BURTON ALBION 3 - 1 SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAYBurton Albion are up and running in the Sky Bet Championship after an outstanding performance of attacking flair and defensive steel and determination saw off Carlos Carvalhal's high flying Owls at the Pirelli Stadium.
Albion could have already been two goals to the good when former Sheffield United defender Kyle McFadzean bagged his first Brewers goal on seven minutes sliding in to finish off Matty Palmer's free kick. Wednesday were quickly handed a route back into the game when referee Neil Swarbrick penalised McFadzean for holding in the penalty area at a Ross Wallace corner allowing Gary Hooper to fire home from the spot but Albion were undaunted and having proved fallible in the closing stages of the first half in previous games they regained the initiative thanks to Jackson Irvine's towering header in first half stoppage time.
The fast flowing and breathless nature of the game continued after the break with Wednesday desperately searching for an equaliser but it was Albion who resisted strong pressure from the talented Wednesday front line to secure their first three points in the second tier when Lloyd Dyer pounced on Chris O'Grady's scuffed deflected shot to fire home with thirteen minutes left and kill off the threat of the visitors.
Having narrowly lost their first two games of the season, despite encouraging performances, Albion showed no signs of feeling sorry for themselves and they showed plenty of courage and bravery to stick to their attacking principles and take on one of the strongest attacks in the Championship. Wednesday arrived at the Pirelli with one of the most miserly defences in the division but without Tom Lees, their lynchpin at the back they were a shadow of their defensive selves as Albion tore into them.
After the heartbreak of the last minute defeat to Bristol City on Saturday there were two changes to the Brewers starting line-up for the visit of the Owls. Tom Naylor, so impressive in his two goalscoring substitute appearances in the league so far, joined Stuart Beavon in coming into the side in place of Tom Flanagan and Lee Williamson who both dropped to the bench.
It was one of those rare games when Albion started the first half kicking towards their own fans behind the Don Amott Stand. Naylor and Beavon were quickly into the game with the former releasing the latter for a run in on goal but Irish keeper Keiren Westwood was on his toes and out like a flash to block as Beavon tried to slide the ball past him. Albion quickly had another chance with Matty Palmer curling in a superb ball looking for the run of Jackson Irvine who was just unable to stretch his 6ft 3in frame to head home.
Palmer had a second chance to deliver into the area on seven minutes and this time Albion were in front. Beavon was brought down as he turned and tried to head towards the penalty area giving Albion a free kick in a dangerous area. A pinpoint delivery was put on a plate for McFADZEAN to slot home at the far post to his and Burton's delight. Albion were buoyant now and Naylor was not far away himself with a curling left foot effort from the angle of the penalty area as Albion quckly went in search of a second goal.
Albion's lead lasted just five minutes. The persistence of Ross Wallace won a corner on the right and as the ball came into the area from the boot of the Scotsman referee Neil Swarbrick spotted what looked like a pull on the shirt of Steven Fletcher as Irvine rose highest and headed clear, the man in the middle pointing instantly to the penalty spot. Albion's protests were in vain and HOOPER stepped up nervelessly to beat Jon McLoughlin who guessed the right way but could not get there.
It was a very open game, played at a frenetic pace, and Dyer quickly set up another chance from the left, his cross only headed clear to Irvine who controlled but volleyed over the bar from the edge of the box.
Wednesday thought they had shouts for another penalty on 26 minutes as the ball bounced around in the Burton box but Mousinho's challenge on Hooper was a good one that won the ball. Wednesday's chief goal threat thought he was in on goal again minutes later when a swift counter looked to have carved the Brewers open high up the pitch but the sharp eyes of the assistant correctly spotted that the striker had gone a split second too early to prompt the offside flag.
The visitors were ramping up the pressure at this stage and a run along the bye line from Kieran Lee ended with a teasing ball through the six yard box that was eventually dealt with by Ben Turner.
Albion came back into it more having weathered a spell of pressure and they almost got lucky when a cross from Akins was met by a looping header from Beavon that threatened to catch out Westwood as he eventually saw the ball drop onto the roof of his net.
Dyer was allowed a chance at the back post on 39 minutes as Wednesday's defence failed to track the run of the winger. Some patient build up on Albion's right finished with a looping cross from Akins that picked out the former Leicester man with room at the back post to get up and head downwards for Westwood to make a comfortable save.
Naylor had shouts for a penalty himself a minute later. Wednesday seemed to stop as the ball was loose on the edge of the area and Naylor seemed to go tumbling in the box as Sam Hutchinson seemed to slip with referee Swarbrick seeing no foul to penalise.
As the board went up to indicate four additional first half minutes the visitors were forced into a substitution and it proved to be a turning point. Skipper Jose Semedo limped gingerly off after some attention from the physio and Liam Palmer was sent for as his replacement, Daniel Pudil dropping into the centre of defence as Wednesday reorganised.
Burton have made a habit of conceding in the closing moments of halves so far this season but this time they made the most of their visitor's hasty defensive rearrangement. Akins and Mousinho combined on the right before the skipper delivered a cross that IRVINE leapt high and unmarked to steer a header wide of Westwood. It was an imperious header that highlighted the threat that the Australian possesses when he gets forward into the opposition penalty area.
Half time: Burton Albion 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday
Wednesday sent on Fernando Forestieri at the break in place of Almen Abdi in an attempt to wrestle control of the game back from the Brewers. After a difficult couple of days for the Owls attacker he was back in the fold and seemingly the man that Carlos Carvalhal wanted to put his trust in to turn the game in his favour.
Burton it was though who looked the more incisive in the early stages of the second half with Beavon flicking a back header into the arms of Westwood and Mousinho disappointingly scuffing a low shot from the edge of the box straight at the Owls keeper.
Wednesday's second substitution quickly followed with Atdhe Nuhiu sent on in place of Hooper to add his considerable size to the Owls attack alongside Fletcher. That Carvalhal had utilised his full attacking armoury so early in the game highlighted his determination to turn the game on its head and put the promotion favourites back in control.
63 minutes had gone when Albion were inches away from making it 3-1. O'Grady and Beavon linked superbly on the right with ex-Owls man O'Grady surging into the box and pulling the ball back into the danger area. The ball came out to Naylor and the inform midfielder sent a curling shot towards goal only for Westwood to produce a stupendous save to deny him with his fingertips.
Wednesday quickly went up the other end and it was McLaughlin's turn to excel coming out to make a sprawling block to prevent Fletcher from opening his Wednesday account at the near post. In a game of constant end to end action both goalkeepers were enhancing their reputations as excellent shot stoppers.
The visitors almost took full advantage of Albion temporarily being a man light while McFadzean shook off the effects of a strong challenge on the half way line. Ross Wallace's searching cross was cleared by Akins but only ended up at the feet of Barry Bannan, the former Aston Villa man forcing McLaughlin into an excellent save to push away a shot from the top corner of the net with the Burton defence stretched.
A strong run from full back Jack Hunt was brought to a halt inside the Burton penalty area with Wednesday pleading in vain for a penalty, referee Swarbrick not in the slightest bit interested in awarding a second spot kick for the visitors.
Mousinho saw a shot on the turn go flying over and Akins had the ball in the back of the net only for the assistant to rule that the ball had crossed the line before substitute Tom Flanagan could cross it. Undaunted Albion continued to press and they quickly had the third goal they deserved on 77 minutes. Flanagan fed Akins with a great ball into the box. Akins now playing as a striker with Beavon having been substituted found O'Grady on the edge of the box. The former Wednesday man would have loved to score against his former club but scuffed his effort and it looked like a great chance had gone begging until the ball squirted out to DYER free on the left side of the penalty area to slam home.
McLaughlin then produced a superb fingertip save to prevent Nuhiu from instantly halving the deficit. A curling effort from the angle of the penalty area looked to be creeping in at the far post until Albion's keeper got down low and made a vital intervention and preserve Albion's two goal advantage.
Albion soaked up more pressure in the closing stages, O'Grady completing an outstanding personal performance with a goal saving headed clearance, Fletcher's towering header heading towards the top corner of the net until the former Owl got in the way to keep the Brewers two goal lead in tact and avoid a nervy finish to what had been an outstanding night of football from the Brewers.
The Brewers now head to Blackburn Rovers with a first victory of the season in the bag and everything to look forward to.