Albion ruthless again as Exeter challenge is ended by blitz in the first half
THREE games against play-off rivals, nine points, 10 goals scored. It is hard to see how Burton Albion could have had a better fortnight.
The management will have an answer ready for that one, pointing to the only two goals conceded in that run, late in Saturday's 4-2 win against Exeter City.
They will also be assuring the players that Morecambe tomorrow night will not necessarily be an easier game just because they are in the middle of the League Two table.
But the events of the last fortnight have sent the players' confidence soaring and they took Exeter, the division's away-day specialists, to the cleaners without having to hit the heights they touched against Rotherham United and Fleetwood Town.
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Again, ruthless finishing was a big factor, with the irrepressible Jacques Maghoma adding another goal of the season contender to his growing list and Lee Bell also scoring a beauty.
It was Michael Symes who set the ball rolling and, on the evidence of this display, if he joins permanently from Leyton Orient in the summer, he will be a welcome addition.
Symes' hold-up play, presence and vision were immaculate against Exeter and he was not averse to tackling back when required.
Eleven uneventful minutes had gone when Maghoma and Damien McCrory combined on the left, McCrory crossed and Billy Kee's swing and miss wrong-footed the Exeter defence, allowing Symes a sidefooted finish from six yards.
Burton were allowing Exeter a good share of possession, which did not really suit the visitors' counter-attacking style, and a series of long balls aimed at lone striker Jamie Cureton were not ideal for the veteran, who barely had a kick.
The second goal came after Maghoma cut in from the left and hit a shot which keeper Rhys Evans turned round for a corner as it bounced awkwardly in front of him.
The Brewers worked the corner short, Maghoma and McCrory again, before Maghoma's cross was deflected and Marcus Holness nodded the ball in off the keeper's right-hand post for his first goal for the club.
Seven minutes later, Kee played the ball forward, Symes dinked it into Maghoma's path and the winger hit a sublime volley into the roof of the net from the edge of the box.
It was the 44th minute before Cureton sneaked in behind the Burton back line for the first time but he was instantly crowded out and when he chased another inviting ball forward in first-half stoppage time, keeper Stuart Tomlinson raced from his area to clear.
In a strong start by Exeter to the second half, Tomlinson was able to watch a Cureton shot pass wide but Burton made it 4-0 after an hour.
Symes was instrumental again, watching and waiting before spotting Bell in space and the midfielder's ferocious shot from 25 yards crashed down off the underside of the bar – over the line, according to the referee's assistant.
Did the Brewers get a little careless after that? Well, there was an element of misfortune when a long ball forward bounced kindly for Exeter and substitute Guillem Bauza was able to drive in a shot from 15 yards.
Perhaps the ball forward came because Kee, who had had a frustrating afternoon, did not close his man down and the striker was immediately replaced.
Four minutes later, Exeter had a second, Scot Bennett getting his head to a Craig Woodman corner and the other assistant this time judging the ball had crossed the line after Tomlinson parried it against McCrory's shins.
Realistically, Exeter were still a long way from being back in the game and there were no further alarms.
The late goals were an irritation but, no doubt, the management can use them to keep the players' feet on the ground in these heady times.