HUDDERSFIELD TOWN 0-1 BURTON ALBIONA momentous week for Jackson Irvine got even better at the John Smith's Stadium as the Australian netted his tenth goal of the campaign to snatch all three points for Albion in the 96th minute against promotion chasing Huddersfield Town.
Having made his first starts for his country in the week and scored his first international goal the popular Antipodean, only a substitute on his return to domestic action, provided the perfect support for Marvin Sordell's late run on goal offering an option to the striker's right to roll the ball into the empty net and hit Huddersfield with the ultimate sucker punch, earning just a third away win of the season for the Brewers. With seven games now left, who knows how important this three points might be.
Albion had done so well to frustrate their high flying hosts for large parts of the game and Town's frustrations were increased late on when skipper Dean Whitehead was red carded for two cautions at the end of an often ill tempered affair that puts a big dent in the Terrier's promotion hopes.
Whilst Huddersfield used their pace and movement to try and unhinge the Brewers it was a massively gritty and hard working performance from the Brewers who are now, perhaps crucially, four points clear of the drop zone with other results going their way as the season enters its final eight games. Pretty it may not have been but this promises to be a nervy and fraught end to the season as the Brewers look to achieve the unthinkable - Championship survival.
Although there was only one change to the starting line-up for the Brewers it facilitated a change in formation. John Mousinho was restored to the defence as Nigel Clough went with what he hoped would be a solid line-up against the Terriers. Mousinho joined Kyle McFadzean and Ben Turner in a central defensive three with John Brayford and Tom Flanagan in wide defensive roles with licence to support further upfield when needed. Lasse Vigen Christensen and Michael Kightly flanked Luke Murphy in a midfield three aimed at being compact. Marvin Sordell pushed further forward to join Cauley Woodrow in attack. Mousinho's inclusion was at the expense of Jackson Irvine who dropped to the bench after a busy week jetting around the globe on international duty with Australia.
Huddersfield quickly settled into their passing game in an attempt to move Albion out of their defensive positions. Full back Tommy Smith almost got himself in behind the Burton defence early on but an offside flag, alongside a good stop from Jon McLaughlin kept him at bay. Striker Joe Lolley also steered a shot wide from inside the box as the Terriers continued to press early on.
Lolley also managed to drift inside on his left foot and curl a teasing shot just over the angle of post and bar on 14 minutes as Town dominated.
The former Kidderminster man was at it again on 18 minutes this time running from deep to create another left footed chance for himself, this time his effort dragged wide of the upright as McLaughlin watched it go past him.
Smith was also taking every opportunity to burst forwards from his right back berth and half way through the first period he went to ground in the penalty area looking for a spot kick but referee Scott Duncan was unimpressed, as were the Brewers defence who felt that the Town man had gone down far too easily.
Jack Payne tested McLaughlin's reflexes with a smart shot on the turn before Albion had their own penalty shouts. Flanagan tricked his way into the box and appeared to be clipped as he turned inside his man but again referee Duncan remained unmoved.
There was something of a flashpoint moments later when skipper Dean Whitehead clattered into Kightly as the Burnley loanee lead a breakout. There was plenty of pushing and shoving and finger pointing as Burton players ran to the aid of their colleague and referee Duncan eventually diffused the situation with a yellow card for the experienced Town captain.
Albion were also incensed by what appeared to be an elbow to the face of McFadzean as play continued for several moments after the Burton man went down on the edge of his own penalty area. Referee Duncan engaged in a lengthy conversation with Mousinho who tried to explain what the match official appeared to have missed but no further action resulted.
The frustrations of the home side, both players and fans continued to grow as half time approached. The Albion bench were incensed when Sordell appeared to be tripped on the edge of the box with Duncan awarding a goal kick to the hosts instead and he seemingly baffled the home bench by only indicating two added minutes at the end of the first period. However much he added on the Burton defence stayed firm to go in level at the break.
Half time: Huddersfield Town 0-0 Burton Albion
A more calm start to the second half, at least compared to the end of the first period, preceded another spell of Huddersfield pressure. A barnstorming run down the left from the tricky and pacy Rajiv Van La Parra induced a rash challenge from McFadzean giving the Terriers a dangerous free kick and a yellow card for the Albion centre back. Ben Turner saw off the free kick with a vital headed interception before Brayford repelled the resulting corner kick.
Albion almost stunned the John Smith's Stadium straight after when Marvin Sordell went on his own and almost grabbed the lead for Albion. A long ball over the top had the striker isolated with Michael Hefele. Sordell did superbly well to cut inside his man and having made room for the shot went for the bottom corner but placed his shot too close to Danny Ward who saved comfortably.
David Wagner opted to ring the changes with Elias Kachunga and Albion's nemesis from his Bradford days, Nahki Wells sent on in place of Lolley and Payne.
Smith continued to be a threat from the back for Huddersfield and his rasping drive dipped just over McLaughlin's bar. One of the nearest moments for the Terriers.
Albion responded just after the hour mark with Irvine sent on the bolster the midfield unit in place of Kightly. It was Town substitute Wells that almost opened the game up shortly afterwards with a trademark run off the last defender to try and get in behind the Burton defence. Fortunately for Albion Wells' first touch took him wide of goal. Challenged by Mousinho tracking back he went theatrically to ground with Town fans baying for a penalty that was never going to come.
Luke Varney was next into the fray as Woodrow was withdrawn from the action and Albion were close to the opening goal from a set piece won by Sordell. With neither Kightly or Woodrow on the field it was left to Irvine to take aim and he forced Ward into an awkward save in his top corner.
Brayford became the second Burton player in the book as Duncan got fed up of what he saw as blatant time wasting at a Brewers throw in.
Former Huddersfield academy man Lucas Akins was Albion's third change of the afternoon with Christensen taken off.
Sordell went in the book for an ungainly challenge on Smith that left Smith in some discomfort and Turner followed him for a poor challenge on Kachunga as tempers started to flare once more as the clock began to run down.
Prior to the Turner incident Albion had just gone oh so close to snatching the lead. A corner from Akins caused some disarray inside the Town box and Flanagan's low drive was blocked inside the six yard box with Turner unable to turn the rebound goalwards.
Inside the last five minutes and Albion were having to defend with everything they had got. Both McFadzean and Turner got in important blocks before Brayford headed clear off the line as Hefele rose highest in the box.
Once again tempers flared as a ball flew into the Burton box. As Turner seemed to get manhandled to the ground tempers flared again, this time between Flanagan and Whitehead. Both were shown a yellow card. For Whitehead it was the end of his afternoon, referee Duncan producing the red following Whitehead's first half card.
As the game ebbed into six added minutes Albion were on the front foot and had two golden chances to snatch all three points. Akins managed to get deep into home territory before delivering a cross that Ward intercepted before Sordell could finish and Albion's two goal man against Brentford was only denied by a last ditch challenge from Christopher Schindler as he went to meet Varney's low centre.
The drama wasnt going to end there and Albion left the John Smith's Stadium in shock in the dying seconds. Albion had one last chance for a breakaway. Sordell led the charge with Irvine sprinting up in support. It looked at one point as if Sordell had over run the ball but he got a kindly rebound off the tackle from a Huddersfield defender. Bursting into the box he took Ward out of the equation by squaring for IRVINE to roll into the empty net. How ironic that the time added on by referee Duncan for perceived time wasting was the time in which Albion grabbed the winner.