Double blast sends Brewers on way to win but quality is thin on ground
BURTON Albion pulled off an unlikely victory at Plymouth Argyle without ever looking like a side worth the fifth place in League Two which the three points makes them.
The best that could be said about a cautious, stuttering Brewers display that was almost devoid of any creative football was that, as usual, Gary Rowett's players never shirked in their efforts.
They were fortunate, in the end, to have been playing a Plymouth team clearly very low in confidence.
Burton's line-up had an unusual look to it, described by the manager as 4-2-3-1, with the recalled Jack Dyer and Lee Bell as holding midfielders behind Jacques Maghoma, with Robbie Weir and Cleveland Taylor supporting lone striker Calvin Zola.
The first half turned out to be utterly dreadful, with neither side able to string together any passes, although Burton were at least the side looking more likely to attempt it.
Plymouth persisted with a tactic of aiming long diagonal balls towards the right wing and got no change from it at all.
But Damian McCrory and Nathan Stanton had no problems patrolling that area of the pitch for the Brewers and more than half an hour passed before the home side had a sight of goal.
Burton were little better, with Weir skewing an early shot from 20 yards comfortably wide after Zola chested the ball down.
Maghoma had a better chance after 23 minutes, cutting inside from the left but over-running the ball just as he got into space for a shot.
Plymouth's first chance came after 36 minutes, when the first corner of the game, delivered by Jamie Lowry, was half cleared and Onismor Bhasera hit a shot a foot wide from the edge of the box.
Argyle were closer after 40 minutes when Lowry sent in a free kick from the right.
Goalkeeper Mark Oxley started to come for it, changed his mind but was at least then in the right place to make a fine save to his left when Curtis Nelson got his head to the ball.
As the teams started the second half, the game was crying out for someone to take it by the scruff of the neck but both teams had been guilty of being over-cautious in the first half.
However, the best piece of play so far brought Plymouth the opening goal after 49 minutes.
Warren Feeney turned neatly in midfield and played a good pass down the inside-right channel, where Paris Cowan-Hall, on in place of the injured Alex MacDonald, turned inside McCrory and slotted a shot from 12 yards inside Oxley's left-hand post.
That was the cue for Burton to move to a more conventional formation, as Billy Kee came on for Taylor to join Zola up front.
After an hour, Rowett made another change, Chris Palmer returning from a long-standing ankle injury to replace Maghoma, who had endured a frustrating night.
Andres Gurrieri, the Argentinian who was at Burton last season, almost caught out Oxley with a fierce volley from 25 yards which the keeper parried safely into the air after 66 minutes and Plymouth were, for a spell, the team now playing with more confidence.
All that changed, however, in an unexpected five-minute spell when the Brewers scored twice.
They had been worryingly devoid of ideas but they equalised from the unlikeliest of sources in the 74th minute.
They won their first two corners of the game then and when Bell hit the second of them to the far post, Zander Diamond won the first header and Nathan Stanton, at the second attempt, nodded the ball over the line from a couple of yards.
It was the centre-half's first goal for Burton and his second in a career of 489 games to date.
The turnaround was completed five minutes later when the Brewers took the lead.
Palmer did well on the left to drive a cross which keeper Jake Cole could only palm away and Weir buried a firm header from 10 yards.
That knocked all of the fight out of Plymouth and Burton, who surely could hardly believe their luck, were able to see out the rest of the game in relative comfort.