npower League 2 action from the Pirelli StadiumA party atmosphere at the Pirelli Stadium brought the regular League season to a close and with it a seventeenth home League win of the campaign for Gary Rowett's magnificent men. They had to it the hard was as champions Gillingham took an early lead through Myles Weston's penalty but goals from Billy Kee, Michael Symes and Calvin Zola put Albion in control before a smart finish from substitute Nathan Nyafli had Albion nervously checking their play-off positions.
Ulttimately the win against Gillingham ensured that Albion finish in a highest ever position of fourth and ready to face Bradford City over two legs for the right to go to Wembley to contest a place in League 1.
The newly crowned npower League 2 champions made eight changes for their final game in the division and Albion made a number of changes too ahead of what was almost certainly going to be a play-offs campaign.
After a rather scrappy and uninspiring start to the game the Gills were handed the lead in the ninth minute. As the visitors probed for an opening around the edge of the Burton penalty area Bradley Dack was upended by Aaron Webster giving referee Jeremy Simpson the easy decision of awarding the penalty. Myles WESTON, one of the few regulars in the Gills line-up stepped up to fire home the spot kick.
Albion were close to an equaliser on sixteen minutes when Lee Fowler swept the ball out to Jimmy Phillips on the left and his teasing cross was just too high for Michael Symes at the far post.
Weston almost added a second after twenty minutes when he picked up the ball to the right hand side of the goal but switching it back onto his left foot his curled the ball well over.
Adam Drury had a shot blocked from the edge of the area as Burton got a break and there was then a break in play as Gills midfielder Bradley Dack picked up an injury and had to limp off to be replaced by youngster Kane Haysman.
Almost from nothing Albion had an equaliser on 33 minutes. Billy Kee twisted and turned inside the box only to be denied by a last ditch challenge but moments later he was in the right place to strike. A superb curling effort from Jimmy Phillips crashed back off the post and came back into play. KEE was in the right place at the right time to fire instinctively back at goal with Tommy Forecast beaten and unable to keep out the follow-up.
Six minutes later and Albion had turned the game on its head. more good work from Jimmy Phillips laid the foundations and after making room for the cross he drilled a low ball into the six yard box for Michael SYMES to tap the ball home.
Albion safely saw the game through to half time in the hope that results elsewhere might just give them something more to cheer in the second half.
Half time: Burton Albion 2-1 Gillingham
The Gills were not going to lie down and take defeat easily despite having nothing of consequence to play for and when Adam Birchall lashed a shot at goal in the opening second half exchanges it looked like a goal all the way until Stuart Tomlinson produced a top drawer save to deny him at close quarters.
Kee had a glorious chance to bag a second on 50 minutes when a failed Gillingham offside trap allowed him to burst into the penalty area but he snatched at a left foot shot that went well wide of the target.
Just after the hour mark Kee was replaced by Calvin Zola as Gary Rowett looked to keep his players fresh. The change worked a treat as within a minute ZOLA had his name on the scoresheet. Jimmy Phillips, enjoying an excellent afternoon, on the left hand side teased himself room for a cross and the tall Congolese striker stooped to head home from close range.
Gillingham introduced their own supersub when young Nathan Nyafli came on for Kane Haysman and like Zola, he was on the scoresheet within moments of coming on. A corner was swung in from the left and the young striker showed great technique to meet the ball on the volley and sweep it into the net.
Adam Drury was denied by an excellent save from Forecast and the keeper did very well to deny Phillips shortly after who tried to poke the ball past him. Calvin Zola was then denied by the post after an excellent attacking move and Forecast produced another excellent stop to prevent Phillips dipping volley from creeping under the crossbar.
Phillips was destined not to get his goal as he was substituted himself on 80 minutes earning a well deserved round of applause from the Burton crowd. Andy Corbett came on in his place with Adam Drury switching to the left.
The lively Nyafli almost created another goal when he showed great skill to cut inside and drive the ball low into the six yard box but Tomlinson was equal to it.
Forecast then produced yet another astounding stop as he denied Anthony O'Connor, still searching for his first Burton Albion goal, who looked incredulous at not scoring.
It was a party atmosphere at the close with both sides having plenty to celebrate but Albion may yet still have an even bigger celebration to come.
BURTON: Tomlinson; O'Connor, Diamond, Holness, Webster; Drury, McGrath, Fowler, Phillips; Kee, Symes. Substitutes: Corbett, Stanton, Zola, Palmer, Lyness, Paterson, MacDonald.
GILLINGHAM: Forecast, Frampton, Davies, Allen, Birchall, Dack, Romeo, Weston, Gregory, Muggleton, Grant. Substitutes: Nelson, Kedwell, Hessenthaler, Hare, McKain, Nyafli, Haysman.
Referee: Mr. J.Simpson (Lancashire)
GOALS: Burton - Kee (33), Symes (39), Zola (63); Gillingham - Weston (9 pen), Nyafli (66)