BURTON ALBION 1-0 CHESTERFIELDCalum Butcher's fourth goal of the season was all that Burton Albion needed to extend their lead at the top of Sky Bet League One to seven points with victory over Chesterfield.
In a game sparse of real quality and creativity it was the Brewers endeavour, grit and determination that saw them over the line in this one, Butcher providing the one clinical piece of finishing in first half stoppage time to drill a low shot into the bottom corner of the net after excellent work from Mark Duffy on the right.
There are many ways to win a game of football and all through the season Albion have shown flowing football, mixed with dogged defensive performance and also performances like this one where the effort was quite clearly there but too many missed passes resulted in very few clear chances. Some would call it winning ugly. The teams that do it well are usually successful ones and Albion and proving to be in that position as the season enters its final third.
Brewers boss Nigel Clough was forced into one change after the victory against Bradford City at the weekend. Lucas Akins picked up an ankle knock during the week and he swapped places with Calum Butcher who returned to the side in the centre of midfield, Clough tweaking his formation again, reverting to a 4-1-4-1 with Mark Duffy out on the right and Robbie Weir dropping back into a defensive midfield role.
Drew Talbot had the first chance to test Albion's defence from the left wing when Phil Edwards misjudged the flight of a crossfield pass allowing the experienced utility man to swing in a curling centre but none of his team mates had got up into the box and Albion were able to clear.
Chesterfield were enjoying the lions share of possession in the opening quarter of an hour but with their side shorn of leading attackers Lee Novak and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake their options in the final third of the pitch were limited.
Former Spireites loanee Mason Bennett had the first half chance for Albion when Edwards booming cross was only cleared as far as the youngster on the edge of the box. Finding himself closed down as the ball came down out of the night sky he scuffed a shot that trickled easily into the hands of Tommy Lee.
After a spot of argy bargy on the edge of the box as Duffy waited to take a free kick Albion almost profited. Duffy was able to put the ball deep to the back post and John Mousinho was able to head it back to the edge of the area for Beavon to lash in a venomous shot. Two defenders parted out of the way but the unfortunate Liam O'Neil took the ball flush to the side of his face and required the stretcher to leave the pitch after over six minutes of treatment. Dan Gardner stepped off the bench to replace the unlucky Spireite.
Duffy was starting to show the Spireites what they had missed out during a frustrating time at the Proact last season and he easily skipped past a couple of challenges on the right to send in a teasing low cross that Chesterfield managed to clear at full stretch. It was the prelude to a series of corner that was ended after three when Calum Butcher sent a shot too high from just inside the box although he did have two defenders in red converging on him to put him off his shot.
Chesterfield briefly threatened as the game looked desperately for a spark, Sam Hird got up well inside the box to meet Gardner's free kick at the back post. His header rippled the side netting but there was no doubting that Jon McLaughlin had the effort covered if it had been going inside the post.
A loss of concentration from Duffy cost him possession in a dangerous area as the first half headed for stoppage time. Gardner nicked the ball away and got to the bye line but his floated cross landed on the roof of the net.
As the board went up for seven minutes of added time, almost entirely for the injury to O'Neil, Albion grabbed the lead. Duffy again did sterling work on the right to work room for a cross. The ball came in to BUTCHER in an advanced role and having got the ball out of his feet he found room to turn and show the instincts of a striker to find the bottom corner of Tommy Lee's goal.
A chance to go 2-0 up before the break eluded Albion, Bennett working room on the right to send in a low cross that Lee was able to smother before Beavon could divert it goalwards.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-0 Chesterfield
The second half was barely ninety second old when Chesterfield went very close to an equaliser. A long punt forwards and a flick on had Rai Simons in for a chance but as the angle narrowed against him he fired just over the bar.
Robbie Weir felt the full force of a challenge from Chris Herd and the Aussie eventually found himself in the book of referee Simon Hooper as the Albion midfielder received treatment and was helped gingerly back to his feet.
Herd was quickly followed into the book by Tom Anderson, the on loan defender bringing down Beavon as he threatened to skip away with a clean run on goal. Ten yards further up the pitch and the youngster may well have seen red but with the ball going towards the left channel he got the benefit of the doubt from the Wiltshire referee.
Herd was quickly replaced within ten minutes of the second half with Ollie Banks coming on for the ex-Aston Villa man.
Ariyibi's pace down the right created room for a dangerous looking cross and it was safety first from Edwards who conceded a corner that Weir met with a thumping header to clear his lines.
Mani Dieseruvwe was Danny Wilson's final throw of the dice just after the hour mark replacing the pacy Simons but it was Albion who went close to finding the net again as Bennett saw a low shot deflect just wide of the post. A deflected shot from McCrory advancing into a shooting position almost caught Lee out but the experienced keeper held on just underneath his crossbar.
Talbot, scorer of a screamer on a previous visit to the Pirelli, got himself in a position to test McLaughlin from the edge of the box but on his left foot his low effort was easy for the Burton keeper.
Chesterfield were starting to push forwards more as Albion seemed to take a little bit of a breather and dropped off their men slightly.
It was the signal for a double change. Lucas Akins came on for Bennett to add some renewed energy to the attackk and as Shane Cansdell-Sherriff walked gingerly off he was replaced by Tom Flanagan, fit again after a spell on the sidelines with appendicitis.
The outstanding workrate of Beavon almost set up a second goal for Albion. Racing into space on the left he drilled a low ball into the six yard box where Duffy was only denied what would have been a tap-in by some excellent defensive work from Dion Donohue. His defensive colleague were quick to acknowledge the youngster for keeping them in with a chance.
A change of Calums for the final six minutes saw goalscorer Butcher replaced by Callum Reilly as Albion looked to see out the game.
Beavon stung the palms of Lee with a swerving shot on 87 minutes, With supporting options few and far apart alongside him he cut inside and unleashed a shot that Lee awkwardly kept out and was grateful that the rebound did not fall to Beavon following in his own shot.
Good game management ensured that Chesterfield could not muster any real pressure at the death and Albion had done enough to extend their lead at the top ahead of a full schedule of games on Saturday with the pack most definitely under pressure to catch up.