Bristol Rovers 2-0 Burton AlbionSecond half goals from David Clarkson and John-Joe O'Toole helped Bristol Rovers to maintain their Memorial Stadium stranglehold on the Brewers as the home side powered to victory on a difficult night for the Brewers. The Gas were the better side for long periods of the game but took until midway through the second period to break Albion's stubborn resistance as the unbeaten away run in 2014 came to an end.
Gary Rowett made three changes to the side that earned a valuable point at Rochdale on Tuesday evening. With Damien McCrory failing to recover from the dead leg he suffered at Spotland Chris Hussey came in at left back while Adam McGurk and Billy Kee returned to the starting line-up at the expense of Gary Alexander and Lee Bell who both dropped to the bench.
The home side had the first real chance of the game as a low cross from the right eluded Ian Sharps as he tried to clear and John-Joe O'Toole fired in a low shot that was blocked by MAtty Palmer. O'Toole was then adjudged to be fouling Shane Cansdell-Sherriff as he went for the rebound and Albion were able to clear the danger.
Burton got themselves a foothold in the game as McGurk put in a deep cross to the far post where Jimmy Phillips headed it back into the path of Billy Kee but his first touch slightly let him down and the shooting opportunity was lost.
The game was fourteen minutes in when Rob Lainton was forced into the first real save of the game. Rovers kept the pressure on from their first corner of the game and Lee Brown's left foot curler looked to be getting the better of Albion's keeper until he thrust up a hand to touch it round the post.
Rovers continued to look the more assured coming forwards and a searing run from Kaid Mohamed resulted in a superb cross, having just about kept the ball in play, which found David Clarkson and his stooping header was only inches the wrong side of the post into the side netting.
After Robbie Weir had earlier been booked for a thundering challenge on Tom Lockyer his midfield couterpart, O'Toole also found himself on a knife edge with the referee when he saw yellow for a challenge on Ian Sharps that was a little too forceful for Mr Stroud's liking particularly as he had already bundled Phil Edwards over to get there.
The lively Mohamed was only inches away from giving his side the lead on 39 minutes when he skipped past a challenge in midfield and from the edge of the box unloaded a shot that flew just past Lainton's right hand upright.
Rovers had half hearted shouts for a penalty dismissed by Mr Stroud when Sharps leant across to help the ball back to Lainton with suspicions that an arm may have been involved but Albion quickly broke up the other end and McGurk fired wide after Phillips had headed Ismail's centre back towards him.
The first half came to an entertaining conclusion as Chris Hussey was shown a yellow card for a foul on Alan Gow on the Brewers left and when the free kick was swung in by Brown an almighty scramble followed as neither defenders nor attackers could get a vital touch in the mud filled six yard box.
Half time: Bristol Rovers 0-0 Burton Albion
Rovers carved out the first chance of the second half and Albion were fortunate that striker David Clarkson slipped at the vital moment as a cross found its way to the Scot but his footing eluded him as he went to shoot and the ball dribbled wide of the goal.
Burton were struggling to really create any momentum as Rovers made the best of the sticky midfield conditions. An excellent spell of passing saw the ball come to the influential O'Toole but his first time shot arced away from the target from 22 yards.
Burton finally managed a breakaway down the right and Ismail worked room for a cross that was blocked straight back to him but at the second attempt his cross was cleared away from danger with Matty Palmer seeing a speculative shot go wide.
Lee Bell entered the fray on 64 minutes as Robbie Weir took a breather and also to minimise the rise of the midfield picking up a second yellow card.
The game had twenty minutes to go when the home side finally had the goal that their pressure had threatened. Chris Hussey was caught out on the left as two Rovers players converged on him and when Smith took control of the situation and slung in a cross to the back post CLARKSON was there to stoop and head home from close range.
A substitution swiftly followed for the Brewers as Alex MacDonald replaced Jimmy Phillips to try and liven up the attack.
As the rain started to come down Burton missed a good chance to equalise. A long ball into the box was well chested down by Billy Kee and he laid the ball into the path of McGurk who scooped his shot over the bar from fifteen yards.
The game was put beyond the Brewers on 79 minutes when Rovers doubled their advantage. Clarkson fired in a low shot that was too hot for Lainton to handle and when the ball came loose O'TOOLE was on hand to poke home the rebound.
O'Toole had a chance to grab his second with three minutes to go but his towering header went wide of the post.