OLDHAM ATHLETIC 0-1 BURTON ALBIONNasser El Khayati's fifth goal of the season was enough to secure all three points in a hard fought game over Oldham Athletic at SportsDirect.Com Park.
The mercurial forward was in the right place at the right time to slide home Mark Duffy's pass on sixteen minutes after Albion had soaked up plenty of pressure from their hosts in the opening stages. For large parts of the game Athletic belied their place in the bottom six of the division with some excellent crisp passing but a failure to create clear cut chances was to be their downfall as the Burton defence, once more superbly marshalled by skipper John Mousinho held firm. The Brewers also had keeper Jon McLaughlin to thank for an excellent save just before half time denying Jay Fulton. In the end it was the Brewers who secured maximum points, their first victory against the Latics at the fourth attempt.
Burton played the second half largely on the counter attack but still fashioned chances to put the game to bed, Mark Duffy and Tom Naylor with arguably the best chances to make it two but unable to find their way past David Cornell in the home goal.
Calum Butcher's return to the side was the only change to the side that eventually overcame Port Vale at the Pirelli last weekend. The former Dundee United man was in as a straight sway for Robbie Weir who began his three match suspension for his red card in the Staffordshire derby victory over the Valiants. Whilst back in training during the week, Stuart Beavon only made it back as far as the bench as Timmy Thiele was once again given the chance to break his duck for the Brewers. Beavon was joined on the bench by Callum Reilly, fit again after a spell out with a groin problem.
Oldham were searching for a first home win of the season and set about their task in positive fashion early on. Young midfielder Carl Winchester quickly ran on to a lay off from Danny Philliskirk but his shot was wayward failing to trouble Jon McLaughlin in the Burton goal.
The Latics were seeing a lot of the ball early on with Burton having to maintain a disciplined shape to frustrate their opponents. Former Leeds man Dominic Poleon did well to get one on one in the left hand channel but pushed towards the bye line his low cross was cleared by Phil Edwards for a corner. McLaughlin had a few hearts in mouths when he failed to cleanly catch the ball as it came in from the corner but Nasser El Khayati at the back post was able to hack it clear.
Philliskirk, operating in the hole, almost broke he deadlock just shy of the quarter of an hour mark trying to curl a shot into the bottom corner only for a deflection off one of his own team mates taking it just the wrong side of the post.
Somewhat against the run of play Albion grabbed the lead on 16 minutes. Tom Naylor played Mark Duffy into a dangerous position and he quickly spotted EL KHAYATI dashing up in support to his left. A perfect pass into the path of the Dutchman allowed him to calmly stroke the ball under the body of David Cornell as the Oldham keeper dashed out to narrow the angle.
The goal breathed life into the Brewers who up to that point had looked below their usual standards. A magnificent pass from John Mousinho sent Thiele away but the German was always going to struggle to get a shot on goal as the pass drove him a little wider than he would have liked but he still won a corner and from it flashed a header wide of the target.
Oldham were close to an equaliser on 26 minutes. An angled cross in from the left found Philliskirk in acres of space and looking suspiciously offside but the Latics man could not quite get a firm enough head to the ball with McLaughlin making a sprawling save to push the ball away from Poleon looking for the rebound.
Poleon got in behind the Brewers all too easily not long after but in trying to control the ball before getting his shot away he allowed Shane Cansdell-Sherriff to make a vital challenge that kept Albion's clean sheet in tact.
The former Leeds youngster almost got the better of the Albion's Australian centre back in a straight leg race on 36 minutes but he over played the ball and ran it out of play before he could get a shot in on McLaughlin's goal.
From their own corner Albion found themselves undermanned at the back at in danger of conceding an equaliser. Cornell easily cut out Duffy's delivery and rolled the ball out for Winchester to burst away down the right. Fortunately Jerome Binnom-Williams was able to intercept when Poleon tried to pass it inside to Philliskirk. It showed that Oldham were certainly a danger on the break and Albion were fortunate to escape from that break unscathed.
McLaughlin produced an excellent piece of goalkeeping to help Albion stay in front on 44 minutes. Right back Cameron Dummigan swung in a delightful cross for Jay Fulton and he forward's header looked as if it was looping over the Albion stopper until he stretched out a hand to tip the ball onto the crossbar. Poleon, once again looking for the rebound could not get there and the Brewers had averted danger once more to ensure they went into the break ahead.
Oldham had belied their lowly League place in the first 45 minutes but it was Albion with the crucial goal to send them in to half time in good spirits.
Half-time: Oldham Athletic 0-1 Burton Albion
Cansdell-Sherriff failed to reappear for the second half and having undergone a rigorous warm-up during the half time interval Tom Flanagan came on for his first appearance in the League since joining in the summer from MK Dons.
The half was only three minutes old when referee Eddie Ilderton produced his first yellow card of the afternoon. It went to Tom Naylor for poking the ball away after conceding a foul. A soft one to get especially considering it was his fifth of the campaign and means he joins Weir on the sidelines for next week's FA Cup tie against Peterborough.
Oldham were again close to an equaliser on 50 minutes. A lovely ball in from the right this time picked out the head of Poleon but stretching he headed wide of the post.
Flanagan almost found himself on the scoresheet within fourteen minutes of coming on. A Burton corner was loaded into the box by Duffy and as Thiele saw two efforts blocked the ball looped up for the central defender to head over Cornell with Dummigan stationed on the line to head clear.
The Latics opted to pair experience with youth on 65 minutes as former Stoke striker Ricardo Fuller was sent on to join Poleon in attack. Jay Fulton was the man to make way for the home side.
Poleon it was though who carved out the next chance for himself on 67 minutes, touching the ball inside Phil Edwards as he stretched for the ball and driving in a low shot that McLaughlin had to push around the post to be sure.
Fuller certainly made an impact and within a couple of minutes of entering the fray he had been yellow carded for persistent fouling, referee Ilderton pointing to three spots on the pitch where fouls had been made before drawing the card from his pocket.
As the game opened up Oldham began to look more threatening again. A superb crossfield pass gave Mark Yeates plenty of space to run into down the Latics left. Just on the edge of the box the ex-Bradford man tried his luck and was not far wide of the far post with an angled shot across McLaughlin.
Albion were getting penned into their own box as the home side, helped by the slope of the pitch, began to crank up the pressure. Left back Joseph Mills got deep into the Burton penalty area before letting go with a shot that McLaughlin tipped round the post.
On a rare break out Naylor picked out Duffy through the middle but with Thiele pulling away to his left in space Duffy opted to try and find the top corner with a curling shot that missed the target.
On 78 minutes Thiele took his leave after leading the line superbly during the game. Beavon was the man to come on and take up the role that he performs so admirably.
Yeates, perhaps surprisingly as he had been one of the main threats for the Latics, was brought off on 83 minutes as David Dunn opted to put former Derby winger Lee Croft on for the closing stages in an attempt to create an equaliser.
After soaking up yet more Oldham pressure Albion had another chance to make the hosts pay on the counter. As Oldham tried to play offside with a high line a through ball found both Naylor and Beavon going through and the former tried to chip the ball over Cornell, the keeper grabbing the ball relatively comfortably on the edge of his area.
It seemed that the men in yellow and black were content to hold on to what they had, especially when Anthony O'Connor was sent on to try and shore things up at the expense of El Khayati.
There was confusion as the game went into stoppage time when Fuller was shown a yellow card for a challenge on Naylor as he tried to relieve the pressure. Most people thought it was a second yellow for the front man but it transpired that the earlier card shown had actually gone to Liam Kelly.
Oldham saw plenty of the ball in stoppage time but could not breach the Burton back line who held on for a second successive clean sheet and another three points to go back second in League One just behind leaders Walsall on goal difference.