BURTON ALBION 3-3 DONCASTER ROVERSFormer Doncaster winger Mark Duffy came up with a last ditch equaliser to ensure that Nigel Clough's first game back at the Pirelli Stadium did not end in defeat. In a game that swung one way and then the other Albion trailed twice, having initially come from behind to lead thanks to two goals for Calum Butcher, his first strikes for the club.
For the second time in three home games it was a six goal thriller and a 3-3 draw proved to be a pulsating pre-Christmas cracker. Andy Williams buried Rovers first chance of the game after just four minutes to stun the Brewers fans celebrating the homecoming of their longest serving manager after seven years away. Butcher then showed strikers instincts from a midfield role with a goal in each half to turn the game on its head. Rovers had already squandered a golden chance to be 2-1 up when Williams failed to convert from the penalty spot, Jon McLaughlin with a fine save but substitute Paul Keegan's stunning free kick and a penalty, this time dispatched by Nathan Tyson had Rovers with their noses in front with a little over five minutes remaining.
Step forward Duffy. Roundly booed by the visiting fans from his first touch he calmly took a pass from Nasser El Khayati under control and picked out the top corner to send Albion fans wild with excitement with barely ninety seconds of the game to go. The diminutive playmaker had a chance to win it in stoppage time but frustratingly he was unable to beat the 6ft 6 inch frame of Thorsten Stuckmann in the Donny goal. The big German had already denied him one on one in the first half when Albion were searching for an equaliser.
Anthony O'Connor for Robbie Weir was the only change from the victory at Gillingham last week. Weir had been struggling with a foot injury since the last home game at Millwall and played through the pain at Priestfield but was unable to take to the field for the visit of Rovers.
Ex-Donny man Mark Duffy had the first shot in anger after just two minutes with a scuffed effort off his left foot that Thorsten Stuckmann fielded comfortably before the winger played in Nasser El Khayati on the opposite flank. The Dutchman's first touch was slightly heavy allowing the big keeper to come and smother his shot.
Before they had chance to mount another attack Albion found themselves trailing. A throw in on the Donny right found Mitchell Lund and he picked out Andy WILLIAMS who turned on a sixpence to smash home a volley that left Jon McLaughlin grasping at thin air.
The visitors were pinging the ball around with great confidence and long serving James Coppinger had a shot deflected on eleven minutes giving Rovers another chance to test out Albion's defence from a corner but the Burton rearguard defended well.
Anthony O'Connor surrendered possession on the half way to give Donny another chance to threaten and the pace of Nathan Tyson was evident as he burst towards the box, the challenge of Tom Flanagan just doing enough to make him fire wide of the target.
Burton suddenly found their attacking momentum again, Duffy once more at the heart of things driving through the middle and feeding El Khayati who had now drifted out to the right. Tricking his way towards the box he sent in a teasing cross that Tom Naylor launched himself at only to find Craig Alcock there first to clear.
Willliams went from hero to something of a villain on 18 minutes. The striker came deep into his own half to pick up possession but his attempted crossfield pass was intercepted by Naylor. The former Rams man picked a pass that was reminiscent of Nigel Clough in his Burton playing days finding Calum BUTCHER who calmly controlled and slipped the ball consumately past the advancing Stuckmann.
Albion should really have completed the turnaround on 29 minutes. Superb control from Beavon picked out El Khayati and he split the Doncaster defence wide open with a raking pass through to Duffy who only had Stuckmann to beat. The winger wanted an extra touch and that was all that Stuckmann needed to come and make a vital block. It was a glorious chance gone begging.
Doncaster were quick to break whenever they had the chance and Everton loanee Conor Grant almost capitalised with another pacy run from midfield that resulted in a shot that was not that far over McLaughlin's crossbar. It was certainly end to end stuff and an entertaining forty five minutes of football.
Even stevens as the half time whistle went it was all set up for another enthralling half of football.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-1 Doncaster Rovers
Burton were very quickly out of the blocks at the start of the second half and Butcher was not far away from a second goal. Beavon, on the touchline, and El Khayati combined instinctively but this time when played in Butcher he wanted just a little too long to get his shot away and the Donny defence were able to smuggle the ball clear.
Referee Mark Haywood took centre stage on 53 minutes when he adjudged that skipper John Mousinho had blocked off Tyson just inside the box as Lund led another Rovers break. Williams stepped up to take the penalty awarded by the the man in the middle. The referee was put most definitely in the shadows though as Jon McLaughlin stood tall to make an excellent stop, low to his left to deny the Doncaster striker.
Rovers boss Darren Ferguson made a double change immediately after with both attacking wing backs replaced. Paul Keegan and Luke McCullough entered the fray.
Calum Butcher was like a man inspired on the hour mark. Having earlier notched his first goal in Burton colours in the first half he produced a sublime turn to open up space in the Rovers defence and after shaking off the attentions of a Donny man trying to pull him back he calmly used his left foot to this time stroke the ball past Stuckmann and put Albion back in front.
Doncaster were determined to get back into the game once more and they struck decisively with twenty minutes left. O'Connor was penalised for a foul on the edge of the box when no advantage accrued for Tyson and up stepped KEEGAN, the substitute to curl home a precise free kick in off the post and level things up once more.
A nasty clash involving Phil Edwards and Tyson left both players in a heap and requiring treatment. Edwards was penalised for his part in the challenge but the Brewers were able to retain their defensive shape and see off the threat from the free kick.
Flanagan was forced to hurriedly head clear under pressure from Tyson as McLaughlin came out and it took a clearance from Tom Naylor to keep Albion on level terms. The danger was still there for Albion and when referee Haywood pointed to the spot once more this time there was no reprieve for Burton. As a deep cross came in Andy Butler was nudged over by Edwards in full flight and TYSON took over penalty duties to smash the ball low beyond McLaughlin.
Lucas Akins immediately came on at the expense of Butcher to try and come up with an equaliser. It took until the 89th minute and Akins, to be fair, was not involved but the goal they needed. A probing move down the left gave El Khayati the chance to tease the full back once more and this time a little cut back found DUFFY who took aim for the top corner and found it with unerring accuracy.
The little winger almost won it moments later, pushing through the middle he got in behind the Donny defence but chose to shoot rather than take the ball around the keeper, Stuckmann doing what he needed to do to secure a point for the visitors. On the balance of the game it was hard to argue that they didnt deserve something from an enthralling clash.
Regardless of Albion's failure to win they remain top of the League One table going into the Christmas period. All Albion fans would have settled for that when they kicked off against Scunthorpe back in August.