BURTON ALBION 0-0 SHEFFIELD UNITEDA goalless draw, Albion's first for exactly eighteen months, was just enough to keep the Brewers at the top of League One as they fought off the challenge of Sheffield United in an entertaining encounter at the Pirelli Stadium.
It was a night when defences were most certainly in the ascendency and clear chances at a premium for both sides. Nasser El Khayati, Albion's man of the match, put Burton's best opportunity just over the crossbar in the second half whilst substitute Martyn Woolford forced Jon McLaughlin into probably his most awkward save of the evening late on.
Jerome Binnom-Williams' late winner at Chesterfield earned him a start against the Blades and he was the only change to the side that started against the Spireites, Lucas Akins dropping to the bench in place of the Crystal Palace loanee. Shane Cansdell-Sherriff returned to the bench as Tom Flanagan dropped out of the matchday eighteen.
Early chances were few and far between as the two sides sized each other up mainly in the midfield areas. Mark Duffy picked up on a header down by Binnom-Williams on eight minutes but his deft chip failed to trouble Mark Howard in the Sheffield United goal.
Binnom-Williams almost capitalised as the Blades switched off at the back momentarily. A header back over the top was aimed towards Beavon who was coming back from an offside position but the visiting defence failed to pick up Binnom-Williams who had to check back inside onto his left foot, missing out on the chance to shoot on goal.
Nigel Adkins' side were looking dangerous when they attacked down their right but the combination of Damien McCrory and Binnom-Williams were, on the whole, keeping Paul Coutts and company quiet.
El Khayati dragged a 25 yard effort wide and when Calum Butcher broke play up in the centre half way on 24 minutes he fancied a go himself but lifted a curling shot over the top.
Former Derby striker Conor Sammon went down in the box when skipper John Mousinho had a nibble at his ankles but referee Chris Kavanagh waved away half hearted shouts for a penalty although Sammon himself made little of it to his credit.
El Khayati quickly had another chance pulling into a more central area. This time his effort was on target but too close to Howard who saved comfortably.
Butcher was called on for some defensive work on 33 minutes. Kieron Freeman drove in an excellent right wing cross that picked out Sammon but before he could pull the trigger Albion's summer signing from Dundee United nipped in to dispossess him.
Coutts sent in a dangerous cross as the first half came towards its close but Mousinho was able to head it clear before it could reach Sammon who was setting himself to head from inside the six yard box.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-0 Sheffield United
Lucas Akins started the second period in place of Binnom-Williams immediately slotting in on the right hand side of the three attacking midfielders behind Beavon.
Billy Sharp, who had been the quieter of the two Sheffield United strikers thus far, finally got a sight of goal on 48 minutes but his angled shot took a deflection that meant that Jon McLaughlin did not need to tip the ball over his crossbar.
Albion were having to weather an early second half storm from the Blades and there was a certain degree of relief when Freeman swung in a teasing cross that just landed on top of the net rather than just underneath it which would have given McLaughlin problems.
El Khayati sdampered away down the middle as Basham tried in vain to pull him back and Howard was grateful to cling on to his curling shot at the second attempt. The United keeper was also alert and on his toes to cut out a teasing low cross from Butcher as Beavon just failed to get a toe end to poke the ball home.
A delightful passage of play involving El Khayati and Duffy almost cut the Blades defence to shreds. Instinctive and crisp first time passing allowed Duffy to escape down the left and cross low for his Dutch team mate who was there to sidefoot a rising shhot inches over the crossbar. Six inches lower and it would have been top of the goal of the season contenders.
McCrory almost gifted Billy Sharp the opening goal with a header back towards McLaughlin and the man with a goal in each of his last six games was there to intercept but so too was McLaughlin, upon him before he could get a shot on goal.
United made a double change just after the hour mark, Stefan Scougall and Martyn Woolford sent on in place of the midfield duo of Flynn and Coutts to try and break the stalemate. It was certainly a statement of attacking intent from Adkins.
Sharp whistled a low cross shot through the six yard box winning a corner at the end of it before Albion broke to the other end. It owed much to the sublime footwork of El Khayati who bamboozled his marker on a couple of occasions to fashion a ball out to Duffy whose cross was smuggled behind for a corner by David Edgar.
The introduction of Woolford and Scougall had certainly pepped up the Blades attack and the former was crowded out with McLaughlin having to made a clearance with his feet whilst Scougall sent in a probing cross from the right that O'Connor skewed over his own crossbar to concede a corner.
Albion were still foraging for chances and Robbie Weir latched on to a loose ball as United surrendered possession but his raking shot went wide of the target.
The Brewers continued to press and skipper Mousinho, up for a corner, almost flicked the ball in at the near post.
Woolford tricked his way across the edge of the box and let fly with a left footed effort that had McLaughlin diving across his goal but he was able to watch it go wide.
The former Scunthorpe winger did force McLaughlin into a sprawling save on 87 minutes when Freeman carved out a chance for him on the edge of the box, the Blades getting closer to breaking the deadlock.
Albion had the Blades penned in as the game entered stoppage time forcing corners and throw ins deep into Sheffield territory but unlike Saturday there was to be no dramatic late winner. However a point at home to Blades is not to be sniffed at as the Yorkshiremen showed why they are rightly one of the favourites for promotion from this division at the end of the season.