DALE Taylor grabbed a brace and Jonny Smith netted from the penalty spot as Albion grabbed a tense 3-2 Staffordshire derby win over Port Vale.
The Brewers showed all their comeback powers to go 3-1 ahead midway through the second half having endured a miserable opening to the game when Ellis Harrison netted before the teams had really settled less than two minutes after the game had kicked off. Crucially Taylor got Albion back into the contest with the equaliser just six minutes later sweeping home after good work from Charlie Kirk. Albion made a much better start to the second half and Smith won and converted a penalty after before Taylor netted his second of the game to put Albion in control. Vale were not going to give up on the points and when Jamie Proctor produced a predatory finish with ten minutes to go it set the game up for a grandstand finish but Albion gathered themselves and saw off a final onslaught from the Valiants to claim another vital win in their fight against relegation.
Dino Maamria was forced to ring the changes again as an injury to Tom Hamer meant that the defender, who had only missed one League game this season, was forced to sit out the visit to Albion’s Staffordshire rivals. His absence meant a recall to the defence for Conor Shaughnessy with John Brayford switching to right wing-back. Ciaran Gilligan dropped to the bench and Gassan Ahadme didn’t appear in the match day eighteen as Jonny Smith and Charlie Kirk returned to the side hoping to exploit the wide expanses of Vale Park.
With injuries and suspension biting into the squad Academy graduate Tom Hewlett and current scholars Ronny Wakelin and Toby Oakes made it a largely home-grown bench for the Brewers.
It couldn’t have been a worse start than Albion going behind inside two minutes. A diagonal ball into the box was headed on by Aaron Donnelly and as the Brewers defence hesitated momentarily, HARRISON nipped in to head the ball before MacGillivray could get to it and smuggle it inside the post.
Albion hit back though to equalise on eight minutes. Joe Powell helped the ball forward to Kirk in the danger area and when no shooting opportunity opened up for the on-loan winger he laid the ball into the path of TAYLOR whose shot took a kindly deflection as it flew past Aidan Stone in the Vale goal.
Albion went close to completely turning the game on its head moments later when Smith got into one of his favourite positions on the edge of the box to whip in a trademark left foot curler with Stone getting a vital touch to help it round the post.
Kirk fired a chance off his right foot high and wide before Vale got Matty Taylor in down the left hand side but the striker’s effort went into the side netting as he tried to beat MacGillivray at his near post rather than fire across goal.
There was a break in play while Vale defender Will Forrester required treatment after a nasty landing at which point the heavens opened with a torrential downpour on the already wet Vale Park surface
Forrester continued to struggle with his injury and was eventually replaced on 35 minutes by Derek Agyakwa.
Albion players wanted a penalty when Taylor when to ground whilst shooting inside the box but it looked as if the Irish international had slipped on the greasy surface turning to fire his deflected effort towards goal.
As the rain abated and the game moved into stoppage time at the end of the first half Albion were on top. Kirk strayed offside running onto Powell’s through ball before Powell himself tried his luck with a long range effort that flew wide.
Half time: Port Vale 1-1 Burton Albion
Having made the worst possible start in the first half it was a perfect start to the second period as SMITH chased a long ball into the corner and took it into the box before going down under pressure from Donnelly. Referee Sam Allison had no hesitation pointing to the spot and the Brewers winger stepped up to smash the ball down the middle.
Vale began to play some patient passing football as they searched for an equaliser and a good move down their right say the ball worked towards Sammy Robinson whose header was straight at MacGillivray.
Funso Ojo then showed good skill in the middle of the park to bring the ball under control before sending Harrison forwards for a shot that was well blocked by Sam Hughes standing his ground.
Vale made a triple change just after the hour mark with the attacking trio of James Wilson, Gavin Massey and Dennis Politic all sent on to try and wrestle control of the game back from the Brewers.
But for all their changes it was Albion who extended their lead midway through the second half. Smith again proved a handful for Vale down their left hand side and getting into behind again he put the ball on a plate for TAYLOR to instinctively flick the ball past Stone.
The game became a little scrappy, which suited Albion and a first change came on 77 minutes with Smith withdrawn and Gilligan sent on to bolster the centre of midfield.
The game was back in the balance with ten minutes as Vale hit back to reduce their arrears. Wilson’s shot bounced awkwardly in front of MacGillivray and PROCTOR was there to fire home the rebound.
Kirk looked in some discomfort as he went down late on and had to be replaced by Walker for the final five minutes plus whatever referee Allison opted to add on.
As Vale pushed forwards in search of an equaliser they almost left the back door open, Walker taking advantage of a slip by Nathan Smith and driving into the box but opting to shoot, Stone saving well, as Taylor made ground to get into the box looking for the pass for a hat-trick goal.
The home side continued to push through six added minutes but MacGillivray and his defence dealt with everything that was thrown at them to see out another vital win that now takes Albion past the forty point mark and edges them six points clear of the League One relegation zone.
ALBION: MacGillivray; Shaughnessy, Hughes, Moon; Brayford, Powell, Helm, Ashworth; Smith (Gilligan, 77), Taylor, Kirk (Walker, 85).
Substitutes: Amissah, Hewlett, Wakelin, Mancienne, Oakes.
GOALS: VALE - Harrison (2), Proctor (80) ; ALBION - Taylor (8, 67), Smith (48 pen)
Referee: Sam Allison
Attendance: 6,897 (609 away)