel Demontagnac just outside the area and the former Walsall winger got up to take the kick himself however Albion's defensive wall stayed strong and the ball was cleared.
Almost immediately Albion were close to going two up. Another shot from distance from Weir had Lee Nicholls in the Northampton goal in all sorts of trouble as he flapped at the ball although the keeper was mightily relieved to see Matt Paterson flagged offside as he almost pounced on the loose ball.
The confidence was flowing through the Brewers and when Maghoma burst through the middle on 25 minutes it looked to be opening up for him. A subtle tug from a defender was enough to just put him off his stride although he managed to put the ball into the path of Rooney who disappointingly pulled his shot wide.
Lee Bell was next to go close as he jinked his way through but a deflection on his angled shot was all that was needed to put the ball wide of the post.
Thirty four minutes were on the clock when Albion went even closer to a second. Lee Bell was fouled out on the left by Chris Hackett and when Damien McCrory lifted a teasing free kick into the area, Zander Diamond rose highest but was only denied as Nicholls diverted a goalbound header onto the crossbar.
Tomlinson was given a slight scare as Northampton strung together probably their best move of the match when Hackett clipped in an excellent cross and the Albion keeper got just enough of a hand on it beneath his own crossbar to divert the ball away from the Northampton players converging on the back post.
Rooney then dinked a shot onto the roof of the net before the powerful presence of Adebayo Akinfenwa almost equalised. Turning in midfield the burly striker ran at goal and tried to tuck a low shot to Tomlinson's left with the keeper equal to it to push it round the post.
Albion were dealt a blow just before half time when Zola limped off to be replaced by Billy Kee. The lanky striker went down awkwardly a few minutes previously as he was challenged and fell onto his hip. Unable to continue he left the fray just before the half time whistle went but with Albion still looking for that second goal to give them some breathing space.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-0 Northampton Town
Maghoma quickly got Albion going at the start of the second half as he got on the run and teased half time substitute John Johnson on the edge of the area before trying a curling shot that went wide of the far post.
Demontagnac was looking the man most likely to conjure something up for the visitors and after a neat one two in the middle he lashed a low shot wide of Tomlinson's upright.
Play quickly switched to the other end and a sweeping move started by Rooney and helped on by Kee had Paterson in behind the defence when Johnson slipped at the vital moment. Paterson retrieved the ball from out wide and delivered a beautiful cross that Maghoma met on the volley but which Nicholls produced an excellent save from to keep out his shot.
The goal that Albion wanted so much came their way in the 55th minute although there was more than an element of good fortune about it. The Northampton defence were at sixes and sevens when Maghoma ran at them again and when Rooney's shot was not cleared properly the ball fell to Kee out wide and when he drilled it back across the ball hit the unfortunate Kelvin LANGMEAD and went in.
However four minutes later the tall central defender made immediate amends by getting his side back into it. Demontagnac was brought down just outside the angle of the box and the winger lifted the ball to the back post where LANGMEAD headed down and in as Tomlinson could not keep out his effort.
The home side had to resist a fierce spell of pressure as Northampton went in search of an equaliser and there was a huge let off on 67 mintes as Akinfenwa once again had a sight of goal but this time crashed his shot against the post.
Akinfenwa again went close two minutes later as a long throw from Ben Tozer landed right on his head and Tomlinson had to show quick reactions to push the ball away.
Tomlinson was being kept very busy and as Northampton won a flurry of corners Albion sacrificed Matt Paterson to get Nathan Stanton on.
Before he exert his influence though Albion had conceded again on 74 minutes. A long free kick into the area from Demontagnac found its way to the back post and David ARTELL was able to poke it home for the equaliser.
A remarkable second half got even better in the 79th minute as Albion restored their lead. Jacques Maghoma was hauled down by the corner flag and when McCrory flighted in the free kick Zander DIAMOND got up well to steer a header into the net as Nicholls came in vain to meet it.
Robbie Weir almost lashed in a fourth for Albion but Albion were pegged back again on 82 minutes by a sublime piece of finishing from Alex NICHOLLS. There looked little danger when the ex Albion winger found himself with the ball inside the penalty area but he turned and produced an excellent chip beyond the fingertips of Tomlinson and into the far corner.
Both sides had opportunities late on to snatch a winner but in the end a point apiece was probably a fair outcome after a stirring fightback in the second half from the visitors.
BREWERS: Tomlinson; O'Connor, Diamond, Kiernan, McCrory; Rooney, Bell, Weir, Maghoma; Zola, Paterson. Substitutes: Atkins, Webster, Stanton, Taylor, Yussuf, Dyer, Kee.
NORTHAMPTON: L.Nicholls, Widdowson, Guttridge, Langmead, Demontagnac, Akinfenwa, Hackett, Tozer, A.Nicholls, Artell, East. Substitutes: Higgs, Johnson, Charles, Mukendi, Moult, Roofe.
Referee: Mr. B.Malone (Wiltshire)
GOALS: Albion - Zola (8), Langmead (55 own goal), Diamond (79); Northampton - Langmead (59), Artell (74), Nicholls (82)