LUTON TOWN 0-1 BURTON ALBIONMatty Palmer was Burton Albion's goal hero as the Brewers moved closer to promotion to League 1 courtesy of a 1-0 victory over play-off chasing Luton Town at Kenilworth Road.
In what was a far from vintage Burton display Palmer struck eleven minutes from time with a deflected effort that flew past Luton keeper Elliot Justham at his near post. Tom Naylor had been declared onside by the referee's assistant to the dismay of the Luton defence before driving in a low cross that the Hatters could only clear as far as Palmer who smashed home his fourth goal of the season to secure a tenth away victory of the campaign for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's braves.
Three changes were made to the starting line-up for the first ever visit to Kenilworth Road. Kevin Stewart was perhaps unlucky to drop out of the starting eleven after two solid performances over the Easter period but he made way for the returning Robbie Weir, available again after suspension and illness. Palmer returned to the starting line up with George Taft not included in the eighteen due to an illness of his own, Damien McCrory dropping back to his regular left back slot. Lucas Akins, like Weir also recovered from illness, returned on the right hand side of midfield. After picking up a slight knock in training Nasser El Khayati dropped to the bench.
Albion carved out the first chance of the game after four minutes. Akins was quickest to react to Phil Edwards throw in down the line and his cross was headed just wide by Adam McGurk. The Irishman then carved out a chance for himself with a crossfield run and shot that flew high and wide of the goal.
The Brewers were almost undone by a route one chance from Luton. Justham's long clearance skewed off the head of skipper John Mousinho into the path of experienced striker Paul Benson but his first time volley was comfortably over Jon McLaughlin's crossbar. A good chance gone begging for the home side.
As Albion failed to clear their lines moments later the ball broke out to the right and Michael Harriman lashed a rising drive that smacked the outside of the post. Benson then won an aerial challenge with Mousinho allowing loan striker Elliot Lee to volley over the bar.
The hosts were penning Albion in and another failure to clear pressure inside their own box presented a chance to Alex Lawless but his placed left foot shot curled wide of the far post as Albion's goal continued to live something of a charmed life.
Burton briefly broke free from their defensive duties to test Justham in the Luton goal. Akins' persistence opened up a gap for Phil Edwards to take a touch and try a left footer from 25 yards that was on target but easy for the young keeper to hold onto.
Akins also tried a left footer after good work from Weir allowed him to make room for a shot. The ball bounced awkwardly in front of the keeper but Justham once again held on comfortably.
Albion were certainly becoming more of an attacking force in the game and Beavon, just staying onside sent a shot goalwards that looped up off a defender's foot to make it easy for Justham.
Luton came mighty close to opening the scoring on 39 minutes after Shane Cansdell-Sherriff was penalised for climbing over Benson to win the ball. Jake Howells opted to curl a cross to the back post where Luke Wilkinson met it with a powerful header that should have done more to test McLaughlin who was able to watch the ball go wide of the target.
It took until the 41st minute for either side to win a corner and Albion were snuffed out as Palmer's outswinging kick was headed back into the danger area from where McGurk fired in a shot that was blocked and hacked clear.
With the first half into added time Beavon made a superb turn to get a way from his marker but after getting as far as the edge of the Luton box he fired tamely at Justham who held on to the bobbling shot.
Half time: Luton Town 0-0 Burton Albion
The early exchanges of the second period were scrappy with both sides struggling to create any real chances of note. McGurk had the first real chance on 55 minutes stooping to head a superb cross from McCrory straight into the arms of Justham.
Luton won their first corner moments later as Howells skipped away down the right into space but Albion were eventually able to clear the danger from the corner. Left back Scott Griffiths suddenly found himself inside the box as an exchange of passes had Albion stretched but the experienced full back scooped his right foot shot over the bar.
Albion made their first change straight after that chance had flown over. An out of sorts Beavon was replaced by Denny Johnstone who went straight up top to pair up with McGurk.
Luton also made an attacking change with Lee the man to come off and leading scorer Mark Cullen introduced to the Hatters front line.
Tottenham loanee Nathan Oduwa also came on for the home side to pep up their attacking options with Alex Lawless the man to make way.
Cullen linked up well with Benson on 69 minutes but the substitute could only curl his shot high and wide. Albion then took the decision to bring on El Khayati in the hope of conjuring up a goal with Lucas Akins the man to go off.
McGurk spurned a chance to seriously test Justham when Albion were awarded a free kick on 73 minute for Palmer being brought down but the set piece was sent straight down the middle of the goal - easy for the keeper.
Luton's final change was to substitute Howells for the experience of Luke Guttridge and the former Northampton man was well placed at the back post as Oduwa sent over a teasing cross but the midfielder's touch deserted him as he dragged a good chance well wide of the goal.
Albion broke away and scored on 79 minutes as Luton waited in vain for an offside flag. A through ball was picked up on the bye line by Naylor with the assistant keeping his flag down. The Derby loanee looked up and drilled a low cross in that deflected out to PALMER and the young midfielder struck a hard shot that took a wicked deflection before whistling past Justham and into the roof of the net.
Cullen had a glorious chance to equalise two minutes later latching onto a lobbed pass from Cameron McGeehan but Edwards getting back to make sufficient of a challenge to force the Luton man to fire over.
A second goal was almost on the cards for Albion on 85 minutes as El Khayati tried to work his magic on the left. He got towards the bye line and cut the ball back slightly behind Johnstone who turned and hooked the ball goalwards although it landed the wrong side of the post.
A final substitution for Albion saw McGurk leave the action with a couple of minutes left, Stewart the man to come off the bench for the closing moments.
McLaughlin had to punch a cross from Oduwa clear under severe pressure in stoppage time and Luton also had a corner that McCrory did well to get away to safety and Albion finished the game defending desperately inside their own box but a battling and gritty performance was rewarded with three more precious points.