Burton fielded two changes to the starting line-up, as Kane Hemmings and Danny Rowe made their returns. Mike Fondop was relegated to the bench despite scoring in the Brewers’ 2-1 win over Portsmouth last week.
Plymouth Argyle made just a single change as Scotsman Hardie replaced out-of-form striker Luke Jephcott. The Pilgrims set up in a 5-3-2 formation, with Adam Lewis and captain Joe Edwards operating as wing-backs on either flank. Ryan Law returned to the bench following a successful loan stint at Devonian neighbours Torquay United.
Story of the match
Burton started much the brighter side and they enjoyed a remarkable amount of possession in the opening exchanges. The visitors barely had a touch of the ball within the first five minutes as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s men flew out of the traps and asked questions of the well-travelled Argyle defence.
Plymouth goalkeeper Michael Cooper was called into action several times before the 10-minute mark ticked by, with the most notable being an acrobatic stop off of a headed effort from young defender Hayden Carter. Cooper was forced to stretch to his left and he caught the ball well as it looped towards the top corner.
Burton’s pressure had alleviated considerably by the midpoint of the first half and manager Ryan Lowe had Argyle playing some neat, grounded football as they tried to gain a foothold. Burton ‘keeper Ben Garratt produced a fabulous save in a one-on-one with Niall Ennis, who tried to dribble the ball around the onrushing gloves-man after breaking free from the defence.
The Brewers saw a gilt-edged opportunity go to waste just before the break when Jerome Opoku was caught napping by a suicidal pass from Danny Mayor. Hemmings latched on to the loose ball and took one look at goal before scuffing his gifted chance wide of the left post.
Lowe appeared to have drummed some sense into the Pilgrims at halftime and they began the second half on top. A plethora of advances following the restart required Burton to sit deep and desperately dig the ball out to safety. Legendary Brewer Lucas Akins retreated to aid the defensive ranks and made a number of crucial interceptions on the edge of his own penalty area.
Hardie put Argyle ahead in the 69th minute, which was a deserved lead after knocking on the door for so long. The 24-year-old beat the defence for pace and was the first to reach a long ball over the top from Tyrese Fornah. Goalkeeper Garratt had committed to the duel but was slow to it, and Hardie cleverly lifted the ball over the stranded 26-year-old and into an empty net.
Plymouth sat back after the goal and set up to defend a relentless Albion onslaught. Attacking substitutions promised a thrilling final five minutes.
Burton drew level in injury time. Hemmings took aim at goal and forced Cooper to parry to the feet of late substitute Broom, who made no mistake in poking the ball home from close range.
Takeaway from the match
Ryan Lowe could be the man to restore the Argyle of old
Lowe was visibly furious at the lacklustre showing of Plymouth’s opening period. He was quick down the tunnel when the whistle blew, having already been vocal when things were going awry throughout the first half. The Greens came out looking totally refreshed from a tough 45 minutes of football and they controlled the game in the second half.
Man of the match
Michael Cooper – Plymouth Argyle
Argyle goalkeeper Cooper had yet another magical performance between the sticks. His cat-like agility kept the visitors in touch with what was a threatening Burton attack for the majority of the tie.