Ross McCormack goal enough as Villa prevail against battling Burton
Ross McCormack earned Aston Villa a hard-fought 2-1 win over battling Burton in the Sky Bet Championship.
Villa achieved their fifth successive home victory as a result of McCormack's 79th-minute winner but it was not clear-cut as they struggled for long spells.
They failed to build upon an 11th-minute lead secured by Leandro Bacuna as former Villa reject Jamie Ward notched a smart 31st-minute equaliser.
The odds were seemingly stacked heavily against Burton even before the start of the game as they had failed to win an away game this season. But this was not the case as they more than matched an inconsistent Villa side.
In a fixture no one could have envisaged only five years ago and watched by a huge holiday crowd of 41,337, Villa maintained their climb towards the play-off zone.
It was the first ever league fixture between the two clubs and Burton certainly enjoyed the experience and could feel hard done by in not collecting a point as they were denied by a brilliant last-minute save by goalkeeper Mark Bunn from Tom Naylor.
Burton, who had lost their previous three matches, were certainly not overawed by the occasion and to their credit took the game to Villa with surprising ease.
They were dangerous with some snappy attacks and Villa were indebted to Bunn who is facing the prospect of being replaced in the January transfer window.
But he demonstrated his worth as early as the seventh minute when he had to make a smart reflex save to keep out a deflected clearance by his own defender, Mile Jedinak, following a left-wing cross by Lloyd Dyer.
Four minutes later Bacuna, preferred to Jack Grealish in the starting line-up, should have put Villa ahead following a deep cross from Alan Hutton but the utility player blazed his shot wide.
Undeterred, Bacuna certainly made amends in the 11th minute. He gained possession on the left and slanted a long cross-field pass to Jonathan Kodjia who produced a fast, high cross to the far post where Bacuna flashed home a header.
Villa's expensively-assembled side certainly did not dominate the exchanges despite Bacuna's goal.
Burton tenaciously strived for an equaliser and Bunn was again forced to make a smart save to keep out a long-range effort from Naylor, and it was hardly a surprise when Ward scored after half an hour.
John Brayford's cross evaded John Chester, and Ward - rejected by Villa as a youngster for being too small, volleyed home a well-deserved equaliser.
Ward, on loan from Nottingham Forest, was certainly a danger man. He snapped up another good pass and worked his way inside the penalty area only to be thwarted by yet another fine save by Bunn who had to fling himself to his left to prevent the ball going into the top left-hand corner of the net.
Grealish was drafted in for the second half to replace the injured Gary Gardner and he quickly made an impact, firing in a shot which beat goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin only for the goal to be disallowed due to Kodjia running into an offside position.
The game developed into a frustrating experience for Villa as Albert Adomah, with the goal at his mercy, limply lifted the ball high over the crossbar to waste an excellent opportunity to give Villa the lead.
Only the woodwork saved Villa in the 73rd minute when Dyer fired his effort against the outside of the post and the home side responded to the let-off by forging ahead.
McCormack was on hand to score from close range following substitute Jordan Ayew's cross from the right in the 79th minute.