Report: Burton 1 Argyle 0Burton Albion 1
by CHRIS PARSONS
SUBSTITUTE Matt Patterson’s cruel 90th minute winner denied the Pilgrims a battling point at the Pirelli Stadium.
The striker, on as a 79th minute replacement for Michael Symes, pounced from a corner with nearly the last kick of the game to steal all three points for the home side.
Okay, in the first-half, Argyle had been second best. But in the second they had been phenomenal, matched their table-topping opponents kick for kick and at times, had looked the best bet to snatch it for themselves.
But it was not to be and when Patterson poked home, it understandably felt like the world had ended.
On the plus side? Argyle remain three points from the drop zone but now share their game in hand with Torquay and Barnet, whose meeting at Plainmoor fell foul of the Westcountry weather.
Three games to go, nine points to play for. It’s certainly getting a bit nervy...
With Paul Wotton missing out through injury, Manager of the Month for March John Sheridan opted for a slight shake about in the Argyle back four.
Durrell Berry, absent from a starting line-up since February 16, and boosted by 63 minutes of Devon St Luke’s action in midweek, returned to the side, slotting in at his natural right-back position.
Maxime Blanchard, the regular right-back since Durrell’s hiatus, moved into centre-half, alongside Guy Branston, to fill the shoes of the absent Wotton.
With both sides needing points for completely different reasons, the atmosphere at the Pirelli Stadium before kick-off was electric.
The Green Army had travelled in numbers, making up at least a third of the 4,392 crowd.
Thanks largely to free bus travel, laid on by club sponsors First International Lending, the Argyle fans roared their team on from the start and could have even celebrated taking an early lead, had Blanchard’s header from an Andres Gurrieri corner not sailed wide of the mark.
Burton were showing early signs of being a top team with front two Michael Symes and Billy Kee working well together in the early stages.
But despite their early domination, the hosts could not find the fire power to test Jake Cole with a speculative long range lob from Robbie Weir the best they could muster.
Finding in-roads through the middle difficult, Argyle opted to send it wide when they sought to go forward, with Joe Bryan and Onismor Bhasera the Pilgrims’ best outlet.
Jason Banton, the League 2 Player of the Month for March, was seeing little of the ball, thanks largely to the double-up defending imposed on him whenever he came within ten yards of the ball.
The Brewers troubled Cole for the first time just after the half hour mark when former Pilgrim Damien McCrory’s corner was scrambled behind by the Argyle ‘keeper.
By the time the half-time whistle arrived, the Pilgrims were under the cosh, constantly forced to deal with a barrage of high balls to the Burton forwards.
But in the first minute of the second half, Argyle suddenly came alive as Banton managed to find some space and create two chances.
Firstly, after good work on the left, he produced a cross which Reid poked over before again losing right-back Anthony O’Connor to flash a shot past Dean Lyness’ far post.
Minutes later, Bryan was causing issues, again on that left wing, when he pounced on a defensive mix up, to fire a shot at Lyness.
The Burton ‘keeper, worked for the first-time all afternoon, could only parry the on-loan midfielder’s shot, and from the resultant corner, Branston headed Gurrieri’s looping delivery over the bar.
Despite the Pilgrims’ renewed vigour, Burton still looked dangerous in attack with Billy Kee and old friend Alex MacDonald, shooting high and wide when perhaps they should have at least worked Cole.
Perhaps Argyle’s best chance of the game came after 65 minutes when Reid, played in by a Curtis Nelson flick-on, looked certain to score with the goal at his mercy. But somehow and from nowhere, arrived Brewer’s captain Lee Bell to make as fine sliding challenge as you are likely to have seen this season.
As the half worn on, the Burton players became more and more frustrated and, as their irritation grew, it only served to crank up the noise of the Argyle faithful.
As the game entered its final 15 minutes, Argyle were on top and after several contentious free-kicks had gone their way, had caused numerous issues in the Burton box.
Joe Bryan then found himself booked for simulation before Luke Young made a game saving tackle on the edge of his own box to deny Billy Kee.
Corners came and went as both sides searched for the win and when Argyle won one with just a minute of stoppage time left on the clock, it looked like it might just be their day.
But it was not to be. Just seconds later, the game was over. Matt Patterson had spoilt the party.
Burton Albion (4-4-2): 16 Dean Lyness; 20 Anthony O'Connor, 21 Marcus Holness, 24 Ian Sharps, 14 Damien McCrory; 26 Alex MacDonald (27 Adam Drury 80), 23 Lee Bell (capt), 8 Robbie Weir, 19 Jacques Maghoma; 29 Billy Kee (3 Aaron Webster 89), 30 Michael Symes (18 Matt Paterson 79). Substitutes (not used): 5 Zander Diamond, 13 Stuart Tomlinson (gk), 17 Jimmy Phillips, 22 Jack Dyer.
Booked: MacDonald 70, Bell 74.
Argyle (4-4-2): 1 Jake Cole; 2 Durrell Berry, 4 Maxime Blanchard, 5 Guy Branston, 14 Onsimor Bhasera; 27 Andres Gurrieri (7 Paris Cowan-Hall 87), 17 Curtis Nelson (capt), 19 Jason Banton, 8 Luke Young, 18 Joe Bryan; 24 Reuben Reid (9 Nick Chadwick 87). Substitutes (not used): 20 Rene Gilmartin (gk), 21 Matt Lecointe, 26 Anthony Charles, 29 Tyler Harvey.
Booked: Gurrieri 31, Bryan 82, Reid 82.
Referee: Keith Hill
Attendance: 4,392 (1,371 away)
Photos by Dave Rowntree