Burton Albion 1-0 Rochdale
The debate went on long after the game as to who scored the winner but the thing that really mattered was that the Brewers got three points against the ten men of Rochdale at the Pirelli Stadium. Whether Rene Howe or defender Oliver Lancashire got the final touch to Billy Kee's through ball may require video evidence to prove one way or the other but in a close contest it proved sufficient to ensure a win for Gary Rowett's men.
The visitors were reduced to ten men inside the first ten minutes as skipper Peter Cavanagh was sent off for a studs-up challenge on Robbie Weir on the half way line although the Rochdale man was perhaps fortunate to have avoided a yellow card for a challenge in the first minute that left the Albion man requiring treatment.
The Brewers showed two changes to the side that won at Sheffield United on Tuesday evening. A new strike force of Billy Kee and Rene Howe came in for Michael Symes while Phil Edwards dropped out of the starting line-up with Rory Delap switching to right back to accommodate the extra man in attack.
Albion had the first opportunity as Chris Hussey made an early break forward through the centre and Robbie Weir had been left in a heap in his own half. The two goal hero from Tuesday slipped the ball inside for Rene Howe who took a touch and fired a shot well over the bar.
The visitors were reduced to ten men in just the seventh minute. Weir who had been clattered once was on the wrong end of a studs up challenge from Dale skipper Peter Cavanagh and referee Seb Stockbridge was in the right place to see the incident and had no hesitation in showing the red card.
Despite their numerical disadvantage Rochdale showed plenty of attacking intent but without seriously troubling Jordan Pickford in the Burton goal. Damien McCrory was then given a good chance to break the deadlock as he got onto a pass from Rene Howe before letting fly with a right foot shot that was blocked on its way to goal conceding a corner.
Albion began to stretch the Rochdale defence with some crossfield balls but the Dale defence held firm in the face of some strong Albion pressure and the visitors had another name in referee Stockbridge's book on 35 minutes when Ian Henderson stupidly kicked the ball away as Lee Bell was about to take a free kick and he saw yellow. Shortly after Bell was in the book as well for a needless challenge in the middle of the park that incurred the ire of the referee.
George Donnelly shanked a shot well off target before Albion raised their game again and the Brewers had the lead on 43 minutes. A superb turn gave Billy Kee the chance to weigh up his options and he tried to slide the ball into the path of Howe but Oliver LANCASHIRE got there first and poked the ball away past the keeper but unfortunately for the Dale keeper it found the back of the net to give Albion the lead.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-0 Rochdale
Rochdale made a double change at half time with midfielders Scott Hogan and Ian Henderson sacrificed to make way for Andrew Tutte and Matty Done.
Burton were quickly onto the attack and Billy Kee was close to adding a second on 49 minutes with some quick feet inside the box before dragging a shot across the area.
McGurk worked the space for an excellent cross from the right on 54 minutes and when Chris Hussey got his head to it the chance was there to make the net ripple again but his downward header was easily claimed by Josh Lillis.
On the hour mark the game really sprang to life. Rory Delap made a surging run down the right and his low cross was just begging to be tapped in before Lillis cut out the danger and a quick break down the other end immediately had George Donnelly setting his sights on goal and sending a dipping effort just over Jordan Pickford's crossbar.
Albion quickly had two half shouts for penalties as Kee's shot struck a defender inside the box and as Rene Howe turned and went to ground with referee Stockbridge having no interest in either claim.
Howe then sent Hussey surging away down the left with a delightful pass and his superb cross was headed away from the onrushing McGurk by Michael Rose. The resulting corner from McGurk was nearly turned home firstly by Delap and then Weir at the far post who couldnt quite made an effective connection.
Albion made their first change on 74 minutes with Rene Howe making way after a hard working home debut and he was replaced by Alex MacDonald who immediately headed for the right hand side as Adam McGurk took up a more central role.
Albion made a second change on 83 minutes with a straight swap in attack. Billy Kee was given a breather replaced by Michael Symes.
Symes then contrived to squander a glorious chance to make it 2-0. Excellent work from McGurk down the left created a chance for Hussey to burst into the box and his cut back was perfect for Symes who managed to scoop the ball over the bar.
There was one final chance with the last kick of the game as Symes won a free kick on the edge of the area as he tried to work the ball across to the right. McGurk took control of the free kick but his effort curled over the wall but safely over the crossbar as well.
The final whistle went straight after and Albion had their first three point haul of the new season.