Mansfield Town 0-0 Burton AlbionAnother point on the road and a clean sheet were the positives to take from a battling goalless draw against Mansfield Town at Field Mill as 2014 got under way in appalling squally conditions. Albion's propensity for late winners deserted them on this occasion despite the Brewers having the better of the game without seriously testing the Mansfield keeper. Chris Hussey, on as a second half substitute, was closest with a header that hit the outside of the post with Ollie Palmer coming closest for the home side with a low drive that went past the post.
Despite a hectic run of fixtures over the festive period Brewers boss Gary Rowett resisted the temptation to make changes to his side as Albion went in search of a third win in a week. Mansfield on the other hand gave a recall to former Albion midfielder Adam Murray who returned in place of the injured Jamie McGuire.
With the elements seemingly against them in the first period Albion made a cautious start but Billy Kee forced an early error from the Mansfield defence as he chased down a ball that seemed to be heading out and after dispossessing a Mansfield defender he tried to beat keeper Alan Marriott from an acute angle but the Stags keeper was able to beat it away.
Mansfield broke away on 7 minutes with striker Matt Rhead trying to chase down a hopeful ball forward with Dean Lyness quick to come out and snuff out the danger right on the edge of his area. Defence quickly turned to attack for Albion with Adam McGurk spying a chance to shoot but seeing his effort from 22 yards out failing to trouble Marriott.
In the testing conditions it was Albion who seemed to be playing the better stuff and McGurk was closer with another effort on 13 minutes, Mansfield struggling to clear their lines allowing McGurk to seize possession and let fly.
The game was scrappy to say the least but Albion created a spell of pressure when Phil Edwards saw a shot deflected wide for a corner and from MacDonald's delivery Marriott had to punch clear under pressure right back to the Albion winger who saw his effort also deflect wide.
Mansfield were given a useful opening on 32 minutes when Matty Palmer slid into a challenge on Anthony Howell that gave the Stags a free kick thirty yards from goal but with the wind behind him James Jennings curled his free kick too far ahead of his team mates and the danger had passed for Albion.
With the rain sweeping down the ground Albion built another chance, this time for MacDonald, who got to the edge of the area before scuffing his shot tamely wide of the target.
Damien McCrory set off on a lung bursting run to the edge of area just before the break, laying the ball into the path of Kee who worked room for a shot only for a defender to stand tall in his way and block the shot.
Despite having the worst of the conditions against them in the first 45 minutes Albion survived without a serious effort on their goal although Alan Marriott in the Stags goal had also had a relatively quiet half.
Half time: Mansfield Town 0-0 Burton Albion
Billy Kee attempted an audacious volley within seconds of the start of the second half clearly showing Albion's desire to take a grip of the game with the wind still playing havoc despite the rain having abated.
Mansfield were forced into an early change with Martin Riley unable to carry on after tussling with Kee near the touchline and John Dempster was brought on in place of the Stags centre back.
Dean Lyness, now with the wind behind him mustered an 'attempt on target' on 51 minutes as his long clearance bounced beyond the Mansfield defence and had to be caught under his crossbar by Marriott. Damien McCrory also fancied his chances from range moments later as he set himself up for a right foot effort that Murray got enough of a block on to deflect away from danger.
MacDonald picked up the first booking of the afternoon when he left his foot in as he challenged for a loose ball and caught his man.
The winger's industry had Albion on the front foot again as he won a corner with his battling and although Kee's header from the corner was fumbled around the post by Marriott, Albion remained on the attack with Sharps close to getting on the end of another MacDonald centre.
A double change followed for Albion with MacDonald withdrawn along with McGurk to allow the fresh legs of Chris Hussey and Rene Howe to enter the fray. The two substitutes had barely been on the pitch before Mansfield squandered an excellent chance to grab the lead. Albion struggled to deal with a free kick from Chris Clements and when the ball fell kindly for Ollie Palmer he guided his show across Lyness but inches wide of the far post.
It was a chance that clearly gave the home side confidence and Anthony Howell headed across goal and wide of the post from six yards out.
Albion responded well and Hussey struck the woodwork with a header that hit the base of the post from Jimmy Phillips cross. With the game coming to life in the last quarter Kee also warmed the palms of the keeper with a snapshot from the edge of the area.
A flurry of corner for Albion still failed to break down the stubborn resistance of the Stags defence although Shane Cansdell-Sherriff was mightily close to breaking the deadlock with another header that was deflected away. It proved to be last action for the Australian who took a blow in making the header and he took no further part with Zander Diamond coming on for the remainder of the game.
Jimmy Phillips was well off target with a header from deep inside the penalty area as Albion pressed for a late winner and Phil Edwards 30 yard shot wan never going to trouble Marriott as time began to run out for Albion. Indeed the final chance of the game fell to Mansfield with a free kick awarded after Ian Sharps conceded a late foul. the only real punishment was a yellow card for the Brewers skipper as Clements put the set piece straight into the arms of Lyness after whicn referee Trevor Kettle brought the contest to a close.