BURTON ALBION 1-1 STEVENAGEA battling 1-1 draw in dreadful conditions maintained Albion's lead at the top although the Brewers now only lead by three. It was a game settled by two own goals in the first half as Tom Naylor was adjudged to have diverted the ball into his own net from a Stevenage corner and defender Bira Dembele returning the favour on the stroke of half time watching on as the ball bounced off him and into the net.
It was hardly a flowing game for the purists, not for those watching on Sky Sports who in the end were grateful to have any action to show after a pre match downpour, that continued throughout the game, put paid to a game of neat attacking football.
A disjointed first half performance where Stevenage looked much the better side was put to the back of Burton minds as they dominated the second period but despite mounting pressure on the Stevenage goal, in worsening conditions, both sides had to settle for a very hard earned point.
The Brewers starting line up showed just the one change from the team that dismantled Tranmere Rovers so effectively last time out. Adam McGurk, fit again after a back spasm kept him out of the game against his former side returned to the side at the expense of George Taft. Damien McCrory dropped back in at left back to accommodate the returning Irish forward.
In dreadful conditions it was a bright start to the game. Nasser El Khayati drew an excellent save from Chris Day at his near post winning Burton their first corner and they were almost undone on the counter as Bruno Andrade led a swift breakout which had Stevenage two on two against the Brewers defence. Slipping the ball into the path of Tom Pett the youngster looked a good bet to open the scoring but having cut inside on the edge of the box dragged his shot wide with McLaughlin watching anxiously as the ball flew past the post.
The visitors maintained their early momentum and Simon Walton was given space to size up a shot on the edge of the box as Albion only half cleared but again he was wide with his effort.
It was perhaps no surprise then when Stevenage stunned Albion by taking the lead on 12 minutes. A corner from the Stevenage left was headed back into the danger area by Simon Walton and in amongst a ruck of bodies the ball was deflected past McLaughlin with the final touch adjudged to have come off Tom NAYLOR under pressure from Kevin Lisbie.
The conditions were becoming more and more treacherous as the rain continued to beat down on the sodden pitch. Nothing was going Albion's way and it was summed up when they tried to take a short corner and all Matty Palmer could do was put the ball out for a throw under pressure.
Nasser El Khayati was looking the most likely threat for the Brewers and he put in a telling cross to the back stick that won a corner and the lively frontman was close to latching onto a superb angled pass until Day came racing out of his goal to clear his lines.
Akins got chance to stretch his legs on 29 minutes winning another corner as his shot took a huge deflection off Walton.
Albion did have the ball in the back of the net just after the half hour when Palmer's right wing free kick was helped on into the where Shane Cansdell-Sherriff looped the ball into the net only for an offside flag to rule his effort out.
Albion looked vulnerable to the ball over the top and it took a superb tackle from skipper John Mousinho on Lisbie to deny the experienced front runner a clean shot on goal.
Beavon was inches away from reaching a long punt forwards on 39 minutes with Day again having to rush well off his line to clear the danger a split second before the Albion man could get there.
It took until well into the half for Albion to start to string any moves together but they grabbed a scrappy equaliser on the stroke of half time. Another corner gave Albion the chance to load the ball into the box and Palmer's inswinging kick bounced up off Bira DEMBELE and into the back of the net after a back post challenge between Keith Keane and Phil Edwards had sent the ball back the way it had come. It was the perfect end to what had been a more than frustrating first period. Albion were back in it.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-1 Stevenage
It was Albion who looked far more purposeful at the start of the second half. El Khayati made a driving run down the left and was beaten on the edge of the box as much by the pitch, which by now was starting to hold the ball up, as he was by the challenge of a Stevenage defender.
Burton were looking far more creative now and a superb ball from El Khayati out to the left wing for McGurk almost had Albion in but Ronnie Henry did well to clear the danger.
Dean Parrett had to be replaced on 56 minutes after picking up what looked to be a nasty injury and he was replaced by the highly rated Ben Kennedy.
El Khayati nipped in to try and capitalise on a moments hesitancy at the back from Stevanage but his cross was met by a looping header from Akins that failed to trouble Day.
The Dutchman looked the most likely to carve out an opening and only a desperate last minute challenge from Dembele denied him a goal as he was about to pull the trigger. When the resulting corner came in Phil Edwards stooped to head the ball goalwards and as everyone watched the ball agonisingly came back out off the post.
It was a period of pressure that was building and El Khayati could not quite sort his feet out quickly enough when Akins dug out a cross to him in the middle and the ball looped over.
Stevenage briefly broke free of the defensive shackles and Keith Keane tested McLaughlin with a long range shot that, in the conditions, the Albion keeper did well to hang on to at the first attempt.
El Khayati then worked room for a shot on the edge of the box which flashed wide and he was also unfortunate not to connect with a header as another teasing ball flew into the box.
Albion's first change came on 80 minutes with McGurk replaced by the fresh legs of Dominic Knowles. The young striker was quickly involved linking with El Khayati who saw a long range effort deflected wide. Knowles was not far away from latching onto Cansdell-Sherriff's downward header as Day smothered the ball by the post.
It was the last real chance of note for either side as the conditions took their toll although El Khayati, fittingly almost won it late on but crowded out inside the box he couldnt make room for the shot as the referee brought the game to a close.