Town almost safe as Sears goal proves decisive
Blues had the better chances throughout and could have been ahead before Luke Varney deflected a corner into his own net seven minutes into the second-half.
Freddie Sears doubled the advantage on 79 minutes but Varney won a penalty four minutes from time that was converted by Lucas Akins to set up an anxious finish to the game for Blues but Mick McCarthy’s side held on to keep Town nine points clear of the drop zone with only four games left.
Cole Skuse returned to the side after his enforced absence through concussion, with Tom Lawrence also starting, Tommy Smith and Toumani Diagouraga dropping to the bench from the defeat at Fulham.
Cauley Woodrow forced Bart Bialkowski into the first save of the game after he latched onto a pass from John Brayford, Jon McLaughlin in the home goal far more severely tested with a 20 yarder from David McGoldrick that was destined for the bottom corner until the ‘keeper’s right hand intervened.
McLaughlin plucked Sears’ cross out of the air after Emyr Huws’ excellent pass had released the Town striker down the right, Sears again a threat minutes later with another cross aimed at McGoldrick until McLaughlin cancelled the danger.
Sears turned provider again for McGoldrick, the Republic of Ireland international firing over, then Sears almost found himself free in the box as Town exerted some pressure on the Burton goal.
Woodrow forced a corner in response for Nigel Clough’s side, McGoldrick clearing the threat, Marvin Sordell almost weaving his way to goal, Lloyd Dyer then flashing a shot across the danger area.
Blues appeared to be ahead on the half hour, Myles Kenlock deflecting in Grant Ward’s shot but the assistant referee’s flag silenced the celebrations. Town continued to carry the bigger danger though and Sears blasted over from a good position.
Woodrow’s shot was beaten out by Luke Chambers with the home fans screaming for a penalty, Huws fizzing a shot straight at McLaughlin from 25 yards.
Kenlock did brilliantly to deny Jackson Irvine, Brayford equally adept at the other end after McGoldrick burst clear of the home defence as the game opened up as the half went on.
Former Town striker Varney entered the fray at half-time in the game’s first change, Sordell making way, the substitute immediately in the action with a run down the left that Luke Chambers brought to an end.
McLaughlin had to be alert to grab hold of Lawrence’s vicious cross that beat everyone as Town started the second-half on the front foot and that pressure told on 52 minutes when Varney diverted Lawrence’s corner into the net.
Bialkowski saved from Michael Kightly as Burton responded, Huws and McGoldrick linking up well at the other end but John Mousinho covered the danger.
Skuse’s excellent covering stopped Woodrow getting in on Varney’s pass, McGoldrick then appearing to be pushed in the box as he looked to get on the end of Sears’ cross.
Christophe Berra, who impressed all night, blocked a Brayford cross as Burton threatened then McGoldrick, who also impressed, forced his way to goal until Ben Turner’s challenge.
Sears did make it two though on 75 minutes, smashing the ball into the net at the second attempt after brilliant work by Kenlock, who drove forward from the halfway line before setting up the striker.
Burton were handed a lifeline four minutes from time when substitute Akins scored from the spot after Kenlock had fouled Varney.
Brett Pitman could have made it three, McLaughlin saving with his feet, Burton hitting the bar in added on time but Town’s lead stayed intact to ease any relegation concerns.
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