CLOUGH TOASTS BIRTHDAY WIN
BURTON boss Nigel Clough celebrated his 50th birthday in fine style as he saw his side take another step towards back-to-back promotions with an emphatic 4-0 win at Port Vale.
A counter-attacking move finished off by Lucas Akins and an own goal from Vale’s Anthony Grant saw the Brewers go in two up at half-time.
With Mark Duffy’s wonder strike and a team move capped by Calum Butcher ensuring that their six-point lead at the top of League One remains intact.
“From the first minute to the last, it was outstanding,” Clough enthused afterwards, adding:“We were a bit fortunate with the second goal, but I thought the third and fourth goals were brilliant.”
The early exchanges were uneventful, with the only chance of note being fired wide by Vale’s JJ Hooper in the 18th minute.
Jak Alnwick produced a superb save to push a fiercely struck effort from Butcher wide just after the half hour.
But the home keeper would soon be picking the ball out of the net as the visitors sprang forward quickly after a Vale free-kick.
Tom Naylor moved the ball to the left to Akins as the Brewers outnumbered Vale on the break, and the winger made the most of the space to roll the ball beyond Alnwick to score his eighth goal of the season.
Clough’s men saw their lead doubled in first-half stoppage time, when Mark Duffy’s free kick delivery looped up off the head of Anthony Grant, and over a helpless Alnwick in the Vale goal.
And Duffy put the result beyond doubt four minutes after the restart when he drove in from the right before finding the far corner with a fabulous left-footed effort from the edge of the box.
The league leaders continued to dominate a dispirited Vale side, putting the icing on the cake for birthday boy Clough on the hour, when a sustained spell of pressure culminated in Akins pulling back for Butcher to fire home from close range.
“Port Vale are a good team, but it was more about us than what they did today,” Clough said.
“All that matters is that we keep winning and keep performing like that, and we’d like to think we’ve set the bar now for the last nine games, home or away.”
Rob Page was understandably disappointed with an unusually poor home display from his side, and admitted that many of his players had been below par.
“Being up against the leaders today, we needed to be firing on all cylinders, and there were too many who weren’t,” the Vale boss said.
“When you’ve got six or seven who aren’t at their best, aren’t having an impact on the game, and you’re playing against a team who are on fire, there’s only one outcome.”
Page insists that they still have everything to play for though.
“If this is our blip, then great, we’ll move on to Good Friday. We’ve got two fantastic games coming up against Shrewsbury and Barnsley, so we can’t dwell on anything.”
NOT ENOUGH: Anthony Grant fails to stop Mark Duffy’s attempt as he scores Burton Albion’s third of the afternoon.
OVER YOUR HEAD: Mason Bennett has an acrobatic attempt at goal