BURTON ALBION 2-0 TRANMERE ROVERSFirst half strikes from defenders Damien McCrory and Shane Cansdell-Sherriff secured an excellent start to the Christmas programme as ten man Tranmere Rovers left the Pirelli Stadium on the end of a 2-0 defeat on their first ever visit to take on the Brewers.
McCrory smashed home a 23rd minute penalty after Rovers defender Liam Ridehalgh was red carded for bringing down substitute Kelvin Maynard as he tried to get onto the end of Matty Palmer's pass and Cansdell-Sherriff netted for the second home game in a row with another header from a Palmer corner that found its way into the back of the Tranmere net.
Although the Brewers were unable to add to their tally in the second period they denied the visitors a shot on target in the entire game meaning that by the time the final whistle went Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's side had registered a third successive home win under his tenure and are still to concede a goal at the Pirelli with the Dutchman in charge. All good signs for a side chasing promotion at the end of the season even though the last two home results have come against sides struggling at the wrong end of the Sky Bet League 2 table.
After the gritty goalless draw away at fellow promotion chasers Southend United last Friday the Burton side showed just the one change with Matty Palmer reinstated in the side at the expense of Bryn Morris who has returned to his parent club, Middlesbrough. On the bench there was a welcome return to the matchday squad for winger Jimmy Phillips, out of action with a knee injury since Easter.
Burton came flying out of the traps and could have been ahead before the shrill of the starting whistle had died down. An early raid down the left featuring Stuart Beavon gave an opportunity for Damien McCrory to swing in a dangerous cross that Jacob Blyth was only inches away from diverting beyond Tranmere keeper Owain Fon Williams.
Albion's early fire was doused somewhat by a serious looking injury to top scorer Alex MacDonald. The winger flew into a typically tigerish challenge on Danny Holmes and ended up colliding with an advertising hoarding which left him with a badly gashed knee. Unable to leave the field under his own steam the influential midfielder was stretchered off and replaced by the returning Kelvin Maynard on 13 minutes.
The recent signing looked lively from the outset and was close to connecting with a low cross from Phil Edwards before playing an important role in Albion's opening goal. Palmer drifted infield from his place on the wing and when he tried to pick out Maynard's run into the box, Ridehalgh unceremoniously sent Maynard crashing to the ground giving referee Keith Hill little option but to point to the spot. The Hertfordshire official deemed it to be a professional foul, denying a goalscoring opportunity and produced the red card leaving Tranmere facing up to three quarters of the game with a man disadvantage and once McCRORY stepped up to beat the dive of Fon Williams with a perfectly placed penalty, Rovers were also at a goal's disadvantage too.
Tranmere briefly threw themselves forwards and had shouts for a penalty of their own when a bouncing ball on the edge of the penalty area struck Robbie Weir on the arm but referee Hill adjudged that any contact was not intentional and waved away Rovers appeals.
With everything in Albion's favour they continued to look for a second goal to give themselves daylight and the only surprise was that it took until six minutes from the break for the breakthrough to come. In truth, Palmer's delivery from the right wasn't the best and when the ball bounced inside the penalty area CANSDELL-SHERRIFF stooped to steer a header goalwards that somehow found its way through the crowded box with Stuart Beavon trying, unsuccessfully, to get a final touch giving the popular Australian defender a second goal in as many home games for the Brewers.
However the centre back failed to see out the first half succumbing to a calf injury as the opening half ticked into stoppage time, George Taft replacing him in his more accustomed left sided centre back role.
Half time: Burton Albion 2-0 Tranmere Rovers
Albion started the second half as they finished the first, in search of goals with midfielder Darragh Lenihan trying desperately to get on the scoresheet only for a deflection to deny him a goal winning Albion a corner. Palmer's delivery was better but Edwards beyond the far post could not make meaningful contact.
Former Rovers midfielder Weir sent an ambitious shot well over the goal and Beavon, like Lenihan, saw a shot deflected wide at the expense of a corner by the overworked Tranmere defence. Taft rose well to meet the ball from a corner with Rovers clearing their lines before an excellent pass from Maynard picked out the run of McCrory down the left, the left back's cross aimed towards Jacob Blyth in the centre, the Leicester loanee unlucky to see his chance go wide.
Tranmere threw on their final two substitutes in the experienced pair of Chris Shuker and Kayode Odejayi and although the diminutive Shuker looked good on the ball Odejayi rarely received sufficient service to make much of an impact.
Referee Hill played a good advantage when Albion raided forward Max Power halted Lenihan's off the ball run towards the box and when the Brewers attack finally fizzled out the official returned to Power's foul and showed the young midfielder the yellow card.
Beavon and Blyth linked up well with the former creating a chance that the latter headed wide but by now Albion were pretty much in cruise control mode, playing keep ball and content to deny Tranmere possession of the ball in the closing stages. Blyth blotted his copybook with a yellow card for a clumsy foul on Marc Laird but Albion were in no mood to surrender what they had already worked hard for during the game.
The final moments of the game, with the game moving into added on time saw a welcome return to the pitch for popular winger Jimmy Phillips who was given a rousing reception as he replaced Palmer for the closing moments. The club's longest serving player will have bigger parts to play in the second half of the season but just to see him back on the pitch at all after his lengthy injury absence was a fitting end to action at the Pirelli Stadium for 2014.