BRISTOL CITY 0 - 0 BURTON ALBIONA second successive goalless draw on the road aided the Brewers battle against relegation from the Sky Bet Championship as fellow strugglers Bristol City dropped into the bottom three at Ashton Gate.
Bristol could claim to have come the closest to grabbing a precious three points seeing captain Aaron Wilbraham's header just before half time ruled out bvy referee Graham Scott and the lively Lee Tomlin blasting a second half penalty wastefully over the crossbar. In a bizarre sequence late on the Brewers produced three clearances off the line as Bristol cranked up the pressure. Albion had some good chances themselves to leave with all three points, Lloyd Dyer missing a virtually open goal and Cauley Woodrow just off target with several efforts throughout the game.
Prematch Bristol boss Lee Johnson had billed it as a must win fixture whilst Nigel Clough was firm in his beliefs that it was more of a dare not lose fixture. In that sense it was the Brewers who were more than happy to follow up their recent results with another draw to make it four games unbeaten and keeping themselves above the relegation zone with games ticking away. The chorus boos from the home fans at the final whistle told you everything you needed to know about their views on Bristol's point.
For the clash with the Robins Clough made three changes. With John Brayford fit again after the knee injury sustained against QPR at the end of January there was just one change to the back four unit, Tom Naylor the unlucky one to drop to the bench. With Michael Kightly struggling with a hamstring problem the door was open for Lloyd Dyer to return on the left whilst Jackson Irvine was back in the centre of midfield, Matty Palmer the man to miss out in the middle.
Burton certainly made a positive start penning their hosts back into their own half, Irvine sending a looping header into the arms of Bristol keeper Fabian Giefer within a minute of kick-off. A long ball straight up the middle of the pitch immediately had Albion back pedalling with Lee Tomlin volleying a dipping shot against the crossbar in rapid response. Fired up by a vibrant Bristol crowd the home side, fragile in confidence after a miserable run of results, surged forwards again and left wing back Joe Bryan drilled in a low effort that squirmed through Jon McLaughlin and rolled, fortunately, outside the post. Struggling to clear their lines, Albion had several attempts to clear the resulting corner and were grateful to see Tomlin's lobbed effort land on the roof of the goal, City looking for a fast start to settle their nerves.
Albion cleared their heads and began to get a foothold in the game. Marvin Sordell, starting the game on the right, drifted inside to pick up a pass from Irvine on nine minutes but his shot was easy for Giefer. A sweeping move started by Dyer's burst down the left gave the Brewers a set piece 25 yards from goal when Lasse Vigen Christensen was cynically brought down by Gary O'Neil as he burst towards the penalty area. Cauley Woodrow drilled in the free kick but could not beat the wall, Dyer picking up the rebound and firing a deflected effort wide.
The Brewers seemed happy to play on the counter and they almost grabbed the lead on 25 minutes. A rapid break down the left saw the ball switched to Sordell on the right. After initially losing control of the ball the striker regained his touch and burst into the box forcing Giefer into a scrambling save. Bristol also had a let off when Brayford and Sordell combined down the right, Sordell this time sending in a teasing cross that was begging to be finished by Woodrow in the middle only for the outstretched leg of Aden Flint to get there first at the expense of a corner.
Whilst Bristol were starting to look a little ragged and frustrated the men in yellow were growing in belief. A delightful attack involving some crisp passing cut through the Bristol ranks and Woodrow eventually had Dyer in on goal. The winger's touch was just too heavy and Giefer was able to smother the ball before the Burton man could get a shot away.
Luke Murphy was Albion's first man in the book seven minutes before the break and there was little argument that he had pulled back Tomlin as the Robins dangerman looked to spark another attack.
The half ended somewhat controversially. Irvine was penalised for a foul on David Cotterill on halfway which looked a poor decision as Irvine clearly and cleanly won the ball. From a promising counter attack position the Brewers suddenly found themselves desperately defending in stoppage time. The free kick from Irvine's foul yielded a corner which skipper Aaron Wilbraham emphatically headed home. Fortunately for Albion referee Graham Scott had blown his whistle to rule the goal out for a push. A lively end to an interesting half of football.
Half time: Bristol City 0-0 Burton Albion
The second half certainly started a lot calmer than the first half ended. Bristol had the first real chance after the break when a long ball into the box was inadvertently headed towards his own goal by Mousinho and Bobby Reid almost capitalised, McLaughlin covering his near post well to block the threat.
Albion's response was quick and both Dyer and Christensen spurned good positions. Both were guilty of looking for the perfect shot as Bristol crowded their own penalty area to afford Giefer good protection. It wasnt pretty but it was effective from the home side.
Bristol made a double change as the hour mark approached, desperate to find a way through the durable Albion defence. Strikers Matty Taylor and Milan Djuric were summonsed from the bench to replace Reid and Wilbraham.
The Brewers then contrived to miss undoubtedly the best chance of the game so far. Excellent approach work got Brayford around the back and when the full back laid the ball
squarely across the six yard box Dyer appeared to have a tap in at the far post. In fact the winger scuffed his connection and watched on as the ball rolled back across goal and wide of the opposite upright.
If that miss was inexplicable what came next from Bristol was even worse. A long throw from Hordur Magnusson resulted in referee Scott pointed to the spot having decided that Mousinho had held down the giant Flint inside the six yard box. Mousinho was shown a yellow card as was Brayford for his protests. Up stepped Tomlin but the usually reliable playmaker fired high over the bar. Albion perhaps felt that justice had been done.
From one end to the other Albion broke quickly. Flanagan led the charge and when Woodrow was played in on the edge of the box his shot on the turn flew not that far wide of Giefer's post.
Albion's first change came with a quarter of an our remaining. It was Dyer who took no further part in proceedings with Varney the man offering the fresh legs on the left hand side.
Five minutes later saw another substitute appearance from Kyle McFadzean on his return from a toe injury. His role was to sit in front of the back four and provide extra protection with Murphy making way. The big defender almost made his presence felt at the other end with a bustling run and link up on the edge of the box, setting Woodrow up for a first time shot that fizzed over the bar.
McLaughlin was on alert at the other end as Cotterill curled in a delightful free kick towards the back post and the Albion stopper had to rise and and palm the ball behind for a corner.
It was set up for a rearguard action from Albion in the closing minutes, Matty Palmer replacing the tiring Sordell for the last five. Bristol ramped up the pressure and Varney produced an excellent goalline clearance, backed up by two more blocks by Flanagan, the home side sensing that three points were still there for the taking.
McFadzean went into the book for a high foot on Djuric before McLaughlin produced another vital block at his near post to deny City substitute Jamie Paterson with virtually his first touch.
Palmer also saw yellow for see,mingly preventing a free kick from being taken as the card count began to rise.
Deep, deep into stoppage time referee Scott gave Bristol another opportunity to test out the Burton defence. Mousinho was adjudged to have hauled the giant Djuric to the ground but Cotterill's free kick on the edge of the box never made it past the wall of yellow inside the box.
Once Albion had survived that it was job done and the Brewers could head back up the M5 with another precious away point from a third successive draw.