BURTON ALBION 1-0 CHELTENHAM TOWNBurton Albion got back to winning ways with a 1-0 victory over Cheltenham Town but they had to resist a second half fightback from the Robins before they could celebrate the three points and their return to the top of League 2.
Stuart Beavon grabbed the all important goal with a superb left foot finish just after the half hour mark but Albion had to show plenty of the defensive solidity that has deserted them recently with the visitors pushing hard for an equaliser after the break.
Albion showed five changes to the side that went out of the Capital One Cup to Championship side Brighton in the week. Shane Cansdell-Sherriff returned to the defensive unit, looking to return to the solid form that began the season. George Taft dropped to the bench with Callum McFadzean dropping in at left back. John Mousinho returned to partner Robbie Weir in central midfield and the wing pairing of Alex MacDonald and Lucas Akins returning to fitness. Stuart Beavon, rested against the Seagulls also took his place back in the side.
The former Preston front man was in the wars early on with one challenge catching him in the fact and a high foot to the chest from Steve Elliott saw the Cheltenham man go into the referee's book.
With Elliott on a yellow card he was unable to make a challenge on Beavon as he skipped past him on 13 minutes and a chance opened up as he played Adam McGurk in. His low shot was touched away by keeper Trevor Carson and it was just enough to steer the ball away from Akins who dived in to try and convert the loose ball.
Burton continued to look the busier side with the returning MacDonald proving a real thorn in the side of the Robins although it was a sweeping move down the right that almost opened the visitors up on 21 minutes. Akins scampered away and cut back onto his left foot before crossing into the middle where Beavon got a flick on the create a chance for McGurk who, on his weaker right foot volleyed straight at Carson.
McGurk was close again on 27 minutes as Albion kept the pressure on. Phil Edwards was allowed to get into an advanced position and his cross picked out the Northern Irishman who got up well to guide a header into the arms of Carson under his crossbar.
Cheltenham almost caught Burton on the counter with Marquis leading the line well allowing striker partner Byron Harrison to open up a chance for Joe Hanks to almost lob the ball over McLaughlin.
Albion's response was to burst up the field and grab the lead in the 34th minute. Again Akins was influential with a ball across the edge of the penalty area that initially looked a little wayward but John Mousinho darted across the area to lay the ball up perfectly for Beavon to lash a vicious left foot shot low into the bottom corner.
The Brewers almost surrendered their lead quickly as McLaughlin had to scramble back to recover a header back from McFadzean before it could cross the line.
Hanks spurned a good chance to equalise on 43 minutes when Harrison got in round the back of the Brewers defensive line, pulling it back from the bye line for the Cheltenham youth product to blaze over.
Beavon forced an excellent save from Carson as the half drew to a close but it was a highly satisfactory 45 minutes for the Brewers as they looked to get back to winning ways.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-0 Cheltenham Town
The Robins made a change for the second half with left wing back Paul Black not reappearing and striker Terry Gornell brought on to add extra fire power to the Cheltenham attack.
MacDonald tried to catch out Carson with a free kick and was then found setting up a counter attack with a solid defensive header that picked out Beavon allowing him to surge towards the box laying the ball off to McGurk. He in turn found Akins who cut inside on his left foot hitting a disappointing low shot that was easy for Carson.
Albion's front players were linking well and a superb ball over the top from Beavon picked out McGurk once more. He chose not to shoot on his left foot and tried to pick out MacDonald who was haring into the box but the ball was just slightly behind the winger who could not quite turn it home.
Cheltenham began to push forward with more intensity and they began to push Albion back to the edge of their own penalty area. Whilst Burton defended manfully to keep the visitors out half chances still fell for the Robins. Veteran midfielder Matt Richards scuffed a low shot wide from the edge of the area but McLaughlin remained relatively untroubled.
Albion made a double change with two of their pre-match injury concerns both replaced. Goalscorer Stuart Beavon was first to depart as he made way for the fresh legs of Jacob Blyth and Matty Palmer.
Blyth and Cheltenham centre back Troy Brown both picked up yellow cards for a bit of handbags after a free kick was awarded Burton's way and the two tussled over the ball.
Cheltenham continued to press for an equaliser and they were agonisingly close when full back Lee Vaughan broke free on the right and delivered a teasing low ball into the box. Harrison threw himself at it and failed to make a connection with substitute Gornell doing likewise at the far post.
Gornell was also only inches away from diverting a cross shot from another substitute Rafaelle Da Vita in the closing stages with McLaughlin clearing up but it was an uncomfortable end to the game with Burton hanging on somewhat in the closing stages.