BURTON ALBION 2-1 FLEETWOOD TOWNA brace of fine finishes from Mark Duffy saw off the challenge of ten man Fleetwood Town at the Pirelli Stadium exacting a modicum of revenge for the Brewers heaviest defeat of the season at Highbury back in October and getting Albion back to winning ways once more, extending their lead at the top of Sky Bet League One to six points over nearest challengers Wigan Athletic.
The first goal was a clinical finish at the near post and after Fleetwood capitalised on a sloppy start to the second half to equalise through half time substitute Wes Burn, little more than 90 seconds after the restart, Duffy curled home a goal of the season contender to put Albion back in control and firmly on course for the three points. The visitor's disappointment was compounded when substitute Bobby Grant, who had barely been on the pitch a minute, was red carded after the red mist came down and he took an outrageous swing at Lucas Akins, who was already on the floor.
Hamza Choudhury was handed his first start in a Burton start after impressing in his cameo appearances from the bench so far. Robbie Weir was the man to miss out as the Leicester City man took his bow.
Burton started brightly, once they had seen off an early free kick from Cod Army skipper Jimmy Ryan. The threat of former Newcastle United Shola Ameobi was nullified at the back post and the Brewers were able to get themselves onto the front foot. Choudhury quickly snapped into a challenge with youthful vigour as Fleetwood thought they had more time at the back and they were nearly made to pay.
Both Calum Butcher and Lucas Akins had sights of goal in the early stages as the team looked to get back to goalscoring and winning ways. Stuart Beavon also had early chances with a low drive that was comfortably saved by Chris Maxwell in the Fleetwood goal and also a volley that he just failed to connect with after a sweeping move involving Mark Duffy and Damien McCrory.
Albion's approach play was looking good but with Fleetwood Town dropping in deep to defend everything finding the elusive pass to open them up was proving a tad frustrating. However a fantastic move on 26 minutes finally saw the Brewers breakthrough. A fantastic crossfield ball to Lucas Akins from skipper John Mousinho opened up the right hand side with Akins bursting at pace towards the penalty area. The ball was pulled back towards Butcher who helped it on in to the path of DUFFY. The winger took a touch to get himself a sight of goal and unerringly found the top corner with Maxwell floundering.
A second goal was almost Albion's just a minute later. A superb cross in from the left from McCrory picked out the run of Tom Naylor. Steaming in to meet the ball his header thudded against the crossbar. A really good chance spurned.
Burton had their tails up and Beavon almost got himself on the scoresheet on 34 minutes but was denied by a combination of Maxwell and centre back Joe Davis. A high ball took an absolute age to come down inside the box and for a second Beavon was goalside and in on goal but the defence did just enough to deny him at the near post.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-0 Fleetwood Town
Fleetwood substitute Wes Burns had barely been on the pitch ninety seconds at the start of the second half when he bagged the equaliser. Amari'i Bell was allowed to advance far too far down the left and deliver a cross that was missed by both Shane Cansdell-Sherriff and McCrory in the middle allowing the Bristol City man to pick his spot from ten yards.
A shocking start to the second period from an Albion perspective and one that the Brewers needed to respond to.
Fleetwood rapidly picked up a couple of bookings as Burton looked to reassert themselves on the game. Ameobi was carded for a poor challenge on Naylor and Beavon drew a foul from Swedish defender Marcus Nilsson that was also punished by referee Oliver Langford with a yellow card.
After initially looking thsomewhat stunned by the equaliser the Brewers began to find their attacking feet once more and Choudhury forced a sprawling save from Maxwell low to his left. That was quickly followed up by a Beavon effort that deflected out for a Burton corner.
63 minutes and Albion came up with a genuine contender for goal of the season to go back in front. Having delivered a corner that was only cleared as far as McCrory the winger made himself available and took the ball from the Brewers left back. Cutting inside the box he curled the ball towards goal, setting it off well outside the post and seeing it nestle superbly inside the bottom corner. Cue an eruption from the supporters behind the goal.
Fleetwood threw on Bobby Grant as an attacking change but the former Blackpool man lasted only a minute on the pitch. Referee Langford let play go on after a couple of challenges that looked like fouls and then when Akins was on the ground he took a premeditated swipe at the Burton man and walked off without waiting for the red card that followed.
A goal down and a man down Fleetwood quickly had to use their third change and it was one famous name for another. Ameobi played no further part and he was replaced by Cole, Devante Cole, son of former Newcastle and Manchester United striker Andrew.
A first Burton change saw Weir replace Calum Butcher and a second quickly followed as Mason Bennett provided the fresh legs in place of Akins. The Derby man almost had a hand in a third goal with his first touch bursting away down the left and crossing in low where Maxwell awkwardly put the ball behind at the expense of another corner.
Callum Reilly also made a late appearance in place of the impressive Choudhury to see out time but it almost got better for Albion.
Duffy was only denied a hat trick by a good block inside the area as Albion almost profited from some more poor Fleetwood defending. Bennett's low cross was again not dealt with and after working the ball back to just beyond the penalty spot the Birmingham loanee had visions of his third of the afternoon only to be thwarted.
Three points and back to winning ways was just what the doctored ordered as the Brewers strengthened their grip on a top two spot.
Sponsors Man Of The Match chosen by Ashfield Healthcare: Mark Duffy