BURTON ALBION - BRISTOL CITYChelsea loan striker Tammy Abraham broke Albion hearts in the fifth minute of stoppage time with a last gasp winner for Bristol City as the Pirelli Stadium hosted Championship football for the first time.
Albion had looked all set to celebrate their first point of the season when substitute Tom Naylor scored for the second league match in a row, this time with just two minutes to go, the former Derby man sweeping home fellow substitute Stuart Beavon's cross to cancel out Abraham's first half goal just a minute from the break. The youngster prodded home from close range after a long throw into the Burton box was not dealt with and despite a suspicion of hand ball as the ball bobbled around Abraham reacted quickest to give the visitors a lead that they barely deserved. Yet again it was a goal against the Brewers in that spell just before half time that turned the gamde on its head and altered the complexion of the second half from the outset.
The Brewers dominated large spells of the game but at the crucial times when ball flew through the penalty area they failed to get the rub of the green they needed and City exploited their good fortune to the maximum.
Nigel Clough opted for just a single change to the side that lost the seven goal thriller at the City Ground last week. Jackson Irvine, free of suspension, was given a League debut against Lee Johnson's Robins side with Hamza Choudhury having to settle for a place on the bench having started the two previous games.
Burton started brightly with a couple of set pieces stretching the visitors defence marshalled by the giant Aden Flint and Icelander Hordur Magnusson. Flint had to flick a Palmer free kick away for a corner after Tom Flanagan had been blocked off and Palmer's delivery from the corner was met at the back post by Kyle McFadzean but on the stretch he failed to trouble Richard O'Donnell in the City goal.
Lee Tomlin had the first effort of note for the visitors on seven minutes. Allowed to advance dangerously in midfield the former Peterborough man tried to curl the bal around Jon McLaughlin but the save was easy for the Albion keeper.
At the other end Albion were trying to force O'Donnell into a save of note and a teasing Lloyd Dyer cross on ten minutes was met by Chris O'Grady with his looping header dropping comfortably over the bar. Burton came closest yet on 13 minutes with a well constructed move. O'Grady fed Dyer on the left and his low fizzing cross was just missed by Akins at the far post although a deflection gave Albion the benefit of a corner. Althought Bristol seemed to have cleared their lines the ball came out for Flanagan to switch the ball to the left where McFadzean was lurking. Picking up the ball just inside the box he crashed a low shot that rippled the net - the outside of the net, much to the frustration of a section of supporters who thought it was in.
Burton continued to press and again it was a defender causing problems in the Bristol box as Ben Turner got up this time to head across the box where a scrambled clearance kept it scoreless following another teasing corner. HAlf way through the first half another chance came the Brewers was as Turner and McFadzean again caused panic at the back post and with the help of a deflection Bristol were relieved to survive another scare at the expense of a corner.
A slip by skipper John Mousinho allowed Bristol to get back on the front foot with the dangerous Jonathan Kodjia looking to profit. Matty Palmer eventually got the ball away but it was returned with interest to Callum O'Dowda, the former Oxford youngster cutting inside and flashing a left foot shot comfortably wide of the target.
Burton came closer still on 32 after a superb flowing move down the left. Dyer and Irvine exchanged passes with the former Leicester winger given the chance to exploit space in behind. Another superb cross seemed to get the better of O'Donnell with only an excellent clearance from Josh Brownhill clearing the danger from almost on the line.
Tomlin became the first victim of the new rules on players questioning officials. Joe Bryan's challenge on Flanagan was clear for all to see but Tomlin protested quite vociferously earning him a yellow card from referee David Coote. It took the intervention of skipper Gary O'Neil to calm him down and prevent the referee needing to quickly draw out a second card.
Against the run of play Bristol grabbed the lead on 44 minutes. A long throw in from the left was not dealt with effectively and Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham somehow did enough to get a touch and divert the loose ball into the back of the net. Scrappy to say the least but Albion need to learn fast the harsh realities of the Championship. Fail to clear your lines and you will be punished for it.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-1 Bristol City
With the benefit of the goal behind them Bristol looked more assured at the start of the second half and chances quickly came for both sides five minutes after the restart. Mark Little was given too much space on the edge of the box to drill a left foot shot wide of the upright before Lloyd Dyer was released down the left to burst into the box and drag his shot wide. Dyer then set up Palmer for a half chance that the young midfielder managed to steer on target but lacking the power to seriously threaten O'Donnell's goal.
Abraham was denied a second when a kindly bounce fell his way on 55 minutes allowing him to burst through the middle. Fortunately for Albion skipper Mousinho had tracked his run and did just enough to deny him a clear scoring chance.
There was more uncertainty at the back for Albion on 59 minutes as McFadzean cleared the ball away for a corner when it looked like McLaughlin eas ready to claim and it almost cost the Brewers a second goal as Magnusson got onto the end of a corner but skied his angled effort over the bar.
Burton again spurned an excellent chance to get off the mark on 62 minutes. Irvine battled away superbly on the left before delivering an excellent low ball into the box that O'Donnell couldnt come for but Akins steaming in could not quite make contact at the back post.
Flanagan volleyed a snapshot straight at O'Donnell after good hold up play from Akins and the Burton wingback found himself in the book shortly after as he threw himself at Dyer's fizzing cross, making contact with his hand.
Clough threw Stuart Beavon into the action with a little over twenty minutes to go taking Flanagan out of the action and pushing Akins wider out on to the right. Tom Naylor quickly joined the action as well coming on as a straight swap for Williamson.
Akins again went close on 75 minutes running across the edge of the box before seeing a shot deflect wide of the post. From the corner Turner again got up well to head the ball down but McFadzean was unable to hook the ball home.
O'Donnell then produced an excellent stop with thirteen minutes remaining to deny Palmer. Spotting a chance to find the bottom corner of the net he arced his shot which dipped and moved in the air with the City keeper doing well not only to save it but push it away from the Burton strikers looking to pounce on any rebound.
Albion kept pushing and pushing and they were eventually rewarded with two minutes of normal time remaining. O'Grady showed good close control and skill to work an opening and burst into the box. His low effort was blocked and came back out to Beavon who pulled the ball back into open space in the box where NAYLOR was rushing in to gleefully smash the ball into the roof of the net.
It looked as if the Brewers had rescued themselves and got themselves a hard earned and deserved point but the visitors had the last laugh and showed Clough's men just how harsh the Championship can be. Perhaps Albion were caught out sensing that three points might be there for them at the end of the game but with the last move of the game Irvine was caught out and muscled out of it by Kodjia on the right, the Ivory Coast striker bursting into the box and rather than going for goal, squaring it to Abraham who seemed to stumble as he toe poked the ball almost apologetically into the corner of the net. There was no apology about the youngster's celebration as he ran to the hordes of fans in the corner of the ground. Abraham had missed a free header five minutes from time but his last gasp winner ensured that his earlier miss had not cost his side the points.
Harsh on the Brewers who are learning fast about the clinical nature of the Championship. The signs are promising for Albion but they need to convert that promise into points.