The Hatters recorded their ninth win in ten league matches in another win at fortress Kenilworth Road to stretch the gap in second spot to four points.
This time is was Burton who fell victim to the home side’s ruthless home form, making it 16 unbeaten in the league since Accrington last season and the squad’s suxth straight win.
Jack Stacey’s goal in the first half and James Collins’ penalty towards the end means the Hatters will sit in an automatic promotion spot on Christmas Day, something the team achieved last season in Sky Bet League Two.
It was an unchanged starting XI for the eighth game running for Nathan Jones’ men, understandably due to the phenomenal run of form his side have been on so far this term, consisting of James Shea behind a back four of James Justin, Sonny Bradley, Matty Pearson and Jack Stacey.
Glen Rea, whose afternoon was unfortunately cut short due to injury, sat just in front of the defence with Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Andrew Shinnie and Elliot Lee completing the diamond, followed by Harry Cornick and James Collins who made up the eleven on a relatively pleasant afternoon in Bedfordshire.
Burton made one change to the side that knocked Middlesbrough out of the Carabao Cup midweek, with Devante Cole coming in for the injured Buxton.
Both teams spent the opening exchanges of the first half sussing each other out with Burton holding the ball well, not threatening the goal as such but keeping possession in the Hatters’ half and making the back four work.
It was in the tenth minute that Rea sustained a clash of knees with Scott Fraser. He spent a small amount of time off the field but trudged back onto the pitch in the hope of running it off. It was not meant to be for the holding midfielder though, helped straight down the tunnel a little while later.
Jorge Grant replaced the skipper, who was able to see Stacey’s 18th minute goal before his game came to an end. A sensational pass from Shinnie (maybe even assist of the season) fell perfectly to Stacey who took one touch and slotted it under Bradley Collins.
The Hatters were on the attack two minutes later, with a well-timed challenge from John Brayford on Cornick. As he turned, Collins was there to nick it off him. Cornick managed to get to his feet in time to receive the ball, although his tame effort bobbled harmlessly along the floor into the keeper’s hands.
Stacey was electric down the right-hand side of the pitch, receiving passes from Grant and Bradley in similar positions to that of Shinnies’ which lead to the goal. On one occasion, Stacey fizzed the ball across the six-yard box that the shot-stopper had to be ready for, claiming well just off his goal line.
Marcus Harness looked lively for the visitors, winning the ball off Lee and twisting cleverly past Grant too. His cross was not enough to trouble the defence though as Shea collected without hassle from the Burton attackers.
Cole possibly had the best chance of the half for his side, unleashing his pace after a fortunate ricochet off Bradley allowed him to stretch his legs. His progress was halted by Pearson and the ball was bundled on by Shea, that meant the home side went in at half-time one goal to the good.
The Brewers had the first chance of the second 45, just three minutes after the restart. Lucas Akins managing to win a corner for the team in white. Jamie Allen lofted a lovely ball in at the near post that Cole couldn’t keep under the bar.
Cornick exploited the Burton defence with his acceleration, getting the better of Ben Turner who pulled the number 14 down outside the left-hand side of the box. Justin stood over the ball and curled an effort towards the top corner of the near post that the keeper could only claw out to Lee. Unfortunatley the number 10’s header was not strong enough to find its way into the net.
Burton were not finished though in what was a hotly contested encounter at Kenilworth Road. Pearson had to be ready to head away in a crowded six-yard box and Reece Hutchinson was able to go on a mazy run, past a couple of orange shirts before sending a low effort into the arms of a grateful Shea.
Two minutes later, Cole was in action once more as he turned and forced an important block from Pearson. The resulting corner was whipped in, but Turner couldn’t get his header towards goal. There was some promising football on display from the Brewers who were on a high from reaching the Carabao Cup semi-finals.
As we reached the last 20 minutes of the match, niggly fouls here and there from both sides slowed the speed of the game. The Brewers picking up all of the yellows on this ocassion.
The introduction of Danny Hylton proved to be the game changing moment once more, winning a penalty just three minutes after his arrival. Another top pass from Grant found Collins out on the left-hand side, allowing him to thread the ball into Hylton who was blatantly tripped by Stephen Quinn.
Collins coolly stepped up, lifting the ball into the top left corner, also sending the shot-stopper sharing his surname the wrong way, putting a killer blow to the plans of Burton who were looking to grab something from the match late on.
The Burton keeper also found his way into the referee’s book when Collins tried to lob the ball over his head. Flying through the air, he was able to stop the ball from going over but in turn, gifted the ball to Hylton who he had to trip to stop a third going in.
It was almost three from the free-kick though, as Elliot Lee’s shot deflected off Hylton into the net but the number nine behind the defence on that occasion, resulting in the linesman raising his flag for offside.
But the game was won by this point as the Hatters now look to their Boxing Day clash away at Scunthorpe United. The only thing to spoil another wonderful win is that Rea was unable to finish the match on the pitch due to his injury. All at the club are hoping it is nothing serious and wish him all the best and a speedy recovery.
TOWN: Shea, Stacey, Pearson, Bradley, Justin, Rea (C) (Grant 28), Mpanzu, Shinnie, Lee (Berry 88), Collins, Cornick (Hylton 70). Subs: Stech, Potts, LuaLua, Sheehan
Goals: Stacey 17’, Collins (PEN) 73’
BURTON: Collins, Brayford, Allen, Turner, Fraser, Hesketh (Fox 46), Akins (C), Harness, Hutchinson, Quinn (Wallace 74), Cole (Miller 82). Subs: Bywater, Buxton, Sbarra, McCrory
Yellows: Turner, Hesketh, Quinn, Collins
REFEREE: Craig Hicks
ATT: 9,538 (173 away)