Butcher bags winner as Burton beat stale Spireites

burton win

Calum Butcher – www.fourfourtwo.com

Burton Albion went eight points clear in the League One promotion race on Friday night, as Calum Butcher’s first half strike saw them to a 1-0 win over Chesterfield. The grand scale of their achievement was perhaps not matched with the most memorable performance, yet there were also signs of why the Brewers are top of the league. Nigel Clough’s men were typically well-organized, hardworking and a nightmare to break down for a Chesterfield side devoid of quality in forward areas.

Both teams looked disciplined early on. Neither side wanted to commit too many of their midfielders forward and this made for a tight opening period. Burton rarely attacked the back-line of the Spireites who, perhaps understandably, set up to be content with a point. Gboly Ariyibi showed flashes of trickery down the right flank but did not have an end product as Chesterfield created little.

Mark Duffy tended to be involved in Burton’s better attacking moves. After one of the Birmingham loanee’s mazy runs, Phil Edwards swung in an excellent cross and Mason Bennett hit the ball at the keeper after Tom Anderson’s misjudged header. Duffy posed a threat from set plays too, his delivery half-cleared by the nervous Anderson and Calum Butcher took the ball down before smashing it over the bar.

Chesterfield right-back Liam O’Neil picked up an injury midway through the first half, after blocking Stuart Beavon’s powerful shot. O’Neil had looked reasonably solid in his time on the pitch but came off for Dan Gardner, who moved to left-midfield with Drew Talbot filling the gap at right-back.

ariyibi

Gboly Ariyibi – www.thestar.co.uk

As the first half was drawing to a close, it was Danny Wilson’s side who were in the ascendency. Sam Hird headed Jay O’Shea’s free-kick wide of the near post before Ariyibi’s darting run ended with a very poor shot, which ended up going out for a throw-in. Their half-chances tended to come from set pieces or crosses from deep, as attacking players rarely found the byline, due to the stoic manner in which Burton defended.

The East Staffordshire hosts made sure that whilst they were not playing well, they maintained their foothold in the game, a trait that has helped them win nine league games 1-0 this term. Butcher was given too much time to shoot in the box earlier in the half and he was not going to waste a second opportunity, ramming the ball home to give his side the lead.

Burton, buoyed by Butcher’s net buster, attacked with renewed energy in added time. Bennett caused problems for the Spireites defence, putting in a couple of inviting crosses which might have drawn a touch from an onrushing forward. Chesterfield had lost the midfield structure on which they depended so heavily in the early stages of the match. Double-pivot Sam Hird and Gary Liddle were pulled out of position and had little support from those in front of them, and so gaps were created for Duffy and Bennett to exploit.

Chesterfield’s defensive problems this season are widely known – no team other than Colchester have conceded more goals. To make matters worse, they were without two experienced forwards in Lee Novak and Sylvain Ebanks-Blake, both of whom provide a sorely-missed physical presence in attacking areas. In the second half, it became clear that Rai Simons, who was being bullied by John Mousinho and Shane Cansdell-Sheriff, was not the man to provide this. Striker Emmanuel Dieseruvwe, who began his career at Sheffield Wednesday, came on for Simons but did not get the early service he wanted.

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John Mousinho – www.burtonmail.co.uk

The Spireites’ best attacking move of the second half was some tidy combination play between O’Shea and Talbot, which allowed the latter to run at the centre-backs, but his shot was disappointingly tame. Otherwise, the Derbyshire side were too patient in their build-up play and much of their football was played between their centre-backs, though this was largely down to Burton’s shape. Brewers boss Nigel Clough used words such as determination, grit and resolve when describing his side’s performance, but the former Sheffield United boss conceded they did not play their best football.

The closest they came to doubling their tally was a late near post effort from Lucas Akins, after Stuart Beavon’s cross from the left led to a goal-line scramble. Substitute Akins’ miss means Burton have scored 2+ goals on just 11 occasions this term, the least frequent of all teams in League One’s top eight. That statistic, however, will not haunt Brewers fans, who see their team comfortably top of a division that they have jwon promotion to for the first time in their history. There is a party atmosphere at the Pirelli right now and, for a club used to playing in non-league, that outlandish dream of Championship football moves a step closer to reality.