Burton Albion put in a battling show to earn a draw against Wimbledon but are hit by red card and injury
ANOTHER cold winter's day on another poor pitch and another battling away point for Burton Albion.
Days like that are what are meant when people use the phrase "business end of the season."
Unfortunately, the Brewers also emerged from Saturday's 1-1 draw at Wimbledon with a few problems, as centre-half and captain Zander Diamond faces a four-match ban after being sent off for an altercation with his opposite number, Pim Balkestein, at a corner.
Right-back Anthony O'Connor also looks likely to be sidelined after spraining his ankle as he blocked a shot, while centre-half Ian Sharps will miss the next game, as it is against his parent club, Rotherham United.
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If anyone wondered why manager Gary Rowett felt the need to add strength in depth up front and in defence during the transfer window, the answers are already coming thick and fast.
The game itself was an uncompromising battle of few chances.
Wimbledon, now unbeaten in five matches, had a busy transfer window and, even before it, were far from the flaky side thrashed 6-2 at Burton in August.
How they would have coped had Burton been in front within 25 seconds can only be speculated upon but the Brewers were very unlucky that it was not the case, as one deadline day signing, Alex MacDonald, sent over a fine cross from the right and the other, Michael Symes, headed firmly against the underside of the bar, the ball falling the wrong side of the line from his point of view.
Wimbledon were almost as close to a goal after nine minutes when Balkestein got his head to a Luke Moore corner and beat Stuart Tomlinson but the ball was hacked off the line by Lee Bell.
MacDonald, who looks uncannily like Billy Kee on the pitch, had made a decent start for Burton but his involvement lasted only until the 21st minute, when he was booked for a rash challenge on Harry Pell near the left corner flag and hurt himself in the process.
When Wimbledon scored after 27 minutes the biggest surprise was that both Diamond and Ian Sharps got caught out.
Chris Hussey's long free kick from the left bounced higher than anyone expected, clearing Jack Midson and Diamond on the edge of the box and bypassing a surprised Sharps, leaving Graham Alexander with the chance to poke a shot past Tomlinson from six yards.
It was a classic case of one that might have been saved if he had caught it right but strikers earn a bit of luck when they put themselves in the right place and the same applied when Symes equalised 10 minutes later.
When Jacques Maghoma crossed from the left, Balkestein sliced his clearance straight up in the air and it was Symes who reacted first, juggling the ball away from defenders with a combination of head and feet before pulling a volley back across goal into the corner of the net.
That no Wimbledon defender got near him was poor on their part but Symes' composure and instinct were spot-on and he continued to look a real asset.
Wimbledon had certainly shaded the first half and Rowett brought on Kee for Matt Paterson after the break.
The Dons, with winger Toby Ajala prominent, although without an end product, dominated for a time after the break.
All they had to show for it was a shot well off target from Pell and the Brewers were just starting to look the stronger side when Diamond was sent off.
As Bell prepared to take a corner on the left, there was, as always, plenty of jostling for position in the box and, when Balkestein collapsed clutching his face, referee Jeremy Simpson blew his whistle and showed Diamond a red card.
The Burton defender claimed later they had done no more than push each other on the shoulder but the club are awaiting video footage to see if it is worth pursuing an appeal.
Balkestein's collapse reminded me of Bell's earlier in the season, after which Bradford City's Ricky Ravenhill was sent off, an incident which did the Burton midfielder no credit by his own admission.
The same could be said of Balkestein, who appeared undamaged afterwards, but if Diamond did give him a reason to make the most of the situation, that was unprofessional of the captain.
In terms of the game, it ensured Burton needed to settle for what they had, sacrificing Symes to bring the defence back up to numbers, and they achieved it in relative comfort, although Tomlinson had to beat away a firm shot from Pell.
It was, therefore, a good point for the Brewers, but it will be the repercussions from this game that will have more bearing on the next stage in their promotion push.