Burton Albion would earn their first points of the 2017/18 Championship season, after a strong 2-1 win under the lights at the Pirelli Stadium against Harry Redknapp’s Birmingham City.
The brewers lined up in what appeared a 3-6-1. Marvin Sordell began alone up-front, with support from Lucas Akins and Lloyd Dyer, who were on the wings. Steven Bywater earned his place in goal ahead of Middlesbrough loanee Conor Ripley. Luke Murphy, Matty Palmer, Matty Lund and Jackson Irvine all played in the centre of midfield. Sean Scannel signed just before the teams were announced, but he was ineligible to feature.
Burton started on the front foot, and six minutes in, a Matty Palmer corner found Jake Buxton. However, the former Wigan defender could only head straight at David Stockdale. Lukas Jutkiewicz couldn’t guide his header goalward either, after he connected with a Jonathan Grounds cross.
There were more crosses from both sides, but none of them resulted in goal-bound opportunities. Clayton Donaldson did well to get in behind 18 minutes in, but Naylor slid across to crucially block the delivery. The brewers went down the other end 5 minutes later, and a great piece of passing play fell to Marvin Sordell, who turned, but scuffed his shot, and it was saved by Stockdale.
29 Minutes in, Birmingham got in behind again, the ball was chipped to the back post, where Jutkiewicz attempted to head on goal, but Akins deflected it to former brewer Maghoma, who volleyed home from just inside the six-yard box. The shot was hit with venom, but the celebration was very apologetic towards the Burton supporters.
There were no more chances on goal in the first half and, despite dominating the opening exchanges, the brewers were behind at the break. Both teams returned unchanged player-wise, but the brewers certainly changed their mentality and formation as the second half began.
Matty Palmer had the first shot of the second half, but it was straight at Stockdale. Bywater then brilliantly denied Donaldson who was in an offside position. The brewers then counter attacked. Matty Palmer got another effort away, but again he could not beat Stockdale. The breakthrough was near though!
Just a minute after Matty Palmer’s most recent shot, Marvin Sordell received the ball on the edge of the box, turned and drilled the shot right into the far corner, well beyond the reach of David Stockdale. Burton were on course to gain their first point of the season!
More chances fell to the brewers, nobody could tap home Palmer’s corner, and moments later, Jackson Irvine crossed to Tom Naylor at the back post, but he lashed his shot over the bar. Murphy appeared to be swiped down from a Burton corner, but the referee waved play on. It was end to end football as Jutkiewicz got a header away, but it was easily saved by Bywater.
Donaldson decided the only way to beat the brewers solid defence was with acrobatics, but he was denied a goal by the post. The brewers then attacked again. After a hand-ball claim was turned down, Irvine found Dyer. Akins made a good run and received the ball, but the defender was closing in fast. A stunning back-heel nutmeg from Akins fell back to Dyer, who dropped a shoulder to get past the last man, and fired the ball into the back of the net. It was the Birmingham-born winger’s 3rd goal in 3 games against Birmingham City.
With 20 minutes to go, Nigel Clough looked to shut up shop, as Damien McCrory came on for Matty Palmer. The stretcher came on for Matty Lund, who appeared to be clutching his ankle. He was replaced by Luke Varney. Stephen Bywater leapt to his left to expertly save a header from N’Doye.
The full time whistle blew, and the brewers breathed a big sigh of relief. The first 25 minutes of the second half were dominated by Burton, but Birmingham pulled themselves back into it for the last ten. They could, however, not break through, and Burton earn their first points of the season!
Jack’s Man of the Match; Luke Murphy