npower League 2 action from the Memorial Stadium
Burton Albion chose the scene of their worst ever Football League defeat to suffer one of their most disappointing defeats of the season and bring their seven game unbeaten run to a shuddering end. The Brewers failed to recover from Bristol Rovers lighting start as Ryan Brunt had the home side ahead on five minutes and a disjointed and lethargic performance was further punished in the second half as John-Joe O'Toole and Eliot Richards both fired home to complete a 3-0 win and turn the Memorial Stadium into one of Albion's least favourite grounds to visit after just two trips to the West Country outpost.
After much deliberation in the build up to the game and a late fitness test for in form winger Jacques Maghoma, Gary Rowett was able to name an unchanged starting line-up for the fourth game in a row. The only change came on the bench where Zander Diamond returned to the matchday squad after serving his four match suspension. He came in at the expense of Adam Drury.
Rovers named Tom Parkes as captain as the Pirates looked to bounce back from a midweek defeat away to Northampton Town.
The home side made a promising start and after a surge through the middle by Elliot Richards a neat ball out to his left played in winger Ellis Harrison. His low ball fizzed through penalty area but beyond Stuart Tomlinson's post.
Rovers continued to press and had shouts for a penalty when the ball seemed to strike the arm of Robbie Weir on the edge of the box but they benefitted from a similar decision moments later as the ball appeared to hit Joe Anyinsah in similar fashion before the winger crossed in low to the near post when Ryan BRUNT got ahead of his marker to steer the ball in from six yards.
Albion cleared their heads after a scrappy start and Robbie Weir saw a shot blocked as the ball fell invitingly for him in the box. However it was Rovers who looked to have more of a cutting edge and most of their fans were out of their seats when Tom Parked fired a shot at goal on the quarter of an hour mark, that was until Stuart Tomlinson pulled off a magnificent save on his goal line to deny the former Albion loanee.
The Burton goal was still living something of a charmed life for a while afterwards as Rovers piled on the pressure but a second goal wouldnt come their way despite some last ditch defending from the Brewers.
Burton were close to an equaliser on 22 minutes as Billy Kee was only inches from connecting with Anthony O'Connor's cross although it did result in a corner for Albion. As Rovers cleared the corner Kee was bundled over just outside the box offering Alex MacDonald the chance to try his luck but his curling effort deflected off the wall for another corner.
Kee then worked room for a shot after good link up play with Michael Symes inside the box but his shot lacked the power to seriously trouble Steve Mildenhall in the Rovers goal.
Mildenhall was more concerned on 40 minutes as Jacques Maghoma, up to now relatively quiet in the game, stepped up to take a free kick all of thirty yards out after Michael Symes had been bundled over but the experienced keeper was able to smother the ball at the second attempt as Symes looked to pounce on the rebound.
Neither side could create anything meaningful in the remainder of the half but Albion had it all to do in the second period to maintain their unbeaten run and their grip on third place.
Half time: Bristol Rovers 1 - 0 Burton Albion
A low key start to the second half was not really what Albion wanted and they almost found themselves two goals in arrears on 55 minutes when Eliiot Richards found the room to turn just inside the area and hit a deflected shot towards goal that Tomlinson had to claw away at full stretch to his right.
Parkes picked up the first yellow card of the game on 59 minutes when he rather cynically stopped Robbie Weir on a bursting run through the middle. Rovers then took the opportunity to make a substitution with goalscorer Brunt replaced by Oumare Tounkara. As Albion restarted play Lee Bell swung in a free kick that Mildenhall somehow kept out depite toppling over the line he kept the ball out.
A minute later and it was 2-0 to Rovers. Albion struggled to clear the ball away and Oliver Norburn, on as a substitute earlier in the game fired in a low centre and John-Joe O'TOOLE hjad the simpple task at the far post of firing in from close range.
Albion immediately made a double change with Jacques Maghoma and Billy Kee taken off to be replaced by Jimmy Phillips and Calvin Zola.
Robbie Weir required lengthy treatment after a bone crunching challenge with Tom Parkes and was eventually able to continue. Before they knew it Albion were 3-0 down as Rovers struck again with twenty minutes to go. Ellis Harrison found space on the left to pull the ball back for Eliot RICHARDS and the young striker instinctively fired beyond Tomlinson to put the game to bed.
Weir was quickly substituted with Jack Dyer brought on to partner Bell in midfield.
Albion were pleased to see Harrison leave the field to be substituted inside the last ten minutes and it was one of those days when the final whistle could not come quick enough for Albion despite Calvin Zola seeing a volleyed effort fly over the bar in stoppage time.
BRISTOL: Mildenhall, Smith, Parkes, McChrystal, Brown, Harrison, Woodards, O'Toole, Anyinsah, Richards, Brunt. Substitutes: Gough, Paterson, Norburn, Virgo, McDonald, Hitchcock, Tounkara.
BURTON: Tomlinson; O'Connor, Holness, Sharps, McCrory; MacDonald, Weir, Bell, Maghoma, Kee, Symes. Substitutes: Lyness, Corbett, Diamond, Zola, Phillips, Paterson, Dyer.
Referee: Mr. M.Naylor (South Yorkshire)
GOALS: ROVERS - Brunt (5) , O'Toole (61). Richards (70)
Attendance: 6,065 (236 away)