BURTON ALBION 1-1 CARLISLE UNITEDA 98th minute equaliser from Denny Johnstone earned Burton Albion a more than deserved point on a night when it looked like the Brewers luck was out and relegation battlers Carlisle United were going to escape back to Cumbria with three points. Danny Grainger thrashed in a second minute free kick to give Keith Curle's side a shock lead but from then on it was a backs to the walls job as Albion battled away to try and break down the stubborn resistance of the packed defence.
Copious amounts of timewasting from the visitors resulted in seven added minutes during which time Damien McCrory saw a penalty saved by inspired goalkeeper Mark Gillespie but with the last kick of the game the keepers luck was out as the battered and bruised Johnstone seized on a loose ball in the six yard box to fire into the bottom corner and salvage what could be a crucial point in the race for promotion.
Stuart Beavon and Lucas Akins dropped to the bench as the two changes from the team at Luton, Johnstone and Nasser El Khayati coming in to freshen up the attack
Albion got off to the worst possible start conceding after just one minute and forty six seconds. Robbie Weir was penalised for a push 25 yards out and skipper Danny Grainger stepped up to slam a stunning left foot free kick beyond Jon McLaughlin.
Burton were quickly on the attack in search of an equaliser with Matty Palmer taking a couple of set pieces to test out the Carlisle defence. The young midfielder was crudely brought down by Jason Kennedy near the touchline and the free kick was smothered away for a corner that was also dealt with at full stretch by the Cumbrians defence.
Denny Johnstone and Sean O'Hanlon both had to leave the pitch for treatment after a clash of heads inside the Carlisle box.
Just as Johnstone returned to the sideline looking to get back on the pitch Albion suffered another head injury with Adam McGurk clashing heads with Patrick Brough as they both attacked a Damien McCrory cross. McGurk came off worse and headed down the tunnel for more treatment whilst Brough was able to continue. There was a quick realisation that McGurk was not going to be able to continue and Beavon was summoned from the bench.
Frustratingly Albion were unable to test Mark Gillespie in the Carlisle goal as the visitors persisted without O'Hanlon and the nearest they came in the first twenty five minuted was a rising drive from Robbie Weir as Carlisle only half cleared their lines. Johnstone was denied a header on goal by Brough who got to El Khayati's far post cross first.
O'Hanlon returned to action on 27 minutes with Carlisle still defending for their lives although there was nothing he could do as Phil Edwards connected with Palmer's centre to force Gillespie into a smart save at his near post.
Beavon led a break out two minutes later robbing Gary Dicker of possession but El Khayati lifted his shot over from the right hand side of the box.
Albion began to crank up the pressure and El Khayati's cross was just too high for Johnstone. The ball was recycled to Damien McCrory and his shot with the outside of his boot was off the inside of the post with Tom Naylor denied by a goalline header from Grainger and Beavon kept at bay by a sprawling save from Gillespie.
O'Hanlon failed to complete the half with blood seeping from his head wound and he had to be replaced by Nathan Buddle.
A delightful ball through the defence from Weir picked out the run of Edwards inside the box but his first touch was a little heavy allowing Derek Asamoah to concede a corner.
Weir had another chance to test Gillespie on 44 minutes but this time opted for precision trying to curl the ball round Gillespie with the keeper making an easy claim on his line.
It was all one way traffic but despite six minutes of first half stoppage time, for the earlier head injuries, Carlisle's goal survived intact to the break.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-1 Carlisle United
The visitors made a second change at the start of the second half with the lanky Mark Beck replaced by Steven Rigg. Asamoah twice ran down Shane Cansdell-Sherriff forcing a corner and a thrown off the Australian defender by running the channels and forcing errors.
Albion soon resumed their attacks but were finding it increasingly difficult to break down the blue wall in front of them. When the bricks in the wall did go down they sometimes went down rather easily. Gary Dicker blocked the ball as Matty Palmer tried to drive it in.
Tom Naylor went down on the edge of the box and it must have been only a matter of centimetres from being in the box with referee Mark Haywood only awarding a free kick on the edge of the box. Palmer stung the fingertips of Gillespie from the free kick.
Naylor was substituted soon after, Kevin Stewart sent on to try and prise open the Carlisle defence. Carlisle also made a change with Dicker removed from the action in favour of Brad Potts.
Substitute Nathan Buddle picked up a yellow card for a crude block on Palmer but the youngster could only put the free kick into the grateful arms of Gillespie.
El Khayati fired into the side netting as he tried to connect with Beavon's low centre.
Carlisle's attempts at time wasting were not even subtle and were just adding to the Brewers immense sense of frustration with goalkeeper Gillespie taking an age to complete routine goalkicks.
Kelvin Maynard replaced Palmer for the final ten minutes as home frustrations continued. Gillespie pushed El Khayati's shot round the post. Matt Young headed away from Mousinho's cross and Edwards headed the resulting corner over the bar and the full back was in the middle of the box again to latch on to Maynard's chest down but his shot dribbled wide of the upright.
Mousinho, now pressed into forward action looped a header into the arms of Gillespie as the game ticked towards added time. Seven minutes were indicated but Carlisle almost plundered a second on the counter, McLaughlin making an excellent save from Potts.
Albion's misery on the night was complete in the fifth minute of the added seven. Stuart Beavon was upended by Jason Kennedy with referee Haywood pointing to the spot. Gillespie completed his blinding performance with a superb save low to his left.
Stewart took aim and whistled a shot past the post and with the last kick of the game JOHNSTONE proved the hero. Gillespie only half cleared a ball into the box and the Birmingham loanee swept home into the bottom corner to salvage a point at the death.