A change from Non League football as I was treated by my daughter to a visit to Burton Albion a club that was on my long standing visit list.
A pub and food outlets on the way to the ground had been occupied by a large contingent of good humoured Sheffield Wednesday fans on a spring afternoon where the high grey cloud was under attack from some blue sky patches. The fans seemed to be in high spirits and treating the day as summer despite it only being 10 degrees. Outside the stadium was Burton Albion Community Football Centre and nearby artificial pitches in use by fans prior to the match.
Only started in 1950 Burton were major players in the Non-League game. They initially joined a local Birmingham League but soon spent most of their time alternating between the Southern and Northern Premier Leagues until in 1988 they were promoted to the Conference and joined the EFL in 2009. Their upward journey continued spending two seasons in the Championship, but have now become mainstays of League 1.
Burton moved to their Pirelli Stadium home in 2005 and it is a good example of a compact modern stadium with covered standing at both ends and down one side and with covered seating and hospitality boxes down the other. The ground capacity is over 6000 and on the day 4682 were there. The pitch as you would expect was an immaculate flat grass surface being watered before the start.
Sheffield Wednesday had been top of League One before kick off but had been knocked off of that perch by the result of an early kick off. They had sold their full allocation of away tickets despite a recent run of poorer results. Their fans crave to climb back up the league structure considering their history and attendances. They have previously won FA cups, the League Cup and four top league titles but their achievements have tailed away since the early 1990’s. They have also recently been in a long shadow from local rivals Sheffield United who look very likely to make it back to the Premier League.
Burton Albion 3 Sheffield Wednesday 2
Saturday 15th April 2023 15.00 pm kick off
English Football League Division 1 Brewers v Owls. 18th v 2nd.
Burton Albion, Yellow shirts and shorts: Sheffield Wednesday, Blue and white vertical striped shirts and black shorts.
Before the game wreaths were laid to remember the 34th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy and a minutes applause was observed.
Sheffield started the quickest but it was soon Burton who started to control the game with some dominant play down the right. It was however a corner from the left for Burton that ended the deadlock when John Brayford rose unmarked in a group of players to head the ball home for a one nil lead. Burton kept up the pressure but were undone by a perfect ball through from Barry Bannan to Callum Patterson on 28 minutes which he met with a strong shot across the goalkeepers right hand into the net to level.
The Wednesday supporters packed in their end came alive but were silenced only 7 minutes later when a complete mix up trying to clear with headers meant the ball fell to Mark Helm who accepted the gift and stroked it into the net. Within 2 minutes it was Mark Helm again, who was having an outstanding match, who latched onto another poor clearance to steady himself, move infield and from 30 yards out smash the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the net for a 3.1 lead for the home side. Burton fans were in heaven and made all the noise up to half time.
Wednesday fans stayed very quiet as the second half was started and even three changes early on didn’t help in fact they lost shape and their constant high balls into the Burton defence were dealt with easily. Burton fans continued to taunt the away contingent behind the goal and the away players as well.
With just less that ten minutes to go in the second half Burton right back tripped a player just entering the penalty area and the referee had no alternative but to point at the spot. Michael Smith composed himself after a long wait and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to score. Despite the goal there was little chance of an away team comeback as they continued to play the long balls that had proved of no use all game. Burton ran out the time and were worthy winners with the youngster, Mark Helm, being deservedly named man of the match.
I was impressed by Burton’s beautiful, compact ground, their journey and their play on the day.
Unfortunately the chips at Burton were less than impressive. They came in a recyclable cardboard box and were a good quantity but they were just bland. I can say no more than I didn’t eat them all and must apologise for leaving the box on the terracing, I did mean to put it in the bin on the way out.