BURTON ALBION 2-1 MANSFIELD TOWNThree more points in the quest for promotion went Burton Albion's way against Mansfield Town but this was far from the comfortable victory that some had predicted beforehand.
First half goals from Matty Palmer and Kelvin Maynard, both with their first Football League goals, had the Brewers seemingly cruising to victory at half time as Mansfield looked every bit a side with a number of new faces still getting to know one another. Palmer's delightful 8th minute free kick started things off and the midfielder turned provider from a corner kick for Maynard to thump home a header to have Albion in control. The second half, however, was a different affair with Mansfield using their direct style and the windy conditions to pen Albion back and provide a true test of the Brewers defensive mettle. The long throws of Callum Elder were a problem and when Reggie Lambe converted one of them early in the second half it was a real game changer and Albion had to show plenty of character to finish with the points.
After the victory against Shrewsbury it was a case of sticking with an unchanged side for the visit of the vastly changed Stags, Albion's only changes coming on the bench where Lee Bell returned to the matchday eighteen alongside Lucas Akins, absent since November, with a foot injury picked up at Wycombe.
Albion almost conceded a shock opener as Lambe contrived to miss an easy chance within the opening minute. Mansfield played some neat stuff around the box and when the ball was played in to Kee and his superb first touch laid the ball into the path of the winger who really should have given McLaughlin no chance but somehow put his close range effort wide.
Burton eventually cleared their heads and began to get forwards and debutant goalkeeper Adam Smith almost found himself picking the ball out of the net for his first touch when Darragh Lenihan set his sights from thirty yards and smacked the ball against the post.
The Brewers only had to wait for the eighth minute before they breached the Mansfield defence. Ritchie Sutton conceded a cheap free kick for a less than subtle shove on Jacob Blyth and PALMER was in unforgiving mood as he left Smith flat footed to send a curling free kick into the far corner from the angle of the box.
The young midfielder almost punished Mansfield again on the quarter of an hour mark. Callum Elder, like Sutton conceded a free kick for a nudge on Robbie Weir and the free kick, this time from a more central area was not far wide of the target with Smith again well beaten.
Lenihan was in the mood for a goal and after his earlier effort that hit the post he again set his sights on goal half way through the first period, Michael Raynes getting a vital deflection on his shot as it looped away for a corner. Palmer this time turned provider and his corner was superbly met by MAYNARD whose thumping header flew into the net.
The Stags almost hit back immediately with a swift counter led by Junior Brown and his teasing cross was diverted past the post by the retreating John Mousinho.
A poor touch from Lenihan gave away possession just outside his own box and that was an open invitiation for Kee to burst towards the box but a combination of Mousinho tracking back and Jon McLaughlin rushing out meant that the former Albion striker was denied a goal on his return to the Pirelli.
Mansfield showed more defensive frailty in the closing moments of the first half, Stuart Beavon's cross causing panic with Jacob Blyth inches away from poaching his first Pirelli Stadium goal with Smith not exactly inspiring confidence and Raynes having to poke the ball behind for the safety of a corner as Maynard looked to pounce for a second time.
Half time: Burton Albion 2-0 Mansfield Town
Palmer wasted no time in looking for his second of the afternoon with a rising shot in the opening seconds that failed to trouble Smith.
A misplaced header from George Taft invited Mansfield to counter and Lambe found Vadaine Oliver on the left hand side of the area, his right foot curling effort going not that far wide.
Mansfield's early second half promise got them back into the game on 51 minutes. A long throw in from the left was flicked on in the middle and LAMBE reacted quickest to sneak the ball past McLaughlin.
Kee was fortunate to only see yellow shortly after when his late lunge on Lenihan enraged his former Burton team mates.
The Irishman almost pounced to finish off a Sutton header as Elder's long throws continued to cause problems for Albion's back line.
When Sutton and Raynes collided with another Blyth was rather hashly penalised as he looked to run through on goal and to add insult to injury referee Haines showed him a yellow card.
Lenihan also saw yellow when he mistimed his challenge on Chris Clements which again allowed the visitors to pump another ball into the Burton box, all to no avail though as McLaughlin claimed safely.
Sutton was on the end of probably Mansfield's best move so far when he got onto a through ball but inside the box the full back switched the ball onto his left foot and lashed it wildly across goal.
Damien McCrory came to Burton's rescue moments later as a long punt from keeper Smith caught on the wind and almost bounced through for Lambe but with McLaughlin beaten the left back got in a timely challenge to concede a corner. From the set piece Sutton found himself free at the back post but the ball appeared to hit his standing foot and the danger had passed.
Adam McGurk was thrown into the action with eleven minutes to play as Kelvin Maynard was replaced and Mansfield threw on the imposing figure of Matt Rhead for their goalscorer Lambe.
The introduction of Rhead encouraged Mansfield to launch more balls into Burton's box but it was Albion who threatened next when Blyth saw a rising shot saved by his Leicester colleague, Smith.
Ian Sharps was brought on as the game ticked into stoppage time in an effort to shore things up and the experienced defender played his part with a number of timely clearances and interceptions that prevented Mansfield from seriously threatening the Burton goal in what remained of the game.
Albion's 100% home record under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink remains in tact but Mansfield came as close as anyone to scuppering that record.