Burton Albion 1-0 Northampton TownSkipper Ian Sharps was the unlikely goal hero for the Brewers as they extended their unbeaten Skybet League 2 run to eight games courtesy of a 1-0 win over bottom side Northampton Town. It had looked all set to be a frustrating afternoon for Albion as they peppered the Cobblers goal but profligacy in front of goal looked set to deprive them of another win until Sharps netted his first goal for the club in his 43rd appearance with a bullet of a header with just five minutes to go.
After initial concerns over the fitness of left back Damien McCrory Albion were able to name an unchanged side for the visit of Northampton Town. Lee Bell and Alex MacDonald were deemed fit enough after injury and illness respectively to return to the bench. The Cobblers sacked manager Aidy Boothroyd following Saturday's home defeat to Wycombe Wanderers and were under the caretaker control of Andy King with former Brewers Matt Duke and Kevin Amankwaah amongst their ranks.
Burton were determined to try and exploit any nervousness in the visitors ranks by going on the attack in the early stages and only a last ditch clearance by Ben Tozer prevented Chris Hussey's low cross finding Adam McGurk in space. Billy Kee was close to the opener just after the quarter of an hour mark when Hussey delivered an angled ball into the box and the in form striker steered a header straight into the gloves of Duke.
Albion continued to press looking for the opening goal and Hussey let fly from 25 yards on 27 minutes with the ball flashing wide of the target.
Northampton pushed forwards with Albion failing to take advantage of their dominance but perhaps Burton's best move came from a counter attack as the Cobblers began to grow in confidence. Matty Palmer's original ball out was blocked but he quickly pounced again to feed Adam McGurk who sped away down the right. His pull back allowed Palmer to swing in a cross to the far post where Jimmy Phillips stooped to head goalwards with Duke pushing the ball over the bar.
The clearest chance of the half fell to Adam McGurk on 43 minutes but he was denied by a deflection as Palmer bravely won a header and the former Tranmere man ghosted past his man before drilling a right foot shot across goal and agonisingly wide of the far post.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-0 Northampton Town
The second half was barely forty seconds old when Albion squandered a golden chance to break through. Phillips rolled the ball into the path of Kee who was no more than ten yards out but trying to steer the ball wide of Duke he barely made contact with the ball and the chance dribbled wide. The same combination linked up again a minute later as this time Kee drilled his angled shot too high.
Northampton were forced into a change just five minutes into the second period with loan striker Izale McLeod struggling to shake off a knock picked up in the first half. His replacement was another striker in the form of Roy O'Donovan.
Good pressure from Phillips saw Damien McCrory swing in a teasing cross that McGurk could not keep down before Northampton enjoyed a good spell for themselves. Winger Chris Hackett was at the heart of things with a devilish cross that needed putting behind by Edwards at the back post. Hackett's delivery from corners was also testing the Brewers rearguard.
The winger also inspired a quick breakout that had Darren Carter surging through the middle and when he fed O'Donovan on the right Dean Lyness had to drop low to his right to smother the Irishman's shot.
67 minutes showed on the clock when another excellent chance went begging for Albion. Matty Palmer swung in a deep corner from the left and Robbie Weir arrived on cue with a volley but he was unable to keep it down and a superb chance flew over the bar.
McGurk was also wasteful with another right foot effort as he created space inside the box after some good link up play with Kee but his effort summed up a frustrating game thus far from Albion's attacking perspective.
Susbtitute Alex MacDonald injected some urgency into the Burton attack and he won and took a free kick from distance that flew over before a second change saw Rene Howe introduced for Kee.
Albion continued to knock on the door and Phillips saw a shot loop up off Lee Collins for another corner. It was a decisive moment as from the corner Palmer put in the perfect centre for SHARPS to storm in and thump home an unstoppable header. It had taken 85 minutes to come but the relief within the Pirelli Stadium was palpable.
Lee Bell was brought on for the closing stages with Robbie Weir given a breather for the closing stages and the Northampton threat was effectively snuffed out. Substitute David Moyo had an ambitious overhead kick fly well over as Northampton's last chance came and went.
Howe was denied by a last ditch challenge but the skipper's first goal in a Burton shirt had ensured that the Brewers go into Sunday's clash against Newport only out of the automatic promotion places on goal difference.