A STUNNING first-half hat-trick for Burton-born Kane Hemmings sent Burton Albion on their way to an excellent 3-0 win away at Crewe Alexandra, the biggest winning margin of the season.
Manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink made three changes from the side that beat AFC Wimbledon 1-0 in midweek, the most notable seeing Terry Taylor come in for his full debut after a string of starts from the bench.
Hemmings was recalled for Mike Fondop up front while Sean Clare returned from a two-match suspension in midfield, with Danny Rowe making way. Michael Bostwick missed out with a groin problem.
The opening stages saw Crewe taking the bulk of the possession, looking to utilise the wingers, but it would be Albion with the first real effort of note that subsequently led to the opening goal just nine minutes in.
Since his arrival from Oldham Athletic, Tom Hamer’s long throws have caused issues for most defences and so it proved again here, with the Railwaymen unable to clear the long delivery into the box.
The ball bounced twice through to HEMMINGS who, as all good marksmen should be, was in the right place at the right time to turn home from little more than a couple of yards out.
It could have been 2-0 moments later as Dave Richards came a long way out of his goal to half-clear a forward ball. It fell to Ryan Edwards who tried the lob from 30 yards and while it would have beaten the keeper to goal, but ran well wide of the far post.
Albion were indebted to keeper Ben Garratt on his return to Gresty Road, where he made nearly 250 appearances over nine years, as a dangerous Crewe break saw the ball worked neatly to former Brewer Luke Murphy on the edge of the box.
Murphy drove a powerful effort at goal, only for Garratt to pull off a superb one-handed stop to palm the ball away from goal.
Jonny Smith saw a low shot held by Richards on 16 minutes but seven minutes later, Albion and Hemmings would have their second.
And it was former Crewe man Garratt with the assist - his long goal kick catching out centre-half Omar Beckles with Hemmings nicking the ball away and setting off on goal. The finish was clinical, neatly under Richards for a two-goal lead.
And just 11 minutes later, Hemmings had his first hat-trick for his local club.
Again the striker punished an error, this time intercepting a backpass and finding himself in on goal. Again Richards tried to narrow the angle. Again Hemmings finished calmly underneath the onrushing keeper for a 34-minute triple salvo.
Crewe immediately looked to come forward as they had for the majority of the first half, with Ryan Wintle forcing a good save from Garratt, forced to tip the Crewe man’s dipping effort over the bar.
HALF-TIME: CREWE ALEXANDRA 0-3 BURTON ALBION
Crewe had had the bulk of first half possession and again tried to come forward early on, once again Garratt having to be on his mettle to close down Tom Lowery as the Crewe man, sent clean through in behind, shot at goal, but Garratt made the save and then caught the looping loose ball for good measure.
Smith came close again on 51 minutes, cutting in from the right but putting too much power on his curled effort and sending it wide, while a minute later Clare sent a wicked dipping volley at goal which Richards did very well to tip over the bar.
From there, while Crewe had the majority of the ball, Albion remained defensively resolute and organised to prevent the hosts getting too close to goal, substitute Callum Ainley’s 30-yard strike, held by Garratt, the only effort of note prior to the final 10 minutes.
Albion had one good shout for a penalty early in the second half when Brayford was caught by a flying shoulder in the box, and felt they definitely should have had a spot kick with five to play when substitute Mike Fondop, on for Hemmings, nicked the ball off Beckles and was hauled down, but the referee gave nothing either way.