BURTON ALBION 2 - 0 CARDIFF CITYJackson Irvine and Lucas Akins secured a first win in six Championship games for the Brewers as they eased to an important three points against struggling Cardiff City at a rain soaked Pirelli Stadium.
Albion have been at their best, and most effective when they get at the opposition from the first whistle and once again getting off to a fast start in each half proved crucial, Albion grabbing the lead on 12 minutes, just as they did in their last victory against Derby County with Irvine once again the man in the right place to sweep home a left foot shot from just inside the box after intelligent headers from Chris O'Grady and Jamie Ward created the chance.
Albion only needed four second half minutes to secure the three points, Lucas Akins heading home after Kyle McFadzean had helped on Matty Palmer's free kick.
Nigel Clough was pleased to welcome O'Grady back into the starting line-up after the on loan striker had missed the last two games with a groin strain. Also returning to the side was Hamza Choudhury, the Leicester youngster celebrating his 19th birthday with a recall. Lee Williamson's tight hamstring that forced him off against QPR at half time on Tuesday meant that the experienced midfielder was one to make way with John Mousinho also dropping to the bench having played twice in quick succssion following his own hamstring problems.
In very wet conditions both sides were keen to zip the ball about on the sodden Pirelli Stadium turf. It was the visitors who carved out the first real opening on seven minutes. A half clearance was seized upon by the experienced Rickie Lambert and although he could not work room for the shot himself he teed up Stuart O'Keefe whose low drive was pushed away by Jon McLaughlin, Lex Immers, looking for the rebound was unable to get there before McLoughlin smothered the loose ball.
Albion, though took the lead with their first reall ymeaningful attack. The return of O'Grady was influential in the move with an intelligent header to his left. Ward helped the ball into the path of IRVINE and he instinctively swept it left footed beyond Ben Amos who got fingertips to the ball but couldnt keep it out.
Albion have had a tendency to not hold onto leads so far and they had to smartly block a free kick from Peter Whittingham before Tom Naylor came to the resue with a well timed challenge on Craig Noone after the winger had skipped past a couple of challenges, capitalising when Matty Palmer was caught in possession inside his own half.
Ward took on free kick duties when Palmer was brought down by a late challenge half way through the first period but his rising effort was never going to trouble Amos.
Albion were in for a second on 24 minutes when Bruno Ecuele Manga made a mistake at the back allowing O'Grady to race forwards. With Ward peeling off to the back post it was a good opportunity but O'Grady took an extra touch and when his cross eventually came in it was easily blocked.
Whittingham stung the palms of McLaughlin moments later before Cardiff went closest yet on a counter attack. Kyle McFadzean burst forwards from the back but was rather easily dispossessed inside the centre circle leaving a hole at the back for the Bluebirds to exploit. The ball came to Noone coming inside and as McLaughlin came out a combination of deflections took his chipped shot just wide of the target. An excellent chance spurned and a warning to Albion to not play too much football in the wrong areas.
Cardiff were looking for the presence of Lambert at each available opportunity, especially from set pieces and the former Southampton man managed to divert one such effort on target on 35 minutes but McLaughlin was able to save comfortably beneath his crossbar.
The Brewers began to assert themselves again as half time approached and a corner from Palmer almost generated a second for Albion with McFadzean going close. A scramble inside the six yard box saw his shot on the turn deflected over and from the follow-up corner from the opposite side McFadzean headed back across goal and wide of the post.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-0 Cardiff City
With the rain abating for the second half it was Cardiff who started brightly after the break but they were soon two goals down, conceded in a soft fashion. O'Grady had his shirt pulled, spotted by referee Andy Madley allowing Palmer to put the Cardiff defence under pressure from the free kick. That he did delivering an excellent ball towards the back post where McFadzean headed back across for AKINS to nod home from inside the six yard box.
Albion put themselves under pressure with a lack of communication at the back allowing Cardiff to come forwards and it was only a superb intervention by ex-Cardiff defender Ben Turner at the back post that denied Lambert the chancde to pull one back.
Paul Trollope instantly made a double change with Kadeem Harris and striker Frederic Gounongbe sent on in place of Joe Ralls and Immers to try and salvage something from the game.
Harris made an immediate impact injecting pace onto the Cardiff left and making things difficult for the Burton back line but Cardiff's woes were summed up when they were awarded a free kick in a promising position 30 yards out but Lambert's supposed piledriver ended up as a scuffed drive that McLaughlin was able to field relatively easily on the wet surface.
Ward was replaced by Will Miller for the final quarter of the game and he was almost in on goal as Irvine tried to play him through on the left.
Patient build up and some excellent passing almost gave O'Grady his first goal of the season on 74 minutes. The initial break out was led by Miller but after probing around the edge of the box O'Grady was able to turn his man on the edge of the box all too easily before pulling his shot across the face of goal and wide of Amos' far post.
It was the last meaningful action for O'Grady who was replaced for the last thirteen minutes by Tom Flanagan. Rather than swap things around Flanagan played up top alongside Miller while Cardiff looked in vain for anything that would give them any hope of getting back into the game.
Whilst Cardiff saw plenty of the ball in the closing stages it was as much because Albion had decided to make sure they kept just a second clean sheet of the season. A late flashing header wide of the near post from substitute Kenneth Zohore was about as good as it got for Cardiff after a corner was swung in from the right and there were plenty of crosses coming in from both flanks with Albion's determined defence ensuring that clear cut chances did not fall the way of the Cardiff attack.
Mousinho was sent on late on to add further resolve to the Burton back line and make sure of the points as Choudhury was sacrificed from the midfield but on this occasion there was to be no late concession of a goal, Albion starting October with a five point gap to the bottom three and leaving Cardiff firmly in those relegation slots, both sides having plenty to reflect on before the Championship resumes in a fortnight.