BURTON ALBION 4-0 HARTLEPOOL UNITEDJimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's Brewers catapulted themselves back into the automatic promotion places with an ultimately comfortable 4-0 victory over beleaguered Hartlepool United. Managerless and bottom of the league, Pools held their own in a tepid first half but once Alex MacDonald struck seconds before and after the break Albion upped their game and added further second half goals from Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, his first for the club, and Stuart Beavon who netted for the first time since the end of September.
Burton showed just one change to the side after last weeks draw at Exeter City. After serving his one match suspension Phil Edwards returned to the right back berth with Kelvin Maynard missing out with a muscle strain.
After a bright start it was Hartlepool who almost carved out the first opportunity on seven minutes. Left back Darren Holden instigated a swift attack around the edge of the box and making a darting run into the box he was on the end of a one-two but John Mousinho's somewhat untidy challenge did just enough to put him off his stride and Holden could not get a clean shot away.
Burton were struggling to get going but did win the first corner of the game thans to Stuart Beavon's persistence and trickery around the box. Hartlepool continued to look the more comfortable side in possession but it was Beavon on 19 minutes who had the first real chance for either side. A searching ball in from the left by Damien McCrory picked out Albion's number nine and he turned smartly to fire on goal but Scott Flinders was able to collect at the second attempt.
Matty Dolan had his head in his hands and plenty of Burton hearts in mouths on 23 minutes as Bryn Morris was harshly penalised for a foul just outside the box. Dolan picked himself up and curled the ball over the wall but a watchful Jon McLaughlin was able to see it go just wide of his upright.
Beavon almost seized another opportunity on 25 minutes when he controlled an awkwardly bouncing ball from Robbie Weir but he was unable to keep the ball down as it sailed harmlessly wide.
Alex MacDonald also forced a corner with a deflected shot as Burton continued to improve with their forward play but Flinders remained relatively untroubled.
Holden again showed his attacking instincts on 35 minutes skipping past Bryn Morris rather easily and driving a left foot shot over McLaughlin's bar.
Robbie Weir, breaking free of his more defensive duties, had Flinders scrambling across his goal two minutes later as a scrappy piece of play found the Irishman just outside the box and he volleyed a dipping shot just wide.
Neil Austin picked up the first yellow card of the game moments later for a crude challenge on Beavon and Albion were close to the opening goal from the free kick as Phil Edwards drifted into the six yard box and flicked a header just over.
That chance lifted Albion and within a minute two of Albion's loan youngsters combined to fashion an excellent chance. Morris looked up and picked out an early cross into the box and Darragh Lenihan was there to guide a header across Flinders but just off target.
A rather low key first half sprang to life almost on the stroke of the break as Albion grabbed the lead. Jordan Richards and Matthew Bates both went up for the same ball, challenging Alex MacDONALD and when Albion's man reacted quickest as the ball dropped he cut inside and hit a superb shot that flew across Flinders, past his outstretched fingertips and in off the post. A perfect way to end the first forty five minutes.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-0 Hartlepool United
The Albion winger was at it again just 25 seconds after the restart. Lenihan provided the ammunition with a delightful cross and when Jacob Blyth won the ball in the air both Beavon and MacDONALD were waiting to pounce and it was the scorer of the first goal who skipped past a lame challenge and a statuesque defence watched as he comprehensively beat Flinders.
Morris then warmed the palms of Flinders with a viciously hit shot that cannonned back off the keeper with Blyth unfortunate not to bag the rebound.
Both Edwards and Robbie Weir tried their luck as a now rampant Brewers sensed a third but on his wrong foot Edwards dragged his effort wide and Weir's flew over the top.
Hartlepool briefly rallied with a corner but it was Burton threatening again on 64 minutes with Flinders again having to come to his sides rescue to stop Beavon's effort creeping in the bottom corner.. It proved to be only a brief respite as Hartlepool born Bryn Morris swung over a corner and Shane CANSDELL-SHERRIFF was there to glance in from inside the six yard box.
Burton went goal crazy on 69 minutes. MacDonald played the ball in to Blyth who held the ball up well before inviting BEAVON to take the ball around a defender and crash home a low left foot shot to end his own personal goal drought.
The hard working front runner took his leave to a great ovation minutes later as Dominic Knowles was given a chance to show what he can do. MacDonald also left the game early, unable to complete a hat-trick with Marcus Harness also given a late run out.
Matty Palmer completed the Burton substitutions with eight minutes remaining swapping with Robbie Weir in the centre of midfield.
Substitute Kieran Green picked up Pools second yellow card of the game for a reckless and frustrated challenge on Lenihan. Palmer almost exacted even more punishment but Flinders was equal to his free kick, touching it over the bar for the relative safety of a corner.
A much more positive and vibrant second half from the Brewers concluded without addition to the scoreline but Albion left the field knowing they had picked up a good three points that sends them into the festive period in good spirits and back inside League 2's prized top three.