It wasn’t a happy return to Cambridge United for Burton manager Roy McFarland as he saw his side lose their 17-game unbeaten run in a 2-0 defeat to their fellow promotion rivals.
Fortunately for the Brewers second placed Histon also lost, meaning that Cambridge are now their nearest challengers and they are 11 points behind, having played two games more.
Albion went into the game looking to preserve their unbeaten away league record against the Us and were boosted by the return of Aaron Webster to their defence. There was also a full league debut for striker Martin Butler, who scored 53 goals for Cambridge when playing for McFarland there in the late 1990s.
The first half was a very even affair with Keith Gilroy coming closest to giving Burton the lead as he saw his acrobatic effort tipped over the bar by Danny Potter. However, after the half time interval it was a different story as United took control of the game. This was something of a surprise given that Burton have been consistently a better second half team throughout this season.
The opening goal came 10 minutes into the half when Courtney Pitt was given acres of space to deliver a cross which took a big deflection over the Burton central defenders, allowing the previously quiet Scott Rendell to side foot home from four yards. It took until the 71st minute for Burton to have their first goal attempt of the half, such was Cambridge’s superiority. That came when Michael Simpson saw his 25-yard drive saved low down by
In the 76th minute it was game over for the Brewers when Jai Reason’s through ball allowed Robbie Willmott to spring the offside trap to run on and beat Kevin Poole low to his right. With eight minutes to go substitute Marc Goodfellow played Butler through on goal, but as the ball appeared to be getting away from him he failed to pull out of his challenge on Potter and was shown a straight red card by referee Simon Beck to cap a miserable day for both him and his side.
It was a disappointed McFarland who now has to focus his team for the 12 remaining games. He said: “Today’s result has stopped our run but now we have got to pick it up again and try and go on another tremendous run. It’s always disappointing to lose, but it all hinged around their first goal. We were too sloppy at the start of the second half.”
Burton now turn their attention to tonight’s (Wednesday) rearranged game at Ebbsfleet United. McFarland’s striking options will be more limited with both Lee Morris and Butler serving suspensions.
Next Saturday Albion will be looking to maintain their unbeaten home record when Salisbury City are the visitors. This is the Brewers only home game in a six match spell, and will see Albion hoping to repeat the 3-0 victory over the Whites that they managed in the FA Trophy back in January, a game that marked McFarland’s first game in charge. Morris will be available for this game having finally completed the three match ban for his sending off against Wrexham.
The following Tuesday night Burton make the long trip to troubled Weymouth. The Dorset club saw many players leave last month after they exercised their right to walk away from their contracts after not having been paid in 2009.