Burton’s dream is still alive. A third season of Championship football remains possible, plausible even, after a hugely significant and richly earned win over Bolton.
Goals from Hope Akpan and Lucas Akins booked a convincing victory over Bolton Wanderers, who themselves sunk deeper into the relegation mire.
Burton have been in the bottom three since Boxing Day, and remain so on goal difference, but their pragmatic manager knows his team may still require favours on the last weekend as they travel to Preston North End.
Burton have endured a miserable time away from home this season, winning just one of their 23 games since returning to the Championship. It is little wonder with the weak defending produced in the first half as the Brewers secured a two-goal lead before half time.
Hope Akpan finished off an intricate move to score his first Brewers goal on 28 minutes and it was not long before more dithering by Derik Osede and Mark Beevers allowed Lucas Akins to stab in the second just before half time.
Bolton are now in 23rd and the goodwill Phil Parkinson stocked up by gaining promotion last term appears to have evaporated. Wanderers fans tried to get at their manager after Burton went 2-0 up and repeatedly called for his head.
There are still five clubs in danger on the final day, with Burton going to Preston hopeful a fourth successive win will keep them up. Barnsley’s victory over Brentford means they stay in the relegation zone for now.
Whatever the outcome this season, Clough has performed wonders by lifting Burton into contention for survival.
On the league’s lowest wage bill of £8.5million annually and with average gates below 4,600, Burton are already levitating well above expectations.
Their season looked buried a few weeks ago though and Clough did not sugarcoat the prospects for another campaign in the Championship. ‘Slim,’ he said after drawing with Middlesbrough.
But back-to-back wins over Derby and Sunderland, the latter secured in dramatic fashion, reinvigorated belief and Burton set about their do-or-die task against Bolton with purpose.
After relegating Sunderland with a dramatic victory last weekend this latest result pushed another big team towards the trapdoor.
Bolton, who drop to second-bottom, now require a win against Nottingham Forest next weekend and hope other clubs around the bottom three drop points.