AT the very least, football is a game that lasts for 90 minutes and until United can maintain their performance for a whole match, results will continue to go the wrong way.
There is unquestionable ability, promise and talent in this Yellow squad but a failure to convert a fine first-half display into goals would eventually allow Burton to snatch victory on the night.
The home side were always going to come out fighting after a lacklustre first half and the Gulls were unable to respond, and late goals from Jimmy Phillips and Adam McGurk proved enough for a 2-0 win to the Brewers.
United manager Alan Knill arguably had his most interesting selection dilemma over the whole season after the recruitment of French midfielder Damien Mozika and the loan signing of striker Paul McCallum.
Both new faces started on the bench but there were plenty of interesting changes elsewhere. As expected, Tom Cruise replaced the suspended Krystian Pearce in defence but the big surprise came in midfield, where Nathan Craig was handed his first start of the campaign.
Jordan Chapell was the man to miss out, as Knill also tweaked his formation to a three-man engine room, presumably in a bid to match the preferred formation deployed by Burton boss Gary Rowett.
While United’s main man opted for two changes from Saturday’s goalless draw with Mansfield, Rowett limited himself to the one switch from a side that defeated league leaders Chesterfield on the weekend. Lee Bell was replaced in attack by former Gull Billy Kee, who was back from suspension.
The notable absentee for Burton was Rene Howe, United’s top scorer from the last two seasons before his summer move north but not deemed worthy of a place in the Brewers’ squad.
United started in positive fashion, with Craig quickly getting on the ball and Ade Azeez looking to work the right channel with his pace. There was a pleasing fluidity to the attacking formation, which was given a protective platform by the holding pair of Lee Mansell and Jak McCourt.
When Burton did finally discover their rhythm, Kee found a pocket of space to feed Phillips for a shot directed well wide. Chris Hussey then struck a low shot that United ‘keeper Martin Rice comfortably smothered.
The best Yellow chance in the opening 15 minutes was down to strong work from Karl Hawley, holding off his man to receive a sharp pass from McCourt and then lash a decent shot narrowly wide.
Hussey responded with a sweet strike but Kevin Nicholson did well to block the effort. The subsequent corner picked out Ian Sharps at the back post and Hawley kept his nerve to hack clear from the goal-line.
Despite the scare, United could be very pleased with their contribution to the match, passing the ball with confidence and an assured start from Rice was providing a strong foundation for the reshuffled back four.
Conditions, however, were not so encouraging, as the rain continued to bucket out of the Staffordshire sky, although a superb exchange of work between McCourt, Craig and Azeez was only denied a goal by Sharps executing a vital challenge.
Serious clear-cut chances generally remained a rarity for both sides as the first-half neared its conclusion but there was no doubt the more precise football was being played by the Gulls, and there was a satisfying air of frustration in the home crowd.
Just when all seemed rosy in the Yellow garden, a sloppy pass from McCourt gave Kee a surprise shooting opportunity but Rice showed strong wrists to turn the shot wide and rescue his young midfielder.
Knill was then forced into a change after Hawley accidentally collided with Bodin, who was unable to shake off the knock and McCallum was drafted in for his debut five minutes before half-time.
United ended a very competent first period with a huge escape, as McGurk, the two-goal hero against Chesterfield for Burton, cracked a wonderful free-kick beyond Rice, who was hugely relieved when the ball bounced off the post and away to safety.
The second half started with Anthony O’Connor, formerly with Burton, showing more of his defensive desire in snuffing out a promising break from Kee. The Brewers were then narrowly off target with a shot from the subsequent corner.
In all fairness, the home side had improved their tempo and Rice was again receiving pats on the back from his defence after a super strike from full-back Phil Edwards tested the Yellow custodian. It was time for United to stay in the match and Rice did well to turn away a threatening cross from former Plymouth youngster Damien McCrory.
A smart piece of work from Mansell, who had been working extremely hard in his protective mode, allowed Hawley the space for a quick shot on goal, but the save was easy for Jordan Pickford in the home goal.
The Gulls needed to change the pattern and Craig was the catalyst winning the ball to feed Azeez, who delivered a fine cross for McCallum, but he was denied by a terrific save from Pickford.
It would prove a pivotal moment in the game, as Burton swept back up the other end and a superb shot from Kee rattled against the post and fell perfectly for Phillips to slide past the stranded Rice from close range.
The goal was harsh on United but there was no time to wallow in the disappointment, and Mansell displayed fine determination to win a free-kick deep in the opposition half but the eventual shot from McCourt was fizzed into the side-netting.
Knill then removed Craig for the fresh legs of Chapell but the game was over before the new man could touch the ball, as Kee released McGurk with a threaded pass and the in-form forward finished with aplomb.
Elliot Benyon was thrown on for Hawley in a last-ditch bid to change the night but the second goal had killed the game, and, once again, how you perform in the two penalty areas was decisive.
Burton [4-3-3]: 1 Jordan Pickford; 2 Phil Edwards, 6 Ian Sharps, 25 Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, 14 Damien McCrory; 23 Matthew Palmer, 8 Robbie Weir, 3 Chris Hussey; 17 Jimmy Phillips, 29 Billy Kee, 20 Adam McGurk. Substitutes [not used]: 5 Zander Diamond, 7 Lee Bell, 11 Alex MacDonald, 16 Dean Lyness [GK], 22 Jack Dyer, 28 Michael Symes.
Booked: Cansdell-Sherriff 36, Hussey 43
United [4-3-3]: 13 Martin Rice; 2 Dale Tonge, 29 Anthony O’Connor, 21 Thomas Cruise, 3 Kevin Nicholson; 7 Lee Mansell [capt], 20 Nathan Craig [12 Jordan Chapell 77], 17 Jak McCourt; 23 Ade Azeez, 9 Karl Hawley [26 Elliot Benyon 83], 10 Billy Bodin [19 Paul McCallum 41]. Substitutes [not used]: 11 Courtney Cameron, 30 Kirtys MacKenzie, 33 Conor Thompson [GK], 36 Damien Mozika.
Booked: Tonge 90
Referee: Simon Hopper