BRADFORD CITY 2-0 BURTON ALBIONfrustrating night in West Yorkshire for Burton Albion saw Nigel Clough's side succumb to a 2-0 defeat at the end of three away games in a week. Kyel Reid's left foot shot after 13 minutes and defender Reece Burke's second senior goal, following a good save from former Bantams keeper Jon McLaughlin, secured all three points for the Bantams in the first half. It could have been worse for the Brewers without McLaughlin making an excellent penalty save from Tony McMahon deep into the second period. Albion struggled to overcome an inspired Bradford side who more than avenged their 3-1 defeat at the Pirelli a few short weeks ago.
It means that the Brewers fail to capitalise on their game in hand and remain four points clear at the top but more importantly niine points ahead of third placed Gillingham.
As expected, Stuart Beavon and Tom Naylor returned to the side after being rested in the 1-1 draw at Crewe on Saturday. Beavon came back in for his 250th Football League appearance and it was also a landmark for Brewers defender Shane Cansdell-Sherriff making his 350th start in the League. Naylor came back into the side in place of Callum Reilly who, once more dropped to the substitutes bench.
Albion were looking to take advantage of their game in hand over all of their promotion rivals bar Walsall who catch up next week when they face Albion's Pirelli Stadium opponents on Saturday, Fleetwood Town.
After a start to the game that had plenty of endeavour but precious little in the way of quality the home side grabbed the lead on 13 minutes. Billy Clarke did well to hold the ball up well and get himself turned and facing goal. With runners to his left he picked out the advancing Kyel REID and he was able to lash in an angled left foot shot that flew past Jon McLaughlin into the corner of the net.
Damien McCrory quickly picked up a booking for what was nothing more than an innocuous challenge on Clarke just outside the area. The yellow card looked extremely harsh and fortunately Albion were not punished further with the resulting free kick headed onto the roof of the net at the back post.
A swift response was called for and the Brewers almost got in on 19 minutes. Beavon capitalised on a slip by home defender Nathan Clarke bursting forwards and feeding Calum Butcher on the edge of the box. The midfielder struck for goal but saw his effort blocked. The ball fell kindly for Mark Duffy who was thwarted by a good stop from keeper Ben Williams who stood tall to deny the winger.
Phil Edwards came off worse in a collision with Reid as both tried to cut out Robbie Weir's errant pass on the half way line but it was the Albion full back who picked up a yellow card from referee Trevor Kettle after receiving treatment from Nick Fenton.
28 minutes were on the clock when Albion went two behind. Clarke was once again involved as he brought down a free kick into the box and turned, firing towards the bottom corner. McLaughlin did well to get down and push the shot away but unfortunately for him centre back Reece BURKE was lurking at the far post to smash the ball in.
Albion desperately needed something to get them back into the game but Williams denied them that chance three minutes before the break. The keeper initially spilled a free kick from Duffy swung in from the left but redeemed himself as Beavon picked up the loose ball at a narrow angle with Williams again standing tall to block as the Brewers striker took aim and fired.
Perhaps Albion's best chance came in first half stoppage time. Edwards got forward well and sent in a dangerous cross to pick out Akins but his header was wide of the target.
It was going to take a much better second half if the Brewers were going to get anything from the game.
Half time: Bradford City 2-0 Burton Albion
Coming out for the second half there was an excellent moment as McLaughlin took his place in the goal in front of the home fans. Applauding him across the pitch they also sang their appreciation for a player who spent six years at Valley Parade.
Three minutes into the second half and Albion again went close to getting a goal back. Beavon chased the ball down towards the corner and sent over a first time cross that Butcher got up to meet first with his head but Williams was able to watch it drop wide of his post.
Jamie Proctor broke the offside to burst through on 53 minutes although there was a suspicion of handball about how he controlled the ball but his first time shot was high and wide of McLaughlin's goal.
A minute later and Albion's side showed a change as Nigel Clough made his first change. Robbie Weir was the man sacrificed to allow young Hamza Choudhury to get his longest spell yet on the pitch for the Brewers.
Skipper John Mousinho looked destined to score with a rasping drive that flew just wide as Albion built up a head of steam from a corner.
Clarke, at the other end, tried his luck from all of 25 yards trying to put the result well and truly beyond Albion's reach but his accuracy let him down putting his shot comfortably wide of the upright on 65 minutes.
Beavon followed McCrory and Edwards into the book of referee Kettle after a foul on Lee Evans. Mr Kettle then pointed to the spot to award Bradford a penalty after Shane Cansdell-Sherriff was adjudged to have handled as Proctor headed down a cross but in front of the crowd that had shown their appreciation for him earlier, McLaughlin pulled off a superb save low to his left to deny Tony McMahon from scoring a third for the Bantams.
A double change quickly followed for Albion with Mason Bennett and Tom Flanagan replacing Beavon and Mousinho prompting the question of when Albion had last finished a game without the influential Weir, Mousinho and Beavon on the pitch.
Left back James Meredith incurred the ire of Mr Kettle with seven minutes remaining taking far too long to take a throw in and he finally became the first Bradford player to see yellow.
Akins saw an angled shot deflected out for a corner off Stephen Darby and it led to a flurry of late pressure that was only relieved when Cansdell-Sherriff glanced a header wide of the post from the third of those corners in quick succession.
It was the last real opportunity to salvage anything from the game but when the final whistle went it signalled the end of a game where Burton had been well below their best and could argue little with the final result. Putting it all into perspective it was a disappointing evening but Albion's position at the top of the table remains strong going into the final eleven games of the campaign.