Fleetwood Town’s three match unbeaten run ended in disappointing fashion as they lost 2-1 to league leaders Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium.
It was a forgettable performance by 10-men Town who despite failing to fire on all cylinders could have possibly nicked a vital point as misfiring Albion wasted a host of chances.
It was all Burton in the opening 30 minutes as the League One table toppers looked to bounce back from a 2-0 midweek defeat against Bradford and avenge the 4-0 defeat at Town’s Highbury Stadium back in October.
The host’s defence and midfield looked worthy of their league position but despite carving out a number of chances the Brewers lacked a clinical edge with 19 shots but only five on target.
Forwards Stuart Beavon and Lucas Akins never looked likely of hitting the back of the net as Burton’s impressive engine powered them on.
The Brewers dominated but failed to fire in front of goal until man-of-the-match Duffy showed his strike force how it is done with two fine strikes.
The first came in the 25th minute as he arrowed the ball past the helpless Chris Maxwell.
Town fought back in the 47th minute as super-sub Wes Burns converted Amari’i Bell’s cross from the left.
But Duffy popped up with a right-footed beauty in the 63rd minute.
He cut in from the left and managed to curl the ball beyond the helpless Maxwell from just outside the box.
Moments later any chance of a Town comeback was dented after a moment of madness by substitute Bobby Grant.
Just seconds after entering the fray he appeared to kick Akins and immediately started trudging down the tunnel as referee Oliver Langford produced a straight red card.
Town right-back Conor McLaughlin recovered from a thigh injury to slot in at right back and with the continued absence of midfielder Antoni Sarcevic (groin) Victor Nirennold moved into the middle.
David Ball - who covered for Sarcevic in Town’s 2-2 draw against Sheffield United last weekend - moved back up front to join Shola Ameobi and former Burton Albion striker Ash Hunter in a front three.
Burns was the unfortunate striker to miss out on a place in the starting XI and he showed Pressley exactly what he was made of when he came off the bench.
Albion started all guns blazing as the lively Calum Butcher fired over in the fifth minute and Town keeper Maxwell tipped a cross off the line as the host’s sensed blood and started to pepper his goal.
The unimaginative Beavon had a shot blocked from distance and smashed the rebound past the left post.
His equally toothless partner Akins took the ball down in the box but despite a hint of handball fortunately his shot rolled straight to Maxwell.
It was all Burton with Town boss Pressley barking orders at his players and demanding they got tighter as Burton passed the ball across the park with ease.
But again the host’s were failing to fire as Akins fluffed a shot in the box and Hamza Choudhury made a meal of the follow-up in the 20th minute.
David Ball attempted the spectacular.from distance but Albion finally opened the scoring moments later.
The goal had been brewing as Adkins outfoxed McLaughlin on the left and whipped the ball past everyone to Duffy on the right. Duffy dropped his shoulder and got half a yard on Bell before blasting the ball past Maxwell.
And the host’s should have made it two minutes later as Tom Naylor ghosted in to the box unmarked and nodded the ball onto the bar.
Beavon missed a golden opportunity to make it two as the former Preston North End striker blasted the ball straight at Maxwell from just six-yards out after getting the better of Davis.
But after the 30th minute Town grew into the game as the Brewers took their foot off the gas.
Victor Nirennold whipped the ball in from the right in the 35th minute, it fizzed over Ameobi to McLaughlin at the back stick but he headed wide and the half fizzled out.
Pressley made a change at the start of the second half as Ball was replaced by Burns.
And my was it in an inspired substitution as the youngster was on the score-sheet less than two minutes after coming off the bench.
Bell stormed down the left flank past a host of yellow and black shirts before pumping the ball into the middle, over every opposition player right into the path of the only Fleetwood player in the box Burns.
The young Welshman took the ball down and with composure beyond his years fired the ball past McLaughlin to level the scores.
It was Fleetwood’s first shot on target of the whole match and it looked like it could pave the way for Pressley’s men to get a foothold on the game.
But it was not to be, as despite the hunger, energy and passion Burns brought to Town’s side he could not inspire a full-on fight back.
Ameobi was booked for tripping a Burton player and Marcus Nilsson was booked for a foul in the 53rd minute as the game became scrappy.
Maxwell made a fine save to thwart Choudhury - who had taken hairstyle inspiration from Marouane Fellaini - as he dived to his left and palmed away his low hard shot.
Duffy doubled the host’s lead in the 63rd minute as he cut in from the left and beautifully curled the ball right-footed from the top of the box past Maxwell into the goal.
But any hopes of a Fleetwood come back were written off when Grant was sent off just seconds after coming on for allegedly kicking Akins.
With Grant’s dismissal the lively Burns dropped back in to midfield and just as the game entered the final 10 minutes Fleetwood carved open the host’s and nearly pinched a point.
McLaughlin and substitute Devante Cole combined well on the right and the ball eventually fell to the unmarked Bell on the left of the box but unfortunately the left-back’s shot fizzed wide of the left post.
Within second of coming on Burton sub Mason Bennett was in the action as his cross across goal was just tipped away by Maxwell.
Bell whipped another tantalising cross into the box and into the path of Cole but the striker could not keep his header down and the ball looped over the cross bar.
If Town had nabbed a late equaliser from those two late efforts it would have been hugely unfair on Nigel Clough’s highly organised and impressive outfit - despite their toothless attack.
Town boss Pressley hailed striker Burns as a shining light after the game but bemoaned his side’s lack of desire as they appeared to roll over and let the league leaders increase their lead at the top.
Thanks to results elsewhere Town maintained their grip on 19th-place and still have a five point cushion from the drop but an annoyed Pressley wants to see an immediate response to the lacklustre performance when they host Walsall on Tuesday night.
Fleetwood: Maxwell, McLaughlin, Davies, Nilsson, Bell, Nirennold (B Grant 66), Jonsson, Ryan, Hunter, Ameobi (Cole, 72), Ball (Burns, 46). Subs not used: Gogic, T Grant, Roscoe, Deacon.
Burton: McLaughlin, Edwards, Cansdell-Sherriff, Mousinho, Beavon, Akins (Bennett, 84) Butcher (Weir, 79), McCrory, Naylor, Duffy, Choudhury (Reilly, 89). Subs not used: Bywater, Charles, Harness, Flanagan.
Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands)