Burton Albion savour an away-day special as they demolish Fleetwood Town
BURTON Albion ripped promotion rivals Fleetwood Town apart with what must rank as their best away performance as a Football League club.
A richly-deserved 4-0 win is certainly that statistically and it would be possible to make an argument that this was the Brewers' best display home or away, certainly of this season.
The previous week's 2-0 home win over Rotherham United was impressive enough but, at Fleetwood, Burton were ruthless and the players' confidence is growing at a very useful point in the season.
Manager Gary Rowett has spoken about his team being fit enough to wear out opponents and reap the rewards late in games and here was his theory writ large, with three goals in a last 15 minutes that were as exhilarating for Burton as they were demoralising for Fleetwood.
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The key for the Brewers was to be solid in the first half and they barely gave the home side a sniff, Jamie McGuire shooting straight at Stuart Tomlinson early on and Rob Atkinson heading on to the roof of the net five minutes before half-time after a string of corners.
Burton came closest in that half, with Jacques Maghoma, Michael Symes and Billy Kee involved in a sharp move which led to Kee lining up Alex MacDonald for a shot from the right which skimmed keeper Scott Davies' far post.
Kee also teed up Robbie Weir for a shot over the bar just before the break and it was a taste of what was to come.
Maghoma, the man of the moment, had endured a frustrating first half, with the ball not running for him, but he ran Fleetwood ragged after the break.
Davies kept the home side alive with a double save, from Kee and MacDonald, after Maghoma created the opening but, a minute later, the keeper's afternoon was over.
Maghoma intercepted a loose pass from McGuire, swapped passes with Kee, raced clear, went round Davies and was ready to put the ball into the empty net when the keeper clipped his ankle.
It could only be a red card and though Maghoma rather fortunately scuffed the penalty under substitute keeper David Lucas, Burton finally had their noses in front.
Tomlinson held a deflected shot from David Ball after 69 minutes but most of the action was in the other direction and the cushion the Brewers wanted came in spectacular fashion after 76 minutes.
It owed much to left-back Damien McCrory, who had an outstanding afternoon on his return from injury.
He skipped past a couple of challenges on a determined run inside from the left touchline and when he allowed Kee to take the ball on at the edge of the box, the striker thrashed a fierce shot in off the underside of the bar.
Anthony Barry shot wide and Tomlinson held another effort from Ball as Fleetwood briefly threatened to find a response but gaps were opening up at the back and Maghoma exploited them.
Calvin Zola, handed his own return from injury in place of the hard-working Michael Symes after 84 minutes, held the ball up and sent Maghoma scampering forward in the 87th minute.
A quick stepover took him away from the last defender, Atkinson, as Lucas came out before he slipped the ball past the keeper with the outside of his right foot.
No sooner had Atkinson been announced as Fleetwood's man of the match in stoppage time than Maghoma left the home captain labouring in his wake on another sparkling run.
This time, with the prospect of a first career hat-trick in front of him, Maghoma unselfishly squared the ball for the better-placed Zola to sidefoot the fourth goal.
It had been a superlative 45 minutes for Maghoma but, in 10 minutes on the pitch, Zola also emphasised his value to the side.
He leads both the scoring and assists lists for the Brewers and had found time to add to both in a perfect cameo.
It is five unbeaten for Burton now, three of those away from home and with six goals scored and none conceded against two of their closest rivals in the last two weeks. Rowett's biggest job this week will be keeping the players' feet on the ground ahead of the visit of Exeter City on Saturday. But it is something he is rather good at.