Cheltenham Town: The promotion bid is brewing up nicely
CHRIS Zebroski's late goal finally broke Burton Albion's resistance to keep dominant Cheltenham Town's League Two promotion push firmly on track.
The Robins have now lost one of their last 11 League Two matches and things are shaping up nicely for Mark Yates' men ahead of their forthcoming trips to Rotherham United and Chesterfield.
Buoyed by their rousing midweek performance and wholly merited point at leaders Gillingham, Cheltenham made a particularly confident start in front of their own fans.
The first half revolved around Billy Jones' set pieces, with the joint leading assist maker in League Two causing Burton all sorts of problems with some more inviting deliveries.
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His free-kick in the seventh minute was headed against the bar by Alan Bennett, who is still looking for his first goal of the campaign.
But it is at the other end of the pitch that Bennett does his best work and he has not been on the losing side in a League match this season.
His central defensive partner Steve Elliott was once again flawless, winning every header and timing his tackles to perfection, leaving goalkeeper Scott Brown a spectator for most of the first period.
Russ Penn, who never shows anything less than 100 per cent commitment, was pumped up even by his own standards.
It was clear how much he wanted to score against his former club and he reached Zebroski's cross in the ninth minute, but it was blocked by a defender.
Another free-kick from Jones was headed towards goal by Sido Jombati, but it was hacked off the line as Burton were made to defend for their lives and Elliott directed another effort over the bar.
Burton's first serious effort on goal arrived in the 31st minute when Jack Dyer smashed a long-range effort just over the bar, but normal service was soon resumed.
Jones picked out Marlon Pack with a corner and it was flicked to Zebroski, but once again Burton scrambled the ball off the line and to safety.
Calvin Zola provided a reminder of his threat after Brown clawed away a corner from Chris Palmer and the rangy striker's shot was deflected into the side netting.
An opening goal for Cheltenham seemed inevitable, but Mark Oxley did well to save Penn's glancing header from Pack's cross as the opening half finished goalless.
Wingers Jermaine McGlashan and Kaid Mohamed, who so often provide Cheltenham's spark, were well shackled by Burton full-backs Anthony O'Connor and Nathan Stanton, but the battle in the middle of the pitch was won convincingly by Penn, Pack and Darren Carter.
Cheltenham stroked the ball around nicely at times with Jones often joining in to show the accuracy of his left foot in open play as well as dead ball situations.
The second half started with a careless backpass from Mohamed picked up by Zola just inside the penalty area, but his shot was tame and easy for Brown.
Cheltenham quickly seized control again, with Penn weaving past several challenges, but Oxley did well to stop his firm shot in the 53rd minute.
Burton, who would have gone above Cheltenham on goal difference with a win at Whaddon Road, battled admirably.
Jeff Goulding and former Brewers striker Shaun Harrad were both sent on in a bid to inject some more impetus and Jones' free-kick reached McGlashan, whose shot was cleared off the line by Lee Bell in the 73rd minute.
With five minutes left the deadlock was finally broken and it just had to be from a Jones corner.
Burton had survived ten of his corners, but this one fell to Bennett who slammed a low shot towards goal.
It hit a wall of defenders leading to a scramble and Oxley appeared to have gathered the ball and averted the danger for Burton, but as he fell the ball slipped from his grasp and Zebroski was on hands to slam in his fourth goal of the season.
Brown had to be alert at the death to keep out Zola's header, but Cheltenham were the better side by some distance and deserved the points despite Burton's impressive resilience.
Cheltenham Town: S Brown; S Jombati, A Bennett, S Elliott, B Jones; J McGlashan (K Lowe 90), M Pack, R Penn (S Harrad 78), D Carter, K Mohamed (J Goulding 69); C Zebroski. Subs not used: S Deering, D Duffy, C Roberts, D Andrew.
Burton Albion: M Oxley; A O'Connor, Z Diamond, M Holness, N Stanton; J Dyer (C Taylor 87), R Weir, L Bell, C Palmer; M Paterson (B Kee 67), C Zola. Subs not used: A Corbett, J McGrath, J Richards, M Palmer, D Lyness.
Referee: G Scott.
Attendance: 2,804 (236 away).
Star Man: Russ Penn.