Burton Albion 0-2 Oxford UnitedWhat should have been the game of the day in Skybet League 2 was ruined as a spectacle following some controversial decisions in the first half left the Brewers with a mountain to climb against fellow promotion contenders Oxford United.
When Ian Sharps and Dave Kitson tangled midway inside the Burton half just after the half hour mark referee Michael Bull decided to red card the Albion defender for a little kick out at the striker but when Kitson raised his hands to shove Sharps to the ground he was controversially only shown a yellow and thus the tone was set for the remainder of the game.
Oxford eventually settled the game with two second half goals through Alfie Potter and Danny Rose but the first half events left a sour taste in the mouth.
Following their excursion into the Johnstone's Pain Trophy on Tuesdya night it was back to the bread and butter of the Skybet League 2 campaign for a third versus second clash with Oxford United. With both sides unbeaten after five game in the league Albion unsurprisingly recalled all of their big guns with the side unchanged from that which grabbed a late winner at Accrington a week ago.
Oxford were on the attack early and a wasteful shot from Danny Rose after a promising build up ensured that the game remained scoreless and another good chance, this time for midfielder Asa Hall, went begging as his right foot shot went side of the post without troubling Dean Lyness.
Albion's first real opportunity came via the long throw of Rory Delap. The experienced full back launched one of his trademark throws into the box and a flick on by Michael Symes was only half cleared away to Chris Hussey who volleyed over the crossbar.
As expected it was turning into a cagey affair with midfield a very busy and competitive area of the pitch as both sides looked to try and gain the upper hand. Ryan Clarke, though, was undoubtedly the busier of the two keepers as both Hussey and McGurk put in teasing crosses in that he had to come and collect under pressure.
However it all turned sour for Albion on 34 minutes as Ian Sharps was controversially sent off. The commanding centre half was involved in a tussle with Dave Kitson and although the Albion man swung a leg at the former Reading striker the reaction of the ginger haired striker was to push Sharps over with referee Michael Bull only showing the Oxford man a yellow for his part in the incident. Albion had to re-organise and Michael Symes was soon sacrificed in attack to allow Phil Edwards to come on and restore the back line.
The yellow card was out again in the final moments of the half as David Hunt went into the book for a foul on Hussey, not his first of the afternoon and Rene Howe was also carded for an innocuous challenge in front of the dugouts.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-0 Oxford United
Burton started the second half well despite the man disadvantage. Damien McCrory had a shot saved by Ryan Clarke but the flag of the assistant had already been raised with the Albion left back having strayed offside.
Four minutes into the second period and Albion were really up against it. There seemed little danger when Alfie POTTER picked up the ball in midfield but the diminutive winger cut inside Damien McCrory, into the box and having jinked past another challenge drove in a low shot that took a deflection before beating Lyness at the far post.
Oxford could have been two up moments later when left back Tom Newey let fly with a rising drive that Lyness superbly tipped over the crossbar to keep Albion in it.
The contest threatened to boil over again as Hunt went to ground as Hussey threatened to burst clear and it all got a bit ugly with suggestions from Oxford that Howe was somehow involved with Andy Whing in particular getting needlessly involved in more shoving.
Oxford were forced into a change on 64 minutes when James Constable seemed to be down for an age in the centre circle before Marcus Holness eventually put the ball out to allow the trainer on. The dangerous Oxford front man was unable to continue and had to be replaced by Deane Smalley.
Lee Bell was quickly closed down on the edge of the box as he set himself to shoot and in what ended up as a block challenge limped away although he was soon able to run off the effects of the tackle.
The Albion skipper was eventually replaced with a quarter of an hour to go as Gary Rowett made a double change to try and salvage something from the game. Matty Palmer came on in the centre with Jimmy Phillips replacing Rene Howe. Adam McGurk pushed forward into the centre forward role with plenty of options supporting him from midfield.
It was, however an Oxford substitute that had the final say. Ryan Williams was brought on for Kitson, who left the field to a chorus of boos from the Burton fans and on 85 minutes the winger set off down the right outpacing Matty Palmer before delivering a low cross in that Danny ROSE challenged at the near post for and as Rory Delap went in as well the ball ended up in the back of the net.
Jimmy Phillips almost conjured up an immediate response with an angled shot that took a deflection wide but Oxford showed why they are right up near the top this season to close out the game and end Albion's unbeaten start to the League season.