Ryan Broom’s first Burton Albion goal, three minutes into stoppage time, earned the Brewers a fully-deserved point as their Great Escape in League One edges closer to comletion.

This was a game Burton probably should have won, with 11 shots out of 21 on target, but, in front of goal, it was simply one of those days. Never mind. Albion are basically safe: only the mathematical certainty remains, when you have reached the point that those below have to win everything they have left, while the team at the top of the threatened pile must lose all theirs.

Swindon Town and Bristol Rovers cannot catch Burton now, which leaves two more to knock out of the equation. Northampton Town can only equal Burton’s 52 points, Rochdale, with one game more to play, can still dream of escaping but the bottom four are now four points or more adrift of fifth-bottom Wigan Athletic.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and his team very much wanted to put on a good show at home, where results have not been as good as on the road, and, in many ways, they did. Plymouth contributed plenty too, in a game that was a deal more open than many of late.

Danny Rowe was given a start, while Kane Hemmings came back in for Mike Fondop and Rowe really threw himself into the game. His career having been interrupted by injury, the former Ipswich Town winger was given a short-term deal until the end of the season by Hasselbaink and this looked like a man fighting for a full contract. On this evidence, it is a fight he will win.

By the third minute, he had made an incisive run inside from the right and set up Hemmings for a shot which keeper Michael Cooper saved easily.

There was nothing easy about Cooper’s next action, a minute later, when Lucas Akins slipped the ball inside from the left and Tom Hamer went for goal with his supposedly weaker left foot. Cooper flew to his left to touch the ball away for a corner.

After nine minutes, Cooper was again at full stretch, this time holding a header from Hayden Carter after John Brayford returned a Rowe free kick into the box.

Soon, Ben Garratt was also in action, decisively pushing away a Plymouth corner before the visitors broke quickly and former Brewers loanee Niall Ennis got between the centre halves. Garratt, at the edge of his area, plucked the ball neatly off the striker’s toes.

Plymouth Argyle's Michael Cooper denies Ryan Edwards in the first half, one of a string of saves made by the visiting keeper.
Plymouth Argyle's Michael Cooper denies Ryan Edwards in the first half, one of a string of saves made by the visiting keeper.

Brayford had a header tipped over the bar from Rowe’s free kick as the chances continued to come and Ryan Edwards had the best of them after 25 minutes.

Sean Clare’s pressing forced a mistake in a Plymouth back line trying to pass their way forwards and the ball dropped for Hemmings, who might have shot on the turn as Cooper advanced. Instead he laid it to his left and Edwards seemed to have an open goal to aim at before Cooper recovered to, leaping across to block his shot.

Still Plymouth were dangerous on the break and when Carter’s attempted header back to Garratt fell short, the keeper managed a crucial touch on the ball as Ennis tried to take it round him. It was enough to force Ennis wide and by the time he retrieved the ball, Carter was back to get in the way of his shot.

It was the sort of half in which Burton could have been three up or two down and Hemmings was annoyed with himself when he picked up on another slack defensive pass and shot tamely wide after 39 minutes.

The second half continued for a while in the same vein, Brayford hooking a shot off target after a Hamer long throw was flicked on, then Tyrese Fornah ballooning a presentable shooting chance out of the ground for Plymouth.

By the hour mark, the game had gone off the boil a little, both sides’ attempts foundering, and Hasselbaink, looking to change the dynamic, sent on Joe Powell for Rowe. However, what changed was the scoreline, with a goal out of nothing for Plymouth after 68 minutes.

The teams exchanged long, high clearances and when Argyle’s bounced near the edge of the Burton area, it fell kindly for Ryan Hardie, who lifted a neat lob high over Garratt, who had come off his line, into the net.

As the game wore on, it became ever more frustrating for the Brewers, pressing hard but now not creating anything and letting their frustration get the better of them by conceding a string of careless free kicks.

With 85 minutes gone, Hasselbaink’s last throw was to send on Fondop and Broom and, just in time, the manager’s magic touch with substitutions paid off again.

Hemmings, as he can do, had become a particularly frustrated figure but it never stops him trying and, in stoppage time, Hamer launched an enormous throw from deep inside his own half. Fondop flicked it on an Hemmings was away, still with the energy to outrun Jerome Opoku. Cooper almost saved Plymouth again, diving to his left to parry Hemmings’ shot but Broom arrived to slide the ball in.

It was the least Burton deserved and, even then, they might have had more. Substitute Terry Taylor’s cross was headed goalwards by Carter and seemed to be blocked by Will Aimson’s hand. Hasselbaink could be heard shouting “it didn’t hit both of his hands, just the one!” from the touchline but the Brewers had to settle for a corner and, from that, Carter ballooned a volley over the bar.

Perhaps the maths will finally confirm Burton’s safety tomorrow night, when Lincoln City visit the Pirelli Stadium but, rest assured, we can look forward to League One football next season.

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