npower League 2 action from the Cherry Red Records StadiumTen man Burton Albion survived a late onslaught from relegation threatened AFC Wimbledon to secure another away point in their promotion push. It was a game all about debut goals for on loan strikers as Gary Alexander netted the opener on his debut from Crawley Town but Michael Symes' fiftieth Football League goal on 36 minutes ensured a share of the spoils for the Brewers.
The game was all set for a tense final fifteen minutes when referee Jeremy Simpson brandished a red card to Albion skipper Zander Diamond for what appeared to be some pushing and shoving on Wombles defender Pim Balkestein as Albion prepared to take a corner kick.
Burton boss Gary Rowett made three changes to the side that earned a place in the top three on Tuesday evening at Oxford United. Two of the changes were enforced with both Calvin Zola and Damien McCrory missing out through injury with new loan signing Michael Symes handed a debut in attack and Aaron Webster earning a recall at left back. On the right side of midfield there was also a debut for Burnly loanee Alex MacDonald who replaced Adam Drury, the Manchester City youngster dropping to the bench.
The Burton Albion new boys almost made an immediate impression. With just twenty five seconds on the clock a towering header from Symes thudded back off the underside of the crossbar from Macdonald's searching cross.
Wimbledon soon found their feet and Stuart Tomlinson had to be sharp at his near post to beat away a low driven cross from Chris Hussey after good work from Luke Moore down the left. Albion then had a let off from the resulting corner as Lee Bell had to clear off his own line after a deflected header from defender Pim Balkestein threatened to creep in.
MacDonald fired a free kick into the defensive wall as Albion failed to capitalise on a free kick won by the persistence of Jacques Maghoma and it was the on loan Burnley man who then found himself the first name in the book of referee Jeremy Simpson for a rash challenge on Chris Hussey as he raided down the left. It was the last action of the game for Albion's new loan signing as he had to be replaced by Adam Drury after injuring himself making the challenge.
The home sides pressure eventually paid off for them in the 26th minute. A long free kick somehow bounced over the heads of both Albion's centre halves as they battled for the ball and it came down nicely for Gary ALEXANDER to net a debut goal from close range.
The striker on loan from Crawley almost bagged a second three minutes later as a flowing move saw him make good connection with a header on the run but the ball flew wide of the post.
Burton finally created a chance for themselves on 33 minutes after a period on the defensive. Symes managed to flick on Tomlinson's long punt up the field and when the ball broke kindly for Matt Paterson he tamely curled a shot into the waiting arms of Sullivan.
It was a sign of better things for Albion and they duly equalised on 36 minutes. Maghoma's testing cross forced Balkestein to slice the ball high into the air. SYMES got a head to the dropping ball and then did well to control it again, beat a man at the far post and drill home a low left foot shot beyond Sullivan.
It gave Burton a much needed lift and they looked to try and grab the lead before the break but another free kick from a central position, this time taken by Maghoma, again thudded into the defensive wall and Wimbledon were able to clear. Albion finished the half on top but had to settle for parity at the break.
Half time: AFC Wimbledon 1 - 1 Burton Albion
Gary Rowett made a second change for the Brewers for the start of the second half re-uniting the two former Accrington Stanley players together as Billy Kee came on to replace Matt Paterson and partner Symes.
Wimbledon began to go slightly more direct after the break and Jack Midson almost had a chance as his presence force Tomlinson to come and hastily clear a short back pass that deflected back out off the Wimbledon striker.
Albion's defence was getting a stern examination and a hasty clearance from Tomlinson gave Midson a chance to hoist the ball goalwards again but Albion survived the latest scare still on level terms.
Anthony O'Connor was the second Albion player shown a yellow card and again it was for a foul on Hussey as the former Coventry man tried to join the attack on the left hand side.
Former Hereford United midfielder Harry Pell went into the book after 66 minutes for an untidy challenge on Maghoma just as it seemed that the Albion midfielder was going to burst away towards the edge of the penalty area.
The Wombles made their first change on 73 minutes and it was striker Jack Midson that made way for West Ham loanee Paul McCallum.
Albion were suddenly reduced to ten men on 75 minutes. As Albion prepared to take a corner kick on the left there was some pushing and shoving in the area and Zander Diamond was shown a straight red card for his part in the incident.
Three minutes later Albion were able to make the required substitution to restore the defence but it meant that goalscorer Michael Symes had to be sacrificed to allow Marcus Holness to come on.
Wimbledon brought on Rashid Yussuff with ten minutes to play, the former Charlton youngster replacing Luke Moore down the left.
The Wombles saw their chance to go for a vital three points and threw everything they had at the Brewers. Pell made a surging run down the right as he skipped past a challenge from Aaron Webster but Tomlinson stood tall in the goal to beat away his rising shot.
Albion managed to repel everything that Wimbledon tried in the closing stages and in the end it was a hard earned point for Albion's troubles.
AFC WIMBLEDON: Sullivan, Meades, Hussey, Sweeney, Balkestein, Mitchel-King, Ajala, Pell, Alexander, Midson, Moore. Substitutes: Cummings, Jaimez-Ruiz, Fenlon, McCallum, Long, Prior, Yussuff.
BURTON: Tomlinson; O'Connor, Diamond, Sharps, Webster; MacDonald, Bell, Weir, Maghoma; Symes, Paterson. Substitutes: Lyness, McGrath, Phillips, Holness, Dyer, Drury, Kee.
Referee: Mr. J.Simpson (Lancashire)
GOALS: AFC Wimbledon - Alexander (26) ; Burton - Symes (36)
Attendance: 3,684 (162 away)