Walton 47, pen 89
Burton Albion 1
by RICK COWDERY
MUCH had been made about the return of a previous Pilgrims' captain, but it was the current wearer of the armband who helped Argyle to a vital, and thoroughly deserved, victory.
Simon Walton did not exactly upstage Paul Wotton - that could never have happened - but he did frank a season which has been something of a homecoming for him, too, with two goals that keep alive Argyle's hopes of avoiding falling through the Football League trapdoor.
Walton first struck - and what a strike - just after half-time. Although it was a goal worthy of winning any game, the Pilgrims could not keep their sheet clean and Calvin Zola's close-range header brought Burton level midway through the half.
The game seemed destined to remain deadlocked. However, in the dying minutes, the skipper rose to the occasion to convert an 89th-minute penalty given when former Argyle trialist Andres Guerreri fouled Ashley Hemmings, his ninth goal of an increasingly blossoming season.
One name dominated the Argyle team-sheet, as it had for much of the previous two decades, confirming the week's hot news: Wottsy was home.
A little older, probably wiser, and wearing 19, rather than 15, but he was definitely, indisputably, back and, after the collective depravation that the club has experienced in his absence, that was so, so comforting. Since You've Been Gone, the final song of the pre-match routine, indeed.
He lined up, 16 years and 341 days since first wearing the green as a callow teenager at Shrewsbury, alongside Walton in central midfield, the former skipper shoulder to shoulder with the current one because of Conor Hourihane's two-game suspension.
There were two other changes from the side that started the previous week's 3-2 defeat at Crewe, with Paul Bignot replacing Durrell Berry at right-back, and Craig Sutherland making way for Matt Lecointe up front.
Burton manager Paul Peschisolido, who is the centre of speculation that he might take charge at Bristol Rovers, was again bereft of top scorer Billy Kee and key defender Aaron Webster.
Despite more speculation that he would shake the Brewers up after a 2-0 home defeat by Accrington Stanley, Peschisolido limited himself to recalling Guerreri in place of Jacques Maghoma.
The Argentinean was handed a supporting role for attackers Zola and Justin Richards, scorers at the Pirelli Stadium in Burton's 2-1 victory over Argyle during the darkest of last year's Administration's dark days.
Argyle nearly took the lead in bizarre circumstances when Hemmings floated in a cross that was always destined to be pouched by goalkeeper Ross Atkins.
Atkins, though, made a dog's breakfast of things and spilled the ball at his near post. Only luck saw it bounce away for a corner, rather than into the net.
The opportunity warmed things up on a chill day, and Burton responded through Zola, whose shot from range brought a good save from Jake Cole.
Walton then showed Wottonesque tendencies by being involved in either penalty area in consecutive attacks, just failing to get enough on Warren Feeney's cross before heading spectacularly over his own crossbar in heroic defence.
Talking of the man, the whole ground read the script when Albion defender Tony James fouled Feeney 25 yards out on the right edge of the penalty area. 'Shoooot!' was the familiar instruction in unison, and Wotton was of exactly the same mind.
The low drive found its way around the wall alright, and beat Atkins all ends up, but zipped not that far wide of the 'keeper's far post. It was, maybe, expecting a little too much.
The nearer the match approached half-time, the tastier the tackles became. Walton was booked for what looked rather like a two-footed lunge - mistimed, though not malicious - picking up his fifth yellow of the season.
It was a good job it was not the Pilgrims' 11th red of the season. If it had been, Argyle would not have taken the lead with 90 seconds of the start of the second half.
Luke Young, whose improvement over this season has been by leaps rather than steps, drove in off the right flank and teed up the captain for a left-foot drive that deceived Atkins in direction and pace before nestling pleasingly in the corner of the goal.
Zola proved more Emile, than Gianfranco, by wasting a decent chance to quickly restore parity with a weak shot that was pouched by a no doubt relieved Cole.
Wotton had another dead-ball pop in front of an imploring Devonport end, but still his radar was defective, before, from a Young corner, he set up Walton for a shot that also lacked the requisite direction.
Suddenly, Argyle had Burton under tremendous sustained pressure.
First, Hemmings worked a short corner on the left with Young that caught Albion unawares, and Young stole in on goal before hitting the inside of the opposite post from an acute angle.
The ball came out to Wotton, who fired in a low piledriver that Atkins just got down to and tipped round the post for a corner, from which Bignot's powerful header was somehow blocked on the goal-line.
The Pilgrims were made to rue their bad luck when Darren Purse conceded a free-kick. Substitute Cleveland Taylor slung in a high delivery which James did well to keep in play, heading the ball back into the danger zone from the far-post bye-line.
Once he did, a goal looked likely and Richards nodded the ball on to Zola, who headed home from unmissable range.
Argyle resumed their assault on the Burton goal, and Purse went close with a header from Young's free-kick, but an anxiousness was rolling down from the terraces and affecting the whole ground.
Everything appeared to be heading for an unsatisfactory draw, when Hemmings tumbled on the edge of the penalty area.
And up stepped Walts.
Argyle (4-4-2): 23 Jake Cole; 28 Paul Bignot, 5 Darren Purse, 22 Maxime Blanchard, 14 Onismor Bhasera; 15 Luke Young, 19 Paul Wotton, 8 Simon Walton (capt), 31 Ashley Hemmings (13 Ladjie Soukouna 90); 11 Warren Feeney, 27 Matt Lecointe (10 Craig Sutherland 65). Substitutes (not used): 1 Romain Larrieu (gk), 2 Durrell Berry, 21 Joe Lennox.
Booked: Walton 39.
Burton Albion (4-4-2): 23 Ross Atkins; 2 Callum Driver, 5 Tony James, 15 Ryan Austin, 20 Danny Blanchett; 21 Andres Guerreri, 26 Adam Bolder, 6 John McGrath (capt, 13 Cleveland Taylor), 11 Chris Palmer (19 Jacques Maghoma 59); 9 Justin Richards, 10 Calvin Zola. Substitutes (not used): 8 Andy Corbett, 12 Adi Yussuf, 16 Tom Parkes.
Referee: James Adcock.
Attendance: 6,082 (187 away).