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FA Trophy: Burton Albion 4 Accrington Stanley 2

THE FA Trophy proved a step too far for FA Cup heroes Stanley as everything finally caught up with them.

RETURN: Jonathan Smith
RETURN: Jonathan Smith

THE FA Trophy proved a step too far for FA Cup heroes Stanley as everything finally caught up with them.

In a game they expected to win, tiredness, injuries, decisions and most of all, Burton's thirst for revenge led to the Reds exiting a competition they could have won.

Stanley had beaten Burton 3-1 earlier in the season in the Conference but they were out of sorts from the kick off. And they weren't helped when Steve Halford became the eighth Stanley sending-off this season - although it did seem harsh on the defender who was judged to have pulled back Dale Anderson, although the striker was a long way from goal.

It was even more gutting as the Reds had got themselves back in the game after trailing 2-0 - only for Burton to score twice in the final six minutes.

"I am disappointed," said boss John Coleman. "We had clawed our way back into a game we were never in and then gave a sloppy goal away.

"Steve Halford's was not a sending off as their lad wasn't going for goal. It is debatable if it was a foul. But that was at a point when the referee couldn't wait to give anything against us - when do you ever see four throw-ins in the space of five minutes get overturned?

"He was petty but the referee isn't to blame for us losing the game. He compounded our problems. We had enough of our own without him being childish."

Burton could have been ahead with just seconds on the clock but Jamie Speare did well to palm away a Robbie Talbot effort. It did, though, seem only a matter of time before Nigel Clough's side took the lead with the Reds' defence struggling to keep tabs on the lively forwards.

And the Brewers made one count when Anderson beat Speare to a long ball on the edge of the area and chipped it into the back of the net.

Stanley then had a let off a minute later when Talbot broke through, made time and space, but amazingly blazed over. But it was soon two when an overhead kick by Talbot was touched over from Speare and, from the resulting corner, Aaron Webster was unmarked to head home.

Coleman changed things around before the break bringing off Robbie Williams, who was suffering from food poisoning, and putting on Jonathan Smith for a welcome return from a knee ligament injury. And it looked like another Stanley comeback when Ged Brannan's short free kick set up Paul Howarth who rifled the ball home two minutes after the interval.

But then came Halford's dismissal much to the dismay of the centre back who is having a torrid time at the moment. He was still recovering from an own goal against Morecambe and looked devastated as he left the pitch facing a three match ban.

Burton continued to look dangerous every time they went forward. Talbot should have slid home an Anderson cross while Speare denied both Jon Howard and Andy Corbett. But Brannan did send Prendergast racing forward although his effort was saved by Matt Duke on 65 minutes.

Then Burton were caught out at the back, Paul Mullin never gave up and was able to bundle the ball home for an unlikely equaliser. And it looked like the Reds would hold out for an unlikely replay.

But then, six minutes from time, a ball by Andy Ducros into the box was dropped by Speare and in nipped Howard for the third.

Coleman threw on substitute Dean Calcutt as Stanley looked for another leveller but instead he was judged to have brought down Ducros at the other end and Webster fired home the penalty.

"Burton deserved to win," continued Coleman. "We didn't but we got ourselves into a situation where it was 2-2 with five minutes to go and, if we had had 11 on the pitch, I don't think they would have scored. It was a sloppy goal and, it's immaterial, but it was never a penalty.

"We looked tired. We took a gamble to play Robbie but it back-fired. But he wasn't the only one below par as we have to defend as an 11 and we didn't."

He admitted that the rush of matches - with the FA Cup and Lancashire Marsden Trophy alongside the league encounters - are taking their toll.

"It has caught up with us and we have used a lot of nervous energy as well. The last thing you need is to go down to ten men when you are tired. Paul Mullin did stick to his task and got his goal. I couldn't believe he was booked though. That was an absolute disgrace - he was battered from pillar to post. And Jamie has made some magnificent saves but also given two goals away.

"I am bitterly disappointed as I felt it was a trophy we could have won - and Burton will feel they have a good chance now."


Stuart Pike
Deputy editor specialising in politics
Alex Bell
Bethany English
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Beth Abbit
Court reporter
Jon Macpherson
Kate Watkins
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Garth Dawson
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