Burton Albion 2-4 Fleetwood TownA six goal thriller but not the result Burton Albion were looking for as fellow promotion contenders Fleetwood Town ran out 4-2 winners on a strange afternoon at the Pirelli Stadium. After a torrential downpour in the hour before the game led to a delayed kick-off the two familiar opponents finally kicked off an hour after the original scheduled 3.00pm kick off and it was the visitors who made the most of it. David Ball smashed home an unstoppable shot to give the Cod Army a half time lead but a bizarre second half saw both Mark Roberts and Alex Marrow put through their own net to hand Albion a lifeline either side of Nathan Pond's header that had put Town back ahead.
As Albion looked for a winner they found themselves short at the back and an unusually fragile defensive performance was punished as Jon Parkin and Junior Brown ensured that the points headed back to the Fylde coast for the second season in a row.
The Albion side showed two changes to that which ground out the goalless draw at Bury a week ago. With Adam McGurk still ill there was a chance in attack for Dominic Knowles who scored twice on his last appearance at the Pirelli Stadium. Skipper Lee Bell also returned to the starting line-up as Zeli Ismail returned to the bench.
Burton were busy right from the off and on a pitch that was still somewhat saturated it was Scott Davies in the Fleetwood goal who had to make the first save of note as he plunged low to his right to keep out Matty Palmer's free kick after Knowles had been unceremoniously brought down 25 yards out.
Fleetwood came out and attacked the Brewers with Jon Parkin using his considerable frame and experience to lead the line for the visitors but it was a stinging strike from Conor McLaughlin that had to be blocked by Zander Diamond with Alex Marrow also seeing an effort from distance stopped before it could get as far as Dean Lyness.
When the opening goal came though it was a heck of a strike and it left Lyness clutching at thin air. Stewart Murdoch fed the ball forward to David BALL and despite the angle narrowing against him as he got inside the area he found the power and precision to fire a right foot shot across the Albion keeper and into the top corner of the net.
Buoyed by the goal, Fleetwood quickly went in search of a second and a scramble on the edge of the Burton box had both Parkin and Ball looking to pick up the scraps but Albion were eventually able to scramble it away.
Jimmy Phillips was not far away from a Burton equaliser on 33 minutes when he fired in an effort that took a crucial deflection to take it wide of the post, the Albion winger rueing his luck.
Murdoch let fly with a shot that flew about five yards wide as Edwards bore down on him to close him down and at the other end the Albion full back was denied by a smart saqve from Davies as Knowles and Kee eventually helped get the ball to Palmer who in turn played in Edwards on the overlap.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-1 Fleetwood Town
If Burton needed an ounce of luck after a frustrating first half they got a bucketload of it on 49 minutes as a fortuitous equaliser flew in. Knowles saw a shot blocked and Albion eventually worked the ball out to the right to Matty Palmer. The young midfielder picked out a peach of a cross that forced Davies to come and punch clear but his clearance rebounded off his skipper Mark ROBERTS and flew into the back of the net.
Parity was only restored for less than two minutes as Fleetwood pounced to restore their lead. The Cod Army won a corner on the right and defender Nathan POND leapt like the proverbial salmon at the far post to thunder in a powerful header.
Davies got lucky oon 59 minutes when he got his fists to a piledriver of a shot from Phillips and the ball squirted away for the safety of a corner. Palmer then connected with a stunning volley that deserved better than to only earn a corner from Roberts deflection. Albion need not have worried though as they eventually got their rewards from another own goal. Sharps had shouts for his header from the corner being over the line but no goal was awarded and when Phillips picked up the loose ball he tricked his way inside the area and when he attempted a curling shot to the far post Alex MARROW sliced his clearance into the roof of the net.
Burton were in the ascendency now, although it took an excellent block from Zander Diamond to deny Ball a second of the game. Phillips hit a rasping drive that only cleared the angle of post and bar by inches and with the introduction of Ismail on the opposite flank chances were coming Burton's way. The Brewers needed to be careful though as the speed of Fleetwood on the break caused problems for the Albion rearguard. Murdoch led one such break as he burst from the half way line and was only denied by the legs of Lyness.
There were less that fifteen minutes left when Fleetwood showed all their predatory instincts to grab a third. The ball was worked to Conor McLaughlin andf he stretched to get a cross in under pressure from McCrory and it fell perfectly for PARKIN to sweep home a low shot from six yards out.
McLaughlin then had to do the day job and produce an excellent block to deny Billy Kee as he turned in the box and shot at the end of a teasing cross from Ismail.
Kee then had another chance as Goodall lunged into a challenge that upended the Albion striker just outside the box and the leading scorer took the free kick himself curling it wide of the target.
With Albion pushing forwards in desperate search of an equaliser they conceded a soft fourth goal in stoppage time. Substitute Mikael Mandron caught Albion pushing too far up and he managed to keep the ball in play and drive into the area before squaring it for fellow substitute, Junior Brown who was unmarked at the far post to tap home.