BURTON ALBION 1-0 SWINDON TOWNLucas Akins 77th minute penalty was the deciding factor as Burton Albion finished the year with a win in front of the Pirelli Stadium faithful. The Brewers have thrived on the industry and hard work of their side throughout this most successful spell in their history and this was no different as Stuart Beavon refused to give on a ball heading out of play. The Albion striker embarrassed Swindon defender Jordan Turnbull who was shepherding the ball out of play and enticed a rash challenge from the youngster inside the box giving Akins, on as a substitute, the chance to drill home the resulting spot kick.
Albion, however, were indebted to a world class save from keeper Jon McLaughlin in the first half as Swindon fought back after a nervy opening that saw the Brewers fly out of the traps with former Spurs youngster Jon Obika dumbfounded to see the Burton keeper somehow keep out a close range shot that seemed destined for the net at the far post.
The visitors probably had the better of the first half but as they started to tire in the second period, having played on Boxing Day while Albion rested after their game at Bradford was postponed, Albion gradually got on top and pressed for the win that eventually came through Beavon's tireless running and refusal to give up on anything.
Robbie Weir's return from a foot injury was the only change deemed necessary by Brewers manager Nigel Clough. He replaced Anthony O'Connor who had taken that role playing in front of the back four for the home game against Doncaster before Christmas.
Albion had a very quick opportunity to grab the lead but it was a case of deja vu for Mark Duffy. Played clean through by a superb pass from Tom Naylor he only had keeper Lawrence Vigouroux to beat but trying to slip a low shot to the side of the keeper only found the outstretched leg of the Liverpool loanee.
Swindon, on a good run since the appointment of Martin Ling sprang to life with Nicky Ajose forcing a low save from Jon McLaughlin but it was the Robins keeper who was already very busy with three good saves within the first seven minutes. After denying Duffy that early chance Vigouroux also denied Nasser El Khayati with his legs from an acute angle and then pulled off an excellent reflex stop to push Stuart Beavon's low shot around the post.
The visitors weathered the early Burton storm and began to create some dangerous moves of their own. Fabien Robert, an influential playmaker had been relatively quiet until the quarter of an hour mark when he was invited to look up and curl an effort towards the top left hand corner of McLaughlin's net, Albion's stopper equal to it, throwing up a hand to tip it over the goal. A clear warning sign to the Brewers to not let Robert set his sights from too close a range again.
Swindon were almost in for a clear sight of goal on 28 minutes when the lively front pair of Ajose and Jon Obika almost tricked their way in but the vigilant covering of Weir cleared the danger as far as Ormonde-Ottewill who took too long to set his sights on the partly unguarded net, John Mousinho doing enough to clear the danger. The former Arsenal trainee almost found a way past McLaughlin shortly afterwards with a shot that took a deflection on its way through to the Burton stopper who safely gathered in.
McLaughlin had to produce an extraordinary save to keep Albion level on 33 minutes. A teasing cross from the left looked to be a tap in for Obika at the far post but Burton's number 1 was not to be beaten with a superb reflex save to somehow push the ball away from goal.
After such a promising start it was Swindon looking the more likely side to break the deadlock and there was no evidence of their exertions on Boxing Day taking its toll as they continued to stride forwards looking for the opening goal.
Duffy picked up the first yellow card of the game for a crude block as Swindon broke up field after the midfielder had delivered a poor free kick to the edge of the box that allowed the visitors to threaten with their pace. The ball did not go out of play for some time after the incident, in fact Albion were preparing to take a corner having seen off the Swindon attack and broken to the other end when referee Mark Brown went to his pocket to book Duffy.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-0 Swindon Town
The second half began in frenetic fashion as Albion had a couple of chances to wrestle control of the game back from the visitors. Quite what he was doing up on the edge of the box at the forefront of an attack nobody really knew but Phil Edwards was suddenly the goal threat trying to jink around a defender looking for a shot but the ball was eventually worked to El Khayati to his left with the Dutchman eventually taking too long to get a shot away inside the six yard box.
The enigmatic Dutchman had another great chance when Duffy's sliderule pass picked him out but in trying to switch the ball onto his more natural right foot he got the ball stuck under his feet allowing the visitors to hack the ball clear.
El Abd went in the book after wrestling Beavon to the ground and the Swindon skipper collided with his own keeper in trying to stop Duffy's resulting free kick from ending up in the Swindon net. In fact it was Butcher's flick on that took the ball wide of the post but the Swindon back line were still trying to make sure.
Lucas Akins was sent on in place of Butcher with a quarter of the game to. Duffy switched to a more central role just in behind Beavon with the pace of Akins hopefully exploiting any tiredness from Swindon's game on Boxing Day.
Tom Naylor also found himself in the book after throwing himself into a challenge on the half way line with Anton Rodgers.
Persistence was the key as Albion grabbed the lead with thirteen minutes left. It proved unlucky for Swindon's Jordan Turnbull who rashly conceded a penalty to give the Brewers the chance they needed. The defender on loan from Southampton tried to let a long ball forward go harmlessly out for a goal kick but Beavon was having none of it. He tormented the defender by the touch line nicking the ball off him and keeping in it play. Turning to run towards goal a tired outstretched leg from Turnbull sent him sprawling inside the box. AKINS, having been on the pitch for only ten minutes calmly stepped up to stroke home the penalty.
With El Khayati suffering a frustrating afternoon on the left he was replaced by Timmy Thiele for what remained of the game as Albion looked to eek out the victory and secure a first league double of the season.
Naylor almost added a second but was denied by an excellent reaction save from Vigouroux just as it looked as if Albion were going to wrap up the three points. The save was almost as impressive as McLaughlin's in the same goal in the first half and it was perhaps harsh on the Chilean keeper that he did not leave with a clean sheet after an impressive display of goalkeeping for the Robins.
Swindon were certainly not giving up on a point as they poured forwards to try and prevent a second successive league defeat and a flurry of late corners added to the pressure on the Burton back four with Anthony O'Connor sent on to keep things solid at the end and ensure a clean sheet and get Burton back to their mean ways at the back after conceding three last time out against Doncaster.
With others around them in the table also winning to keep up the pressure at the top this was an important win to finish off 2015. It has been a year Brewers fans will not want to come to an end. We await to see what 2016 has in store for the Brewers and whether the Burton dream continues for a while longer yet.