ALBION kicked off 2020 with victory by the odd goal in seven against ten-man Bolton Wanderers as the new year got underway in spectacular fashion.
In a game that was a roller coaster of emotions for the Brewers they found themselves two goals down after just eleven minutes with Joe Dodoo and Daryl Murphy striking early for the relegation threatened hosts.
A David Templeton stunner and two goals from Lucas Akins had Albion in front by the time the half time whistle went before Wanderers found themselves down to ten men as Luke Murphy picked up a second yellow card.
When substitute Liam Boyce fired Albion to a two-goal cushion with nine minutes left it looked as if the game was up for the home side until young midfielder Dennis Politic lashed a 25 yarder past Kieran O'Hara to set up a grandstand finish with the Brewers holding out for their third win in as many visits to this Lancashire outpost.
Following the setback against Accrington on Sunday, Brewers boss Nigel Clough opted for fresh legs to give his side a boost as they got the new year underway at the University Of Bolton Stadium. Colin Daniel, Stephen Quinn and Boyce were all rested with Reece Hutchinson, Joe Sbarra and Templeton all promoted from the bench to spruce things up.Unfortunately Kieran Wallace remained sidelined through illness so was unable to further boost the selection of replacements available to the manager.
Albion started the game with plenty of possession and also plenty of play down the left hand side with Hutchinson, Templeton and Scott Fraser linking up well. It soon opened up a chance for Templeton but he could not get over the ball and his angled shot went high and wide.
But Albion were caught on the break on five minutes after another flowing move saw Lucas Akins have a shot on the turn blocked before the ball was cleared and DODOO raced away and with defenders backing off him as he approached the box , unleashing a rising shot that beat O'Hara at his near post.
Sbarra led a quick breakout moments later but was dispossessed well and when Bolton worked the ball from right to left a chance opened up for Thibaud Verlinden to smack a shot against the base of the post.
Dodoo was proving a real threat out on the right and when he was played in on eleven minutes he had room on the right to flash a low cross into the box and a slight deflection put the ball on a playe for MURPHY to fire home.
As the breathless action continued Albion were back in it bang on thirteen minutes. TEMPLETON won the ball from big defender Josh Emmanuel before taking a stride forward and smashing an unstoppable shot past former Albion keeper Remi Matthews at his near post.
Verlinden was off target with his next effort when Emmanuel made sure he won his next battle with Templeton and made good progress down the right to cross to the back post where the Stoke loanee volleyed wide of the post with a first time shot off his right foot.
Albion were back on level terms on 26 minutes as the game continued to ebb and flow from end to end. Sbarra was inches away from connecting with a lovely Fraser cross that resulted in a corner and from there the Brewers maintained the pressure and when Fraser was allowed space to deliver another teasing ball to the back post, this time AKINS was there to bundle it past Matthews from close range.
With the half a minute into added-on time Albion made the turnaround complete. Richard Nartey won the ball on the half way line and played it forwards. The ball was fed into AKINS by Fraser and the Brewers striker held off his man to turn on the edge of the box and fire the ball in off the inside of the post. IT could have been better as stopage time drew to a close, Templeton feeding Sarkic inside the box but he was unable to beat the advancing Matthews.
Half time: Bolton Wanderers 2-3 Burton Albion
The game took another twist on 49 minutes when another former Brewer, Luke Murphy, was shown a second yellow card to leave the home side reduced to ten. The midfielder was already on a booking from the half hour mark after a foul on Sbarra on the edge of the box and his pull back on Fraser as he ran past him was not subtle enough to deceive referee Scott Oldham who produced the second yellow followed by the red.
Sbarra and Edwards were relishing the extra space in midfield created by Murphy's departure and Sbarra fizzed a low shot just wide of Matthews' right hand post on 58 minutes before Bolton made a chnage to try and close down the gaps in midfield. Will Buckley was introduced at the expense of their targetman, goalscorer Murphy.
Albion's response was to bring Quinn into the action with Sarkic the man to make way in a switch to a 4-1-4-1 shape, Sbarra moving out wide to the right.
Whilst Bolton were not creating much at this stage the one goal margin was a narrow one and Albion turned to leasding scorer Boyce for the final quarter of the game with Templeton the man to make way and Akins moving out to the left hand side.
72 minutes in and the chance for an Akins hat-trick came and went. The ball was worked into the box to Boyce and hew unselfishly laid it back to the two-goal man who perhaps wasnt expecting the ball and skewed his shot wide.
Bolton made a double change for the final quarter of an hour, a move which saw another ex-Brewer, Chris O'Grady enter the fray along with youngster Politic with Verlinden and Dodoo making way.
Politic quickly looked to have made an impact, seizing on a spill from O'Hara to find the back of the net but the flag of the assistant was quickly up to rule out what would have been the equaliser.
Nine minutes were remaining when Albion had their fourth of the afternoon and it was relatively simple in its construction. Edwards was allowed to advance as the Bolton defence retreated and he was allowed too much room to drill a low cross into the middle where BOYCE gathered it in, turned and fired beyond Matthews.
Daniel was introduced for Sbarra before play could restart as Akins moved to the right hand side and Hutchinson pushed on down the left hand side.
POLITIC reduced the arreas with six minutes remaining with a 25 yard thunderbolt, out of the blue, to put the game back on a knife edge.
Brayford would have had a fifth for Albion on 87 minutes were it not for an outstanding stop from Matthews. Daniel sent in a corner and Albion's dependable full-back was there to meet it with a powerful header that was arrowing for the top corner until the keeper threw out a hand to push it over the bar.
Bolton tried to raise themselves for one more grandstand finish and Ronan Darcy, at full stretch at the back post, could only divert Adam Chicksen's cross wide of the goal before a superbly timed challenge from Brayford, back on defensive duty, left Wanderers with just a final corner to try and salvage something from their afternoon but it was Albion who held on to make it nine points from twelve over the festive period. A good return in the circumstances.