BURTON ALBION 1-0 ROCHDALEShane Cansdell-Sherriff laid claim to the goal that earned the Brewers a vital three points against his former club Rochdale in an open and entertaining encounter at the Pirelli Stadium.
There was much confusion about who had finally converted Mark Duffy's inswinging free kick with Stuart Beavon flicking it on and numerous video angles suggesting that the final touch had come off either defender Joe Rafferty who had conceded the free kick in the first place or Cansdell-Sherriff with the likeable Aussie in no doubt that the final touch had come off his knee for a rare goal.
On the whole though it was a game where defences were dominant with Albion unable to add a second to make things more comfortable and Rochdale not seriously testing either Jon McLaughlin or his deputy Remi Matthews who had to come on after the Brewers number one suffered a dead leg in a collision with Dale striker Calvin Andrew.
Three changes were the order of the day for the Brewers as they looked to get back to winning ways after their home defeat to Coventry. Damien McCrory returned at left back although Jerome Binnom-Williams remained in the side, pushed forward into an attacking left side role. Lucas Akins, having finished the game against Coventry returned to the side also in a wide attacking position as both Timmy Thiele and Nasser El Khayati dropped to the bench. In midfield Calum Butcher got the nod over Tom Naylor to start alongside Robbie Weir.
Referee Carl Boyeson was quickly putting his whistle to his lips following a strong challenge from striker Calvin Andrew on Albion keeper Jon McLaughlin and he also pulled up Tom Kennedy for a foul on Phil Edwards that allowed Mark Duffy to swing a cross shot wide of the post from the free kick.
McLaughlin was in the wars again with seven minutes on the clock colliding with Peter Vincenti in a rush for a loose ball although the assistant's flag had long been up for offside had the Rochdale man succeeded in finding the back of the net.
Albion were close to the opener on nine minutes. Duffy won possession as Dale tried to play their way out from the back and played in Akins, the winger opting to move the ball on one more to Butcher whose left foot effort went just wide of the upright. A sweeping move out from the back almost had Albion ahead moments later. Duffy again fed Akins who easily got the better of Kennedy but his final shot, on his left foot was much less impressive.
Matty Lund sent in a piledriver of a shot as play switched to the other end and the ball appeared to be going beyond McLaughlin until skipper John Mousinho got his head in the way and cleared the danger.
Rochdale's ideas of playing out from the back almost cost them dearly on 20 minutes as Albion's high pressing game forced an error. Akins fed Duffy and the Birmingham man jinked past a challenge before pulling his shot agonisingly across the face of goal. It was a good chance spurned and Rochdale almost made the Brewers pay a hefty price moments later, Andrew sliding the ball through for Ian Henderson who was only just beaten to the ball by the sprawling save of McLaughlin.
Joe Rafferty found himself in referee Boyeson's book for a cynical foul on Binnom-Williams. Whilst preparing to take it Remi Matthews came on for McLaughlin, clearly struggling from the earlier collisions. When the delivery came in from Duffy it caught out all in blue in the middle and found its way into the back of the net thanks to the faintest of touches from Beavon whose flick went in off the knee of CANSDEL-SHERRIFF who muscled Rafferty out of the way.
Binnom-Williams also found himself in the book for a challenge on Rafferty but Dale were unable to mete out the same punishment at the other end although quite how Olly Lancashire managed to head the ball away from goal rather than towards it at the back post remained something of a mystery.
Rafferty showed a good turn of pace to skip past Binnom-Williams down the right and the full back advanced deep into the Burton box before Edwards got a vital clearance in as Dale came as close as they had come to levelling things back up.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-0 Rochdale
Henderson almost got the second half off to a quick fire start providing an overlap on the right and with a sight of goal seeing a low shot blocked and dropping away from danger.
The visitors were beling a little more direct to try and unsettle the Brewers back line with Andrew proving to be a real focal point of the attack and he almost got Vincenti in on goal after bustling through a challenge on the edge of the box but Edwards was again able to get it away.
Akins saw a shot blocked and Butcher fired wide of the target as the Brewers started to impose themselves more but Dale were starting to dominate more of the play.
Cansdell-Sherriff became the second Albion man to go in the book, overstretching to get the ball away from Lund and from a similar position to where Albion had scored from Rochdale were close but not close enough as Albion's defence once again stood firm under pressure.
A flurry of substitutions followed with Naylor entering the fray in place of Binnom-Williams, Akins switching to the left to allow the former Derby man to play down the right. A double change for the visitors spelt the end of the game for Jamie Allen and Lund, the fresh legs of Reuben Noble-Lazarus and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing sent on to try and unlock the stubborn Burton back line.
The trickery of former Manchester City trainee Donal McDermott was also withdrawn from the action in preference to the guile of Lewis Alessandra but it was Albion who carved out a good opportunity on 72 minutes. An excellent ball from Naylor gave Beavon space to run in to and he picked out Akins who dragged a low shot wide of the post.
Albion really should have had a second when a qiuckly taken free kick caught Rochdale off guard, Beavon bursting clear and getting into the box but allowing Lillis to get a block on his shot as Mousinho steamed forwards to get in the box in support of him.
Butcher picked up a yellow card for pulling Noble-Lazarus back as he got in the Burton territory and threatened to cause some havoc.
Albion seemed almost content to sit on their one goal lead with few bodies being thrown into the box as chances to break forward opened up in the closing stages. The introduction of Anthony O'Connor at the expense of Duffy perhaps emphasised the Brewers desire to stay tight and compact and see the game out.
Noble-Lazarus picked up a late frustrated card as Beavon broke up a Rochdale attack and headed for the visitors half deep into stoppage time and with that Albion were safe in the knowledge that another hard earned three points were in the bag.