BURTON ALBION 1-0 LUTON TOWNJimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's perfect start as Burton Albion boss continued at the Pirelli Stadium continued as the Brewers ended Luton Town's eleven game unbeaten run thanks to Phil Edwards' second goal in as many games.
Luton looked every inch a top of the table side as they set about trying to extend their run to a round dozen games but after a cagey first half Edwards headed home seventy five seconds into the second half and a superbly resilient defensive display ensured that for the second game in a row, Albion had reinforced their promotion credentials by toppling the league leaders.
A frustrating day for the visitors was summed in late on as they were reduced to ten men late on when Luke Wilkinson rashly pulled back Matty Palmer when clean through and in on goal.
Hasselbaink was forced into changes again with Darragh Lenihan, so impressive against Wycombe, missing out through a groin injury. Robbie Weir came back into the side, one Irishman for another, and with Lucas Akins missing out with a foot injury there was a bit of a shuffle around positionally as George Taft returned to the side at left back, Damien McCrory pushing further forward onto the left hand side of midfield.
Luton, as befitting a side top of the table came out all guns blazing and they could easily have been ahead inside two minutes as the ball fell nicely for midfielder Luke Guttridge who sent a dipping volley towards goal with only the outstretched hand of Jon McLaughlin putting the ball over the crossbar for the safety of a corner.
McLaughlin had to show good handling again as Luton continued to pour forwards, twice having to reach high to pluck the ball out of the air as the visitors looked to prosper from wide areas.
Adam McGurk had the first Albion chance on eighteen minutes. Combining with Stuart Beavon the ball came down onto his right foot but crowded out, his shot lacked power and keeper Mark Tyler was able to come out and claim comfortable on the edge of the six yard box.
Visiting skipper Steve McNulty needlessly conceded Albion's first corner of the game, McGurk and Matty Palmer combining to quickly win a second effort from a corner, Phil Edwards this time looping a header to then back post. Easy for Tyler once more to claim.
McLaughlin got slightly lucky just after the half hour mark when a Guttridge corner fizzed through the six yard box and was missed by all, to the relief of the Albion goalkeeper.
McGurk almost profited from a rare lapse in the Luton defence on 40 minutes. McNulty dwelt on the ball a little too long and when he eventually tried to find Tyler with a backpass it ended up being somewhat hurried with McGurk ready to pounce and closing down well.
A first half that had been played at a fast tempo but with little in the way of clear chances ended goalless with both sides hoping to find more of a cutting edge after the break.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-0 Luton Town
One minute and forty five second was all it took for Albion to break the deadlock in similar fashion to Monday night. Once more it was Matty Palmer with the corner from the right and yet again it was Phil EDWARDS who got his head to the ball to send a downward header into the far corner via the underside of the crossbar.
Griffiths won Luton a freekick right on the edge of the penalty when he was upended by Damien McCrory but again the delivery was not quite right from the Hatters and Albion were able to clear after a bout of pinball inside the box.
Luton quickly went in search of an equaliser with a spell of pressure but typically of the hunger and enthusiasm the Brewers desire to close down and deny space Nathan Doyle had tow players converge on him at pace when a chance presented itself to him on the edge of the box.
Jonathan Smith raided forward on 64 minutes as McGurk was caught in possession by Griffiths but from twenty five yards out his shot flew well off target.
McCrory released Beavon into the box with a delightful ball over the top but the ball into the middle for the onrushing MacDonald got caught up in his feet and the threat was snuffed out.
Robbie Weir picked up a yellow card for a foul on substitute Ricky Miller on the left and McLaughlin had to make a strong punched clearance under pressure inside his box. The pressure was building and Burton were getting pegged further into their own half.
With Luton getting on top in their search for parity, Albion made their first change on 73 minutes with England under 19 captain Bryn Morris given his debut in place of McGurk. The midfielder quickly had chance to cover himself in glory with a superb assist. As Albion broke free from their defensive shackles Morris surged clear and picked out MacDonald with a peach of a pass but Albion's leading scorer from a superb position took a touch which proved crucial as his eventual shot went agonisingly wide of the far post. A great chance spurned.
Albion continued to come under pressure with Luton's unbeaten record under threat. McLaughlin made an excellent save at his near post from Paul Benson's snapshot from a corner and from the next one Griffiths failed to make sufficient contact with a glancing header that flew across the box.
It was backs to the wall stuff for Albion now and Liam Slade was introduced on 86 minutes as Albion went to a 4-2-3-1 with Slade deployed with Robbie Weir in front of the back four with Alex MacDonald withdrawn.
There was late drama as the end to end nature of the game continued to the death. McCrory picked up a yellow card for a foul on the edge of the area and when Albion were finally able to clear with McLaughlin pouching Steve McNulty's header Palmer sprung free of the last defender, Wilkinson, who reached out and pulled him back and as the last man referee James Adcock had no option but to produce a red card for the Luton man.
Albion had edged a tight encounter and ahead of another promotion head to head with Shrewsbury next week the confidence the team can take from this result and performance is immense.