npower League 2 action from the Pirelli StadiumAnother game against fellow promotion contenders and another three points bagged for the Brewers as Gary Rowett's Burton Albion battlers stunned their fellow high flying rivals Exeter City with a ruthless display of finishing that had the Brewers 3-0 up at the break through Michael Symes, Marcus Holness and Jacques Maghoma. Skipper Lee Bell rattled in a stunning fourth on the hour mark before Albion had to endure something of a nervy final quarter of the game as Exeter scored twice in four minutes to halve the arrears and give them an outside chance of getting some reward.
The last time the sides had met at the Pirelli was Exeter's last match in the Conference which ended 4-4 and this was close to matching that in terms of excitement. The Brewers went into the game with the best home record in League 2, including eleven wins whilst Exeter could boast ten victories on the road as part of the second best away record in the division - something had to give and thankfully for the Brewers it was the visitors who were unable to match Albion's finishing.
Burton had the luxury of naming an unchanged side for the visit of the Grecians. In another promotion battle Albion looked to build on wins over Rotherham and Fleetwood with another good result against Paul Tisdale's Exeter City.
Former Albion keeper Artur Krysiak failed a Friday fitness test so missed out on playing his former side. Kevin Amankwaah did however make the starting line-up against former employers.
After a cagey opening ten minutes it was Albion who took the initiative on eleven minutes when they took the lead as Exeter tried to counter-attack. It owed much to good work on the left from the hard working Damien McCrory and he linked well with Jacques Maghoma who eventually worked room for a cross from near the touchline. Exeter's defence was struggling to get back in place and Billy Kee was unable to capitalise in the middle, missing his shot, before the ball came to the unmarked Michael SYMES six yards out who had the simple task of tapping into the empty net.
Symes had a chance to double his tally ten minutes later as he found himself in space but Tommy Doherty got in a vital block as the Albion loanee took a moment too long to get his shot away..
Marcus Holness had to produce an excellent piece of defending to deny the lively Jimmy Keohane an opportunity to equalise but on twenty six minutes the big defender was at the other end doubling Albion's lead. Again the combination of McCrory and Maghoma were instrumental with a short corner routine and the latter easily tricked his way past Keohane and into the penalty area where a low left foot cross looped up at the near post and HOLNESS was first to react to head in via the post for his first goal in Albion colours.
It was 3-0 on 34 minutes as Albion stamped their authority on the game even further. Billy Kee launched a ball forward towards Symes and when he chested the ball into the path of MAGHOMA the in form midfielder took the ball in his stride and curled a sumptuous shot into the top corner with Rhys Evans completely beaten.
Exeter tried their hardest to get something back before the break but the best they could muster was a tame overhead kick from the dangerous Jamie Cureton in the final minute of the half, Albion completely in control of the game at this stage, confidence coursing through them.
Half time: Burton Albion 3-0 Exeter City
The Grecians made a change for the second half with Spanish striker Guillem Bauza thrown on in place of midfielder Arron Davies as Paul Tisdale looked for some inspiration from his below-par side.
With Burton determined to keep Exeter quiet at the start of the second period it was a subdued opening to the second half although Cureton swivelled on the edge of the box to put a low shot wide, Stuart Tomlinson had the effort well covered though as he dived to his left watching the ball go comfortably wide.
Cometh the hour mark and it was 4-0 to the Brewers and what a goal it was. Michael Symes again worked hard and when he laid the ball into the path of skipper Lee BELL struck a fizzing shot from outside the area that crashed down off the underside crossbar with the eagle eyed linesman spotting that the shot had crossed the line and awarding the goal.
Albion made their first change on 66 minutes with the now familiar swap of Adam Drury for Alex MacDonald to freshen things up on the right side of midfield.
Exeter finally gave themselves something of a lifeline with twenty minutes to go. A route one ball out from the back got to the edge of the Albion box and with Cureton the focus of attention for the Brewers defence BAUZA was given room to drill a low shot inside Stuart Tomlinson's near post.
Albion immediately brought on Calvin Zola for Billy Kee but the deficit for Exeter was reduced further on 74 minutes. A flurry of corners for the visitors paid dividends when Scot BENNETT rose highest to head goalwards and although there was a scramble on the line the assistant flagged to say that the ball had crossed the line before Damien McCrory could effect his clearance.
Zola was close to making it five for Albion on 76 minutes with a neat turn but from an acute angle his shot was beaten away by Evans with the Brewers substitute drilling the rebound back across the six yard box.
Craig Woodman fired a free kick over the crossbar as Exeter looked to set up a grandstand finish before they threw on their final substitute with striker John O'Flynn sent on for midfielder Jimmy Keohane. The Irish frontman had little time to make any impression and Stuart Tomlinson was barely threatened in the closing stages as the Brewers efficiently saw out the remainder of the game, almost capping the game game with a fifth goal at the end of stoppage time as Lee Bell swiftly countered and set up Michael Symes to drive towards goal only to be thwarted by a comfortable save from Evans before referee James Linington brought the curtain down on Albion's seventh straight home win, pushing Gary Rowett's men back into the automatic promotion places.
BURTON: Tomlinson; O'Connor, Holness, Sharps, McCrory; MacDonald, Bell, Weir, Maghoma; Kee, Symes. Substitutes: Lyness, Corbett, Zola, Phillips, Paterson, Dyer, Drury.
EXETER: Evans, Woodman, Bennett, Baldwin, Coles, Davies, Cureton, Doherty, Amankwaah, Keohane, Molesley. Substitutes: Tully, Oakley, O'Flynn, Bauza, Pym, Gosling, Moore-Taylor.
Referee: Mr. J.Linington (Isle Of Wight)
GOALS: Burton - Symes (11), Holness (26), Maghoma (34), Bell (60) ; Exeter - Bauza (70), Bennett (74)