SOUTHEND UNITED 3-1 BURTON ALBIONA 3-1 defeat away at Southend United meant that Albion remain four points clear at the top of the League with just the one game in hand on the chasing pack and unable to increase their advantage.
Whilst Stuart Beavon grabbed his 50th Football League goal in front of the Sky television cameras it was scant consolation on a disappointing night on the Essex coast. A rapid start from the Shrimpers got them in front through Anthony Wordsworth's strike with Beavon levelling things up just before the break.
Tyrone Barnett's exquisite shot just after the hour mark had the Shrimper's noses back in front before substitute David Mooney put something of a flattering gloss on the result in stoppage time as Albion pushed for a stoppage time equaliser.
After the 1-0 victory over Chesterfield last time out Nigel Clough opted for an unchanged side, particularly with Shane Cansdell-Sherriff and Damien McCrory overcoming slight niggles to take their places against the Shrimpers. The only change on the bench saw Darius Charles once again make it to the matchday squad on his quest to return from a 12 month injury lay-off. He replaced Timmy Thiele who didnt make the squad with a slight groin problem.
Southend were very quickly out of the traps with a corner won straight from the kick off. Anthony Wordsworth's punt upfield was chased down by Tyrone Barnett who forced McCrory to concede the corner. Albion managed to clear their lines after a fashion and with the ball pinging about inside the penalty area.
Albion's first real moment of danger came on five minutes when Mark Duffy put a teasing ball to the back post where Bennett failed to connect properly with a volleyed chance.
The Brewers were soon behind though as the energetic start of the hosts continued. A strong purposeful run from Barnett through the middle brought Jack Payne into play and although his shot on the edge of the area was blocked the ball fell kindly for WORDSWORTH to pick out the bottom corner out of the reach of Jon McLaughlin.
Duffy was given the chance to test out Dan Bentley when Stuart Beavon was bundled over by Adam Barrett. The defensive wall did its job deflecting the ball away from a corner, something Albion were keen to exploit, given Southend's recent propensity for conceding from set pieces. Their defending at times was not the most convincing but it was enough to protect Bentley from having to make a save of note as Albion won a series of corners.
Burton were growing into the game and Phil Edwards guided a header over the bar from a Ton Naylor cross. It wasnt the easiest of chances as the ball seemed to be slightly behind the Albion full back as he leapt to head it.
Southends very direct, in your face, style was hurrying Albion's play more than they would have liked and when Barnett nicked possession he was quick to spot a shooting opportunity that flew wide of the post.
Naylor's rasping drive just over half way through the first half had Bentley flying to his left but able to watch the ball deflect wide of his post. Edwards again headed over as the Brewers began to rack up the corner count and Naylor was also wide with a flicked header that landed the wrong side of the far post.
Robbie Weir, advancing forward, was invited to hit a low drive on 35 minutes that flew straight into the waiting arms of Bentley and as Southend got on the front foot again a free kick from left back Ben Coker was headed wide of the target by Barrett getting up well at the far post.
A nice flowing Burton move saw McCrory drill a low effort wide as Albion came closer still and a minute before the break they were level although there was a touch of controversy about the equaliser. Butcher kept the ball in, inside his own half, although television replays suggested that the ball may well have gone out, and as Albion played on Duffy and Butcher continued to raid down the left with the latter feeding BEAVON just inside the box. The striker twisted to get himself into a shooting position before finding the bottom corner thanks in part to a slight deflection off Barrett as it beat the outstretched arm of Bentley.
On the balance of play it was hard to argue that Albion deserved to be level at the break, irrespective of whether there were doubts about the Brewers equaliser.
Half time: Southend United 1-1 Burton Albion
Albion started the second half strongly, especially given their strong end to the first period. With Duffy at the heart of things on the right hand side Bentley was finding himself quite busy as firstly Weir drove wide and then Butcher sent a shot fizzing just wide after excellent link up from Duffy and Beavon.
58 minutes were on the clock when Albion were forced into a first substitution. Bennett pulled up quite swiftly holding his hamstring and there was no hesitation from the Burton bench on bringing Lucas Akins on to replace the Derby County youngster.
Five minutes later and Southend had grabbed the lead back. The hosts made good progress down the right and were able to bring BARNETT into play, the on loan striker turning and curling an excellent effort inside the post.
Things got worse for Albion when Butcher went down on the edge of the box. Initially it did not look good for the Albion midfielder and it looked as if Callum Reilly was going to be coming on but the former Dundee United man soldiered on after receiving attention from Nick Fenton.
With a quarter of an hour left Reilly finally came on with Butcher the man to make way after another typically energetic performance. Southend also made a couple of changes with Jack Payne and Noel Hunt making way for Sam McQueen and David Mooney, the hosts most definitely not sitting back on their lead.
A free kick won by Mooney gave Coker the chance to test McLaughlin and Albion's stopper was equal to it plucking the ball from under his crossbar.
The injury to Butcher meant that there were five added minutes but Albion's game was up when a poor touch from Cansdell-Sherriff was closed down allowing McQueen to combine with his fellow sub MOONEY to calmly slot the ball beyond McLaughlin.
It was harsh on McLaughlin who could not be faulted for any of the goals but certainly in the second half Southend had shown a clinical side to their game to stop the Brewers extending their lead at the top of Sky Bet League One. Albion have bounced back from defeats and set backs well in recent times and they will need to do the same again with fellow promotion chasers Walsall up next at the Pirelli on Saturday afternoon.