Burton 0-1 Town
By Liz Owen
Burton Albion 0-1 Fleetwood Town
nPower League 2
A resilient Fleetwood Town display earned their first three points in the Football League after Dean Howell’s free-kick gave them the victory against Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium.
Town looked sharper going forwards and defended with conviction as they kept a clean sheet despite continued second-half pressure from the Brewers, who were by no means easy opponents.
Lee Fowler started in place of Jamie McGuire, while Gary Rowett, unsurprisingly, named an unchanged side from the Brewers’ midweek 6-2 victory over Wimbledon.
Town started the game strongly, with Barry Nicholson creating an instant threat. He sent a shot wide inside the first 60 seconds, while on the fourth minute the midfielder’s deep central cross found Jon Parkin, whose header was punched by ‘keeper Ross Atkins and scrambled out for a corner by the Burton defence.
The visitors enjoyed an industrious opening 10 minutes, David Ball just beaten to Fowler’s threaded pass by Atkins. Burton’s first opportunity came from Jacques Maghoma, a left-sided shot from distance which appeared to come close to forcing Scott Davies into a save.
The Brewers began to exert pressure onto Town’s defence. Robbie Weir’s downward header from close range fell narrowly wide, while Davies was forced into making an impressive double save on the 21st minute. A poor backpass by Dean Howell was latched onto by Billy Kee and fired at Davies from close range. The rebound fell to Cleveland Taylor, whose efforts were also saved, only for Kee to pick up possession once more – luckily for Town, Steve McNulty was on hand to head clear.
Kee’s curling free-kick from just outside the area whistled past the post and an angled Maghoma strike under pressure from Howell was stopped by Davies as Burton continued to press.
Justin Richards could have put the home side ahead towards the end of the half after Maghoma’s low ball into the area from by the byline reached the striker, only for it to deflect off the back of Richard’s feet.
Town had still been able to come close to breaking the deadlock themselves, Brown’s low ball just evading Johnson at the near post as Atkins saved the incoming threat, while Ball did well to charge into the area and cut inside to curl a measured strike just past the post.
Minutes after the interval, the moment that the travelling Cod Army had been waiting for finally came. Beeley won a foul as he ran down the right flank and Howell duly fired a curving free-kick into the top left-hand corner to give Fleetwood Town their first ever Football League goal.
The home crowd grew restless as Town, buoyed by Howell’s strike, grew in confidence, while Burton began to run out of ideas. Brown’s cross into the box was headed on powerfully by Parkin, but as Johnson lurked to his right ready to collect, a foul was given against his team-mate by referee Tony Harrington.
McNulty’s foul on Taylor as he pressed forward for Burton allowed Kee another opportunity to find the net with a free-kick, but Davies was able to make a catch while diving to his right.
Three sets of fresh legs were introduced on the hour mark. Micky Mellon brought off Ball for Conor McLaughlin, while for Burton, Richards and Jack Dyer were replaced by Adi Yussuf and Lee Bell respectively.
Burton searched for an equaliser as Maghoma made a surging run towards goal and unleashed a thumping strike which Davies sprang to save, collecting the rebound under pressure from Weir.
At the other end of the field, Brown’s attempt to get a cross into the area from the goal-line was thwarted by Anthony O’Connor after Parkin found him lurking on the left. It turned out to be the striker’s last act of the game, as Steven Gillespie was brought on to replace him on the 73rd minute. Rowett also made a substitution, his third of the game to bring on Calvin Zola for Taylor.
Fowler’s first start of the season brought a resolute display in midfield and he demonstrated his attacking threat through a determined run on goal on the 73rd minute, winning a corner despite being gradually edged out to the right by the Burton defence. He made way for Alex Marrow four minutes later, after McNulty’s close-range strike from a corner was blocked.
Brown continued to harry Burton down the left, his cross in unluckily sweeping past the red shirts in the area, but Albion were desperate for a goal and began to bombard Town’s area with crosses and shots, with block after block being made by a sturdy Fleetwood defence.
Town kept up their attacking threat as they defended their lead, Marrow’s through ball reaching Nicholson whose attempted pass across goal was cleared. Three minutes from time, however, Burton almost grabbed the equaliser they craved after O’Connor played in Yussuf on the left, whose low shot rolled inches past the goalpost to Davies’ left. Kee’s long-range effort on the 90th minute was also just wide of the same post.