CREWE ALEXANDRA 1-1 BURTON ALBIONA hard earned point on the road at Gresty Road was enough to push Albion nine points clear of the play-offs in Sky Bet League One as Lucas Akins again proved to be the man on the mark for the promotion chasing Brewers.
The popular Brewers winger finished at the second attempt in the 35th minute to equaliser Marcus Haber's thirteenth minute close range opener but despite copious amounts of pressure during an extended second half Albion could not quite find a second goal that would have seen them capitalise even further on disappointing results for both Wigan and Walsall chasing the Brewers in the race to the Championship. The second half went on for 56 minutes after a lengthy stoppage for an injury to Jon Guthrie but Albion could not find a way through despite the added eleven minutes.
With another tough looking away fixture to come on Tuesday at Bradford City, manager Nigel Clough made a couple of changes to freshen the side up for the shortish trip to Crewe. Stuart Beavon earned himself a rest and place on the bench at Gresty Road as Mason Bennett was afforded an opportunity in his more familiar role as a striker. Midfielder Tom Naylor was also given a break allowing Callum Reilly a rare chance to shine from the start.
It was a rather tepid and uninspiring start to the game as both sides looked to adapt to the windy conditions and a less than perfect playing surface. Neither side contrived to create anything of note until Crewe took the lead after thirteen minutes through an element of fortune. The hosts were able to work the ball to Zoumana Bakayogo well advanced from left back. A curling low cross into the heart of the six yard box caught Shane Cansdell-Sherriff and Jon McLaughlin too close together and the ball ricocheted off both of them before hitting Marcus HABER at the back post and nestling in the net.
It was almost two a minute later as a poor crossfield pass on halfway by Robbie Weir was intercepted by Bradden Inman. The Aussie powered towards the box and forced a fine save from McLaughlin. A close call indeed and Albion could have been level quickly after as the game burst to life. Lucas Akins looked like he had got goalside of his man bursting through but a heavy first touch allowed the ball to get away from him on the bobbly surface and the chance to equalise had gone.
The equaliser should really have come for Albion on 25 minutes. Weir sent a raking ball out to the left that picked out Akins and after jinking to get the ball back on his right foot drilled a low ball towards the back post that was just missed by Bennett for a tap in. The cross had taken a deflection off a defender on its way through deceiving the on loan Derby striker and giving Albion a corner. Unfortunately the Brewers were unable to profit from the set piece either.
Home skipper Oliver Turton was cautioned by referee Ben Toner on 32 minutes after catching his counterpart John Mousinho after the ball had gone. It was the second time that Mousinho had been caught and this time the referee was not prepared to let it go.
Albion finally had the equaliser on 35 minutes through Lucas AKINS' second goal of the week. Mark Duffy suddenly found himself with space to run into on the right and although Akins scuffed his first time effort as the ball came in he was quickly onto the loose ball to turn and drill a low shot that seemed to go through the keeper before going in.
Crewe were anything but deflated by being pegged back and they almost retook the lead on 40 minutes through on loan striker Tom Hitchcock. Taking down a long ball from Perry Ng he cut back inside onto his right foot before blazing over, failing to trouble McLaughlin.
There was little to choose between the sides as referee Toner brought the first half to a close.
Half time: Crewe Alexandra 1-1 Burton Albion
The second half was barely two minutes old when Albion had a chance to put their noses in front through the unlikely source of Cansdell-Sherriff. A corner from the left knocked in by Duffy found the Australian defender at the near post. Flicking the ball into the middle and goalwards only a block inside the six yard box prevented the popular defender from notching a first goal of the season as Crewe eventually hacked the ball clear.
Whatever had been said in the Burton dressing room at half time seemed to be having the desired effect as the hosts were penned back into their own half for much of the first quarter of an hour of the second half.
A change in personnel for Crewe saw Charlie Kirk replace Hitchcock and the hosts briefly threatened to impose themselves in an attacking sense.
Cometh the 66th minute and cometh Stuart Beavon. Clough saw it as the ideal moment to introduce the striker and opted to replace Reilly with the Brewers top scorer.
James Jones became the second Crewe man in referee Toner's book when he clumsily upended Phil Edwards on the halfway line.
Duffy forced a good save out of Ben Garratt on 74 minutes and at this stage Clough opted to throw Naylor into the mix as Bennett was taken off after a hard working shift up against Ben Nugent.
Some scrappy defending from Albion conceded a corner on 77 minutes and substitute Kirk almost made them pay for it with an angled shot that McLaughlin nervously watched go by his right hand post.
As the heavens opened at Gresty Road there was a lengthy delay whilst home defender Jon Guthrie required lengthy treatment. Edwards attempted to launch into an overhead kick inside the box to try and convert Duffy's teasing cross but instead of connecting with the ball made impact with the head of the Crewe defender who eventually left the pitch on a stretcher and not looking in a good way. Harry Davis, son of the manager Steve, was sent on for the remaining six minutes plus the lengthy stoppage time.
It was Albion most certainly pressing for the winner as the game came into the final few minutes. The injury to Guthrie resulted in eleven minutes being added on which gave Albion plenty of time to try and hunt out a second goal. Cansdell-Sherriff found his way into the referee's book for a foul on George Cooper giving Crewe the chance to launch a ball into the Burton box, easily dealt with by the Burton back line.
With four minutes of the allotted eleven left Hamza Choudhury came on and almost grabbed himself a goal. Within a minute or arriving on the pitch the ball came to him on the edge of the area but he was unable to find the bottom corner for what would have been a dream introduction.
Despite a last burst of pressure it remained honours even and another hard earned point for the Brewers. The point was probably more gratefully received by the Brewers who given other results strengthened their grip on a promotion spot whilst a single point did little to enhance Crewe's chances of avoiding the drop to League Two.