Cheltenham Town: 'No defence' for Burton Albion display
IT DOES not matter how many strikers you have on the pitch or which formation is used, if a team defends as Cheltenham Town did at Burton Albion on Saturday they can expect to lose.
The same back four that performed so well to register a clean sheet and pave the way for last Tuesday's dramatic 1-0 home victory over Chesterfield endured an afternoon to forget at the Pirelli Stadium as Burton stole a march in the race for a top three place.
Boss Mark Yates kept faith with the same starting XI that had taken seven points from the previous nine to return to the automatic promotion places ahead of their trip to the team with the best home record in League Two.
Things started promisingly enough, with Cheltenham enjoying more possession and passing the ball with some fluency, without seriously testing Stuart Tomlinson.
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The Burton goalkeeper grabbed a shot from Darren Carter at the second attempt and Sam Deering did his best to provide some attacking impetus, but it all started to go wrong for Cheltenham in the 22nd minute
Alex MacDonald put Burton ahead after Cheltenham spurned several opportunities to clear their lines.
Michael Hector was the main culprit, scuffing an attempted clearance straight to MacDonald and his one-two with Michael Symes was only half cut out by Jason Taylor, allowing MacDonald to beat Scott Brown with a deflected shot.
It was a messy goal and things worsened four minutes later when the impressive Robbie Weir headed in MacDonald's excellent cross from the right, with Cheltenham's defenders nowhere to be seen.
MacDonald was unopposed and had as much time as he wanted to line up the delivery and while Weir's header was well-directed beyond's Brown dive and into the top left corner, he was all alone.
Cheltenham's five-man midfield is designed to give them more possession and allow them to release Deering to support lone front man Paul Benson, but it is not ideal when there is a two-goal deficit to be made up.
Yates therefore replaced ex-Burton man Russ Penn and Jason Taylor with Jermaine McGlashan and Byron Harrison at the break, switching to 4-4-2.
But less than three minutes into the second half Burton pulled further clear, landing a hammer blow to Cheltenham's chances of staging a second half fight-back with their more adventurous line-up.
Carter conceded possession and Billy Kee was released into space on the left.
The front man skipped away from Hector with a neat piece of skill that took him to the byline and he crossed to Weir, who nodded in his second of the afternoon from a yard out.
Burton's third goal effectively ended the match as a contest and secured a club record ninth straight home success, but Cheltenham did finish strongly.
The one bright point of a largely forgettable afternoon was Harrison's first goal since signing from AFC Wimbledon for a five-figure sum on January 31.
He rose at the near post to glance in fellow substitute Kaid Mohamed's corner in the second minute of time added on.
Tomlinson had finally been called into evasive action in the final ten minutes, leading up to Harrison's consolation effort.
He reacted brilliantly to turn McGlashan's well-struck drive over the bar and he reached low to his right to stop an effort from Deering.
It was a poor defensive effort that cost Cheltenham, who must lick their wounds and regroup ahead of next Saturday's home match against another of their promotion rivals, Rotherham United.
BURTON ALBION: S Tomlinson; A O'Connor, Z Diamond, I Sharps, D McCrory; A MacDonald, A O'Connor, L Bell, J Maghoma; B Kee, M Symes. Subs not used: A Corbett, C Zola, D Lyness, M Paterson, M Holness, J Dyer, A Drury.
CHELTENHAM TOWN: S Brown; K Lowe, M Hector, S Elliott, B Jones; R Penn (J McGlashan 46), M Pack J Taylor (B Harrison 46), D Carter (K Mohamed 72); S Deering; P Benson. Subs not used: D Duffy, C Roberts, S Harrad, S Jombati.
REFEREE: A Haines.
STAR MAN: Byron Harrison.