ALBION are still searching for their first away points of the season after a 3-1 defeat at Oxford United where they finished the game with ten men after substitute Jamie Allen's red card in the final five minutes of the game. Having trailed to former Albion skipper John Mousinho's opener on 18 minutes it was the Brewers who bossed long spells of the first half with their pressure finally rewarded with Marvin Sordell's first of the season on 39 minutes.
But in a scrappy and somewhat fractious game it was Oxford who took control in the second half scoring twice through James Henry and substitute Ricky Holmes to give themselves a first win of the season and add to the early season frustrations for Nigel Clough and his side.
The hosts were very unhappy with referee Trevor Kettle's performance in the first half and seemingly used their sense of injustice to drive them on after the break with Albion not really getting going in the second half once the home side had regained the lead.
In a bid to exorcise the frustration of Tuesday evening's 1-0 defeat at Bradford City it was an unchanged team that took to the pitch at the Kassam Stadium. The only change to the eighteen was the introduction of midweek signing Stephen Quinn who replaced Chris Beardsley amongst the substitutes.
A cagey opening from both sides was not really a surprise given their relative places in the early League One table. A superb early through ball from Scott Fraser released David Templeton on the left with the Oxford defence doing just enough to snuff out the danger as the Scot worked his way into the penalty area.
Gavin Whyte looked the brightest of the home players early on with some very direct running at the Albion back line but neither keeper was extended inside the opening ten minutes.
Fraser's industry in midfield won him a free kick on eleven minutes but from a central position Templeton curled the set piece over the bar without worrying Jonathan Mitchell in the home goal and the Burton winger was not far away from turning John Brayford's driven cross shot into the net, the ball just evading his head as he leapt at the back post.
The first concern for Albion came just short of the quarter of an hour mark when Stephen Bywater waited for the ball to come into his area from a long hopeful punt upfield but U's striker Sam Smith nipped in first, Albion's defence getting back to crowd out the United players charging forward to try and support their forward.
The deadlock was broken on eighteen minutes and it just had to be MOUSINHO that got it. Ben Fox halted Marcus Browne's surge down the left and from the free kick Browne swung it into a dangerous area where Mousinho made a run across Bywater just getting a vital touch to help the ball into the Burton net.
Albion went on the offensive in search of an equaliser but Templeton found himself on the wrong side of referee Kettle who brandished a yellow card in his direction when the winger tried to make room for a shot and went to ground as he anticipated a challenge coming in. As the Oxford defence continued to come under pressure a good piece of link-up between John Brayford and Sordell created a shooting opportunity for Kyle McFadzean, the defender whistling a shot just over the angle of post and crossbar.
Oxford threatened a second around the half hour. Firstly Henry got the better of Brayford down the Oxford left pulling the ball back for Browne who was denied by an excellent block by skipper Jake Buxton. The danger was not over and when Whyte got to the ball first to round Bywater on the edge of the box the second looked inevitable until Buxton once more stepped across to divert his shot away for a corner.
Albion finally had their equaliser on 39 minutes although there was an element of controversy about it. Mousinho rather carelessly conceded a corner kick and Albion took full advantage. Templeton swung over a deep delivery to Turner at the back post, who it has to be said, looked to be all over his marker. The ball bobbled around the six yard box before SORDELL, from almost on the line, converted.
The Oxford defence continued to creak and Boyce found himself with a clear sight of goal just two minutes after the equaliser but drilled the ball inches wide of the post with Mitchell beaten.
The Brewers had more late pressure on the Oxford goal in first half stoppage time, Mitchell unconvincingly catching the ball as it bobbled in his six yard box with his defenders watching on. Albion did not want the half to end at this point and when referee Kettle did blow his whistle to bring the half to a close it was Oxford manager Karl Robinson who had to marshall his players away from the official as they went to remonstrate and tempers threatened to boil over with Mr Kettle. Ultimately that may have been a turning point in the game.
Half time: Oxford United 1-1 Burton Albion
The home side had early shouts for a penalty when Browne stumbled to the ground under a challenge from Sordell but they did not have long to wait for a second as HENRY had them back in front on 50 minutes. Smith cut inside to test Bywater with a curling shot that the experienced keeper could only parry out to the U's midfielder who returned it into the back of the net with interest.
Albion rallied with a couple oif corners that Oxford managed to see off and as a stormy game continued Smith went into Mr Kettle's book for an off the ball incident with McFadzean. Bywater had to be alert to prevent a curling free kick deflecting in off one of his own defenders as Oxford sensed a change in the direction of the game and it was not long before Albion made a change to try and seize the initiative. Quinn was summoned from the bench and sent on in place of Templeton allowing Akins to push further forward in the wide areas.
Whyte had the Brewers backpedalling frantically on 63 minutes with a run across the pitch and to the edge of the area, his low shot eventually dribbling wide of the post.
Oxford also turned to experience on 66 minutes with Jamie Mackie replacing Smith who had seemingly had a final talking to from referee Kettle a few minutes earlier along with U's skipper Curtis Nelson. Albion also turned to Jamie Allen in place of Fox with a quarter of the game remaining and things finely poised.
Browne, after receiving some treatment after a strong challenge from McFadzean, also made way with the dangerous Ricky Holmes introduced to try and bring some trickery to the home attack and the Sheffield United loanee was on the scoresheet with his first touch. Henry blasted in a shot from distance that was too hot to handle for Bywater and when Henry was unable to convert the rebound he instead found HOLMES who slotted in.
Quinn almost cost the Brewers a goal with a pass that was intercepted by Mackie but the striker was quickly closed down to avoid further damage to the scoreline.
A flurry of bookings from Mr Kettle saw both Nelson and Cameron Norman cautioned for lunging challenges on Quinn and Sordell whilst Brayford's efforts to stop Holmes' progress down the left also resulted in a card.
The final ten minutes saw Elliot Hodge sent on for Sordell as the game began to slip away from Albion. Things got even worse for substitute Allen who having earlier in the half seen yellow for a foul on Norman was lulled into a scrappy challenge as the full back burst forwards and the Albion midfielder's afternoon was over with a second booking.
Fraser's frustrations got the better of him in the closing stages as he also got booked for a niggly foul on Holmes and in the end the final whistle could not come quickly enough with Albion now looking for home comforts after a disappointing first month back in League One.