BURTON ALBION 0-1 NEWPORT COUNTY AFCA first home defeat under the management of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink left everyone frustrated at the Pirelli Stadium as Newport County AFC returned home to South Wales with all three points courtesy of Miles Storey's second half strike on a day when the Brewers failed to bounce from their midweek setback at Accrington Stanley with any real conviction.
Had Adam McGurk's curling first half effort nestled in the back of the net rather than bounce back out off the inside of the post then Albion could have been contemplating stretching their lead at the top of Skybet League 2 given results elsewhere and the team's propensity to go on and win when taking the lead, particularly in home games. As it was, the Irishman's effort was the closest the Brewers came to scoring and once Storey had smashed home inside the same upright early in the second half Hasselbaink's men had no response resulting in a first home defeat since October.
Despite suffering defeat for the first time after a thirteen game unbeaten run the Brewers boss opted not to change his starting line-up instead deciding to give the players who frustrated at Accrington chance to make amends and hopefully reinforce Albion's promotion credentials. Kelvin Maynard returned to the bench after a spell on the sidelines with injury.
Albion were positive right from the first whistle and some crisp early passing almost carved Newport open with the first attack. Stuart Beavon found Damien McCrory in acres of space on the left and his cross was well cleared by Ismail Yakubu as McGurk went in search of another goal to add to his recent tally.
Burton were continuing to string their passes well and Lucas Akins linked up well with McGurk on ten minutes to test Newport keeper Joe Day with a low drive from the edge of the area.
Newport began to find their feet and get some attacking momentum but they almost fell victim to a swift counter as El Khayati helped spark a move with an excellent touch that was matched by that of Beavon who hooked the ball across field to McGurk who could not quite gather the ball in at the first attempt, recovering the ball and cutting back onto his right foot to hit a low shot that was easy for Day to hold on to.
The visitors were getting up a head of steam and the prodigious long throw of Ryan Jackson helped keep Albion penned back into their own penalty box. Darragh Lenihan cleared the danger as the ball pinged about on the edge of the Burton box but the Exiles were soon back on the attack winning another corner that kept Albion's defence on its toes.
Akins missed his kick at the vital moment as Albion at last got back to attacking ways on 27 minutes. A Damien McCrory free kick into the box was nudged into the path of the winger by Shane Cansdell-Sherriff but trying to snap in a quick left foot shot he failed to make contact and Newport were able to clear the danger.
McGurk went agonisingly close to the opener on 33 minutes with only the woodwork denying him. Again, Albion broke quickly with John Mousinho feeding the Irishman and with options either side of him taking opponents out of the way the space opened up and a curling left foot shot beat the dive of Day but cannoned back out off the inside of the left hand upright.
Albion were almost undone on 41 minutes as Newport forced McLaughlin into his first meaningful save, and what an important save it was. Probing down the left Miles Storey was allowed room to swing in a right foot cross that found its way through to Mark Byrne twelve yards out but his low shot was well blocked by the legs of the Albion keeper.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-0 Newport County AFC
Albion's frustrations continued immediately after the break, McGurk trying to pick out the overlapping run of Akins down the left but overhitting the pass out for a goal kick.
Newport looked dangerous in and around the Burton box and McLaughlin was relieved to grab a looping header from Zebroski after Miles Storey had worked room for a cross from the right.
A poor touch in midfield from Robbie Weir was seized upon by Zebroski but Albion's retreating defenders were able to snuff out any real danger as the former Wycombe and Torquay frontman looked to capitalise.
Albion made their first change on 54 minutes and it was Dutch for Dutch as Kelvin Maynard returned to action in place of El Khayati. A second change followed shortly after with Stuart Beavon, having had no change out of the Newport defence, swapped for Mickael Antoine-Curier for his first Pirelli Stadium appearance in a Brewers shirt.
Before either subsitute could really have an effect Albion found themselves behind on 59 minutes. A long ball into the box was well controlled by Yan Klukowski who instantly laid the ball into the path of STOREY who smashed a right foot shot across goal and inside the far post.
For the second time in a week Albion found themselves behind and the manager turned to Ivan Calero in search of the creative spark to turn the tide. Phil Edwards was the man to make way as Maynard dropped in at right back to allow Calero to take up an advanced role on the right.
McGurk curled a free kick inches wide of the upright after Calero was brought down twenty five yards out. McGurk then showed to turn of pace to skip past Darren Jones who cynically brought down the Albion man to earn himself the first yellow card of the day from referee Andy Madley. Calero tried a short free kick routine but failed to pick out McGurk's run allowing Newport to instigate a swift four on three counter with McLaughlin getting his defence out of trouble rushing smartly to the edge of his box to clear the danger.
Newport made their first change bringing Andy Sandell on for Zebroski and the experienced left sided man immediately won a corner that Byrne headed onto the roof of the net.
The Exiles also brought on former Brewers man Rene Howe for the last few minutes in an attempt to relieve the pressure but it was Albion pressing in desperate hope of an equaliser as the game entered five minutes of added time but even a late corner failed to produce a rousing finish for Albion who remain top of the table, mainly thanks to their rivals failing to capitalise on a rare home defeat for Hasselbaink's men.