Burton proving to be a tale of two teams as they struggle on road again
ANOTHER tentative Burton Albion performance on the road ended in a predictable result, as Northampton Town found the goal they needed to leapfrog the Brewers in the League Two table.
That, you could say, was just reward for the Cobblers, who went the extra mile to get the game on. It is impossible to avoid the feeling that they did so with their eyes lighting up at the sight of Burton's away record.
Not for the first time, it was also impossible to escape the feeling that the Brewers are affording moderate opponents a tad too much respect when they travel.
However manager Gary Rowett wants to phrase it, Burton looked like they came for the draw from the off, slowing the game down and conceding the initiative.
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In another reshuffle, the Brewers started 4-1-4-1, Aaron Webster adding extra height as the man in front of the back four but it is the approach rather than the formation itself which is the problem.
They are like two teams, flying at the opposition at home and retreating into their shell away.
Counter-attacking football is fine in theory – as long as you can manage a reasonable degree of counter-attacking.
Northampton manager Aidy Boothroyd's theory was simple enough. He saw Jacques Maghoma and Calvin Zola as Burton's chief threats and set out not to give them a kick. It worked.
The game itself was forgettable but the writing was on the wall for Burton from the second minute, when Adebayo Akinfenwa headed a cross from the left against Dean Lyness's left-hand post.
Jake Robinson poked a shot wide after five minutes and it was the 15th minute before Burton got forward, with Adam Drury unable to get a shot away when Damien McCrory's cross reached him in a crowded penalty area.
Northampton set great store by Ben Tozer's long throws but it was half an hour before Burton conceded a throw within range and, largely, they dealt with Tozer's booming efforts all game.
Luke Guttridge was close for the Cobblers with a clever volley after 35 minutes and Akinfenwa headed a Tozer throw over the bar as Burton reached half-time relieved to be on terms.
Another 45 minutes of the same and, uninspiring as it was to watch, the Brewers would have considered it a job well done.
In fact, they had a couple of chances of their own, Lee Bell shooting over from 22 yards after 48 minutes before making a break down the inside left channel and pulling the ball back for Maghoma, who was crowded out by the defence.
It was still a matter of feeding on scraps for Burton in attack, though.
Northampton, increasingly frustrated, resorted to a long ball approach and it paid off for them after 70 minutes.
Tozer launched a high ball which probably should have been dealt with by the Burton centre-halves.
It was too far out for Lyness to come for but he started to, hesitated, and was left stranded as Akinfenwa, assessing the situation instantly, dinked a neat header over him from 15 yards.
Rowett immediately brought on Billy Kee and the striker's first touch led to Burton's best chance, as he spread the ball wide for Drury, whose low cross was half cleared before Robbie Weir's shot was deflected for a corner by Tozer, who knew little about it.
Keeper Lee Nicholls also pushed a Jimmy Phillip shot away for a corner but, in truth, Burton had not done enough to deserve a point.