It was supposed to be the night when Burton Albion clinched promotion to the promised land of the Football League, but Oxford United proved to be real party poopers, inflicting a 1-0 defeat in front of the Pirelli Stadium’s biggest ever crowd last Friday night.
Needing only a point to be mathematically certain of the title, it wasn’t to be and the Brewers weekend wasn’t helped by the fact that the only team who can catch them, Cambridge United, won 2-1 at Salisbury City.
Therefore everything hangs on this Sunday’s final matches of the season with Burton facing a trip to play-off chasing Torquay United and Cambridge facing Altrincham at home. Roy McFarland’s side still hold a three-point advantage, and they also currently have a better goal difference of plus four. So again Albion still require a point to be certain or the title could go down to being decided on goal difference.
What a difference the scenario is now from that back in January. After 30 matches Albion sat with 68 points from 30 games, 18 points ahead of Cambridge from the same number of games. Since then Burton have stumbled to a meagre 20 points from their last 15 games whilst Cambridge have picked up 35.
The Brewers were certainly unlucky against Oxford with the visiting goalkeeper Billy Turley producing some fine saves to keep out Albion. The best chance of the game fell to Lee Morris following a good block by Turley from Marc Goodfellow. However, as Darren Stride played the loose ball across the face of goal, Morris contrived to miss-kick wide of the open goal from less than six yards.
Despite dominating the second half they were beaten by a wonderful 25-yard free kick from Adam Chapman with 20 minutes remaining. There was still time for both sides to be reduced to 10 men, with Albion’s being Shaun Harrad who was dismissed in stoppage time during a goal mouth melee.
The match at Torquay kicks off at 4pm and will again be televised by Setanta, meaning that four out of their final five games have been shown as the company hoped to show the league winners receiving the trophy. Harrad will be suspended, but Greg Pearson is available to return to the squad after serving his three-match ban.
Next Tuesday long serving full back Aaron Webster has a fully deserved testimonial match against Derby County (kick-off 7.45pm). Nigel Clough has promised to bring a strong side, and Webster has invited some of his former colleagues to turn out. Admission is £8 for all adults, and £3 for children; seating costs an additional £2 for all.