ON this day in 2014 Burton Albion lost to Fleetwood Town in the League Two play off final at Wembley.
Antoni Sarcevic's long range free kick was all that seperated the Cod Army and the Brewers as Fleetwood Town snatched the final place in Sky Bet League One at Wembley Stadium. It was never going to be a five or six goal thriller like the sides had already shared that season but when Dean Lyness misjudged the flight of the former Crewe man's free kick it proved decisive and Albion must battle again in League Two the following season.
Clear cut chances were few and far between for both sides, Albion's best probably falling to Billy Kee in the second half but in the end Albion could not crack the Fleetwood defence.
For the final Gary Rowett made two changes to the side that battled to the all important 2-2 draw at Southend in the second leg of the semi-final. With Zeli Ismail not quite fit enough to start the game after a recurrence of his hamstring injury Alex Macdonald got the nod on the right side of midfield ahead of David Gray. In attack Billy Kee partnered Adam McGurk despite his wife going into labour with their first child earlier in the day.
Albion had an early free kick after Callum McFadzean had been shoved off the ball but Kee's header from Chris Hussey's free kick was easy for Chris Maxwell in the Fleetwood goal.
Fleetwood quickly responded and Dean Lyness made an excellent reflex save to deny David Ball who twisted and turned inside the area to get his shot away. Fleetwood were close again from the resulting corner with Lyness and Marcus Holness having to scramble the ball away at the far post.
Matty Blair threatened to open up the Burton defence as space opened up down the Fleetwood left but the outstretched boot of Holness meant just a corner for the Cod Army. Albion quickly won their first corner of the game through a surging run from Alex MacDonald and Robbie Weir was inches away from connecting with the teasing delivery when Maxwell failed to collect inside his six yard box.
MacDonald tried one of his piledriver free kicks as Albion had another set piece but the Fleetwood wall stood firm and repelled his effort.
The Cod Army were appealing for a penalty twice in the space of a few seconds on the quarter of an hour mark when both Matty Blair and Ball went to ground under challenges but South Yorkshire referee Michael Naylor waved away both half hearted shouts.
Another Albion corner produced a good opportunity for the Brewers and Lee Bell was unlucky to see his dipping volley from thirty yards bounce wide of the post although Maxwell looked to have it covered had it been on target.
Adam McGurk launched an ambitious left foot shot over the bar from the angle of the box and when Hussey sent in a low cross from the left Kee stooped to head wide of the near post.
Maxwell was forced to make a good stop on 24 minutes as Albion strung a flowing move together. From the right the ball was worked across into the path of the skipper and he let fly with a shot that was straight at the keeper but he still needed two goes to gather it in safely.
Fleetwood began to apply some pressure and Albion were struggling to get out of their eighteen yard box when a combination of Conor McLaughlin and David Ball worked a chance that the latter skewed wide from a good position inside the box.
Bell looked to be struggling after jarring his knee in a collision on 37 minutes that left him hobbling but the skipper was okay to continue after some running repairs. Fleetwood continued to press but Albion defended stoutly to see the first half through although a late free kick for Rowett's men was overhit by Hussey and referee Naylor was able to bring the first half to a close.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-0 Fleetwood Town
Fleetwood began the second half as they finished the first, on top and a well flighted corner caused all manner of panic in the Burton box with Bell eventually taking control of the situation and lashing clear.
Burton were playing mainly on the counter and a lovely angled ball in from the right by MacDonald very nearly found McGurk running through the middle but Maxwell was off his line smartly to gather right on the edge of his area.
Bell was again the man looking to score from range when Albion next threatened. With Kee crowded out inside the box the captain provided the outlet once more but Maxwell was again able to save comfortably.
Hussey was invited to come forward and shoot on 55 minutes but his effort was always rising and cleared the bar. Kee quickly had a chance to open the scoring when Phil Edwards put a lofted cross into the box and after initially miscontrolling the ball the striker quickly snatched at a second attempt that flew over.
The ever threatening Antoni Sarcevic was allowed to travel all the way across the edge of the penalty are on 58 minutes but in the end Lyness was able to watch his shot go wide of the target.
A surging run from McFadzean just past the hour mark won Albion another corner and when the ball came all the way out to Weir, the man making his 100th start in a Brewers shirt took aim but sent his shot well over the goal.
Albion were first to make a substitution on 65 minutes and it was Marcus Holness who departed the action with Zander Diamond coming on for his final appearance in a Burton shirt. The big Scot was quickly involved heading a free kick from Edwards wide of the post.
It was Albion probing a bit more intensely and when MacDonald launched an ambitious shot goalwards it looked a harmless effort but a wicked deflection off a Fleetwood boot made it drop just over the bar and from the resulting corner Australian centre-back Shane Cansdell-Sherriff was only inches away from connecting with a header inside the six yard box.
A second change for Albion was a more attacking one with eighteen minutes left. The hard working Alex MacDonald came off and it was a welcome return to action for Zeli Ismail. The youngster instantly showed his searing pace down the right to win Albion another corner. Meanwhile Fleetwood were preparing their own change with Jon Parkin replacing winger Matty Blair.
Phil Edwards picked up the first yellow card of the game with just over a quarter of an hour to go as Josh Morris began to surge towards the penalty area. Worse was to come for the Brewers when SARCEVIC curled in the free kick from all of thirty five yards out, Lyness was deceived by the flight and to his horror the ball curled over his head and nestled in the far corner of the net.
A third change came for Albion as they attempted to turn the game around and the skipper was the man sacrificed to give Matty Palmer a chance on the Wembley stage.
With Burton desperately searching for an equaliser they almost found themselves caught out on the break, David Ball getting away down the right and crossing low towards Iain Hulme but this time Lyness showed safe hands to snuff out the threat.
Ismail was the outlet that Albion were looking for at every opportunity now and he won a late corner that Hussey swung in but which Diamond could not steer on target.
With four minutes of added time to try and save themselves and a breakout from Nathan Pond had the Cod Army three on one with only Ismail back but the Wolves loanee stemmed the tide and kept Albion in it. A late flurry of corners gave the Brewers hope but it was all in vain as Albion failed to find the equaliser and it was Fleetwood left to celebrate and contemplate promotion to League One.