Burton Albion 1-0 Plymouth ArgyleCallum McFadzean's 26th minute strike was enough to secure a crucial three points to keep Burton Albion in the League 2 promotion hunt after another tense afternoon at the Pirelli saw Gary Rowett's men chalk up another 1-0 victory, this time over play-off chasing Plymouth Argyle.
Whilst the Pilgrims continue to chase a play-off spot Albion still have dreams of finishing in an automatic promotion spot with rivals Chesterfield dropping two points allowing Albion and Fleetwood to close the gap even further.
The on-loan Sheffield United midfielder swept the ball home after Neal Trotman weakly surrendered possession with a loose pass from his own penalty area and although he denied Matty Palmer, who tried to capitalise on the chance, the ball was fed to McFadzean for him to slot past Jake Cole and open his Brewers account.
McFadzean was part of a three man attacking midfield playing behind Billy Kee and the returning Gary Alexander whilst Lee Bell dropped into a defensive midfield role in front of a back four showing just one change with Phil Edwards ruled out through illness and replaced by David Gray.
The first opening fell for Argyle's leading scorer Reuben Reid who found space in the left channel of the box but his low ball across the area was hacked clear by Gray.
Albion quickly responded and when the former Stevenage full back slung a low cross in there was an excellent dummy from Alexander that allowed the ball to run through towards Kee but Maxime Blanchard got there just in time to divert the ball away for a corner.
Enoch Showunmi made full use of his 6ft 5in frame to climb high in the box on 10 minutes but his towering header was well over Rob Lainton's crossbar as Argyle threatened briefly.
Right on the quarter of an hour mark Albion strung an excellent move together that was so close to breaking the deadlock. Damien McCrory and Jimmy Phillips exchanged passes to feed the ball into the feet of Billy Kee and he showed all of his goalscoring instincts to send a shot arrowing towards the top corner that Jake Cole clawed away onto the roof of the net.
Three minutes later and Albion were even closer. Phillips this time opted to let fly himself with a shot from outside the box and although the shot took a wicked deflection Cole was just able to push the ball onto the outside of the post where it thudded back into play for the Pilgrims to clear.
Durrell Berry then came to the resue of the visitors with a last ditch challenge on Alexander when he latched onto a neat pass from Kee and shaped to shoot and the Albion striker was denied by a deflection and the angle of post and bar moments later when his volley from the resulting corner was inches away from breaking the deadlock.
When the opening goal came on 26 minutes it all stemmed from a horrendous error in the Plymouth defence. Neal Trotman carelessly gave away possession which allowed Matty Palmer to storm forward. Trotman managed to get a block on the young midfielder's shot but the ball fell for Kee to feed the ball into the path of Callum McFADZEAN who calmly swept the ball home from ten yards out.
Gray then produced an excellent headed clearance at the other end as Showunmi threatened to poach an equaliser but Burton almost had a second on 32 minutes with Cole again keeping his side in it with a fingertip save onto the crossbar to keep out a free kick from former Argyle man McCrory after Kee had been chopped down by Trotman.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-0 Plymouth Argyle
Argyle came flying out of the blocks after the break and Reuben Reid, their leading scorer almost smashed in an equaliser as he dropped the shoulder to cut inside in the box but his driven shot got the faintest of deflections to help it wide of the post.
The visitors took heart from that chance and skipper Conor Hourihane forced Lainton into a save on 53 minutes as the pressure from the visitors continued and Sharps had to make another timely headed clearance under pressure from Showunmi as Plymoth flung another set piece into the danger area moments later.
Billy Kee was the first Albion man substituted on 56 minutes and the industry of Alex MacDonald was manager Rowett's choice to replace him.
Callum McFadzean saw yellow for a challenge on ex-Brewers midfielder Andres Gurrieri and Plymouth skipper Hourihane also found himself in referee Haywood's book for a late challenge that left Gary Alexander needing attention from the physio.
Following the half time introduction of the experienced Paul Wotton for Trotman the visitors brought on another experienced head with Marvin Morgan thrown on up front at the expense of Durrell Berry from ther defence. Gurrieri threaded a lovely ball through the back four for Hourihane who lacked the composure inside the box to beat Lainton, the Albion stopper standing his ground well to deny the equaliser.
Alexander was taken off with just over twenty minutes to go after his earlier knock and it resulted in a return to action for Michael Symes, making his first appearance since November when he hobbled off with injury at Dagenham.
The lead was looking precarious for Albion particulary when Argyle won a succession of corner that were all speared in towards the likes of Morgan and Showunmi.
Robbie Weir came on to add some much need fresh legs for the final ten minutes as Callum McFadzean left the action.
Plymouth continued to press for the equaliser but they almost paid the price when Phillips led a quick break that saw Cole parry his shot to his right with Symes unable to steer his shot from the rebound home.
It was set for yet another nervy end for Albion and when Hourihane slung in a free kick in the last minute of normal time there was collective relief when Reid headed it comfortably over the bar.
Five minutes of added time were the signal for another onslaught but it was incident free as far as the Brewers defence were concerned and another crucial win was in the bag for Rowett's men.