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FOCUS ON BURTON

22 November 2013

A look at tomorrow's opposition

Bristol Rovers travel up to the Midlands to pay their third ever visit to Burton Albion’s Pirelli Stadium this weekend. Currently in 11th spot on 24 points, the Brewers are within striking distance of the Play Off places, but have lost their last two League games.

Last season Rovers’ visit to the Pirelli Stadium started well as they dominated the first half and on 30 minutes David Clarkson received the ball on the edge of the area and with time to pick his spot, he hit a first time volley into the corner of the net to register his third goal of the season

The home side equalised on 50 minutes, when Billy Kee got in front of the Rovers defenders and glanced a header past Neil Etheridge following a free kick out on the right.

It was a disappointing goal to concede, as the free kick was needlessly conceded and Kee, one of the smaller players on the pitch, was allowed to nip in to score while Rovers seemed, momentarily, to switch off.

In the Brewers latest game opponents Dagenham and Redbridge ended a losing run of three league and cup fixtures. The Daggers were awarded a penalty after 8 minutes when Phil Edwards brought down Zavon Hines, who then slotted home from the spot. 

Hines turned provider on 54 minutes when his free-kick was headed home from close range by Luke Howell. 

Albion Boss Gary Rowett was bitterly disappointed, "The penalty was clearly not a penalty. Phil's pulled his leg away, Hines kicked his own foot and fell down, but the referee gave it and I can only be bitterly disappointed with that. 

"The second one - there's no point in me going into lots of detail but fair play to Dagenham. They were good, but I don't believe there would have been an awful lot in the game up to that point. Suddenly you're trying to chase a game at 2-0 down and you've got to try and open the game up." 

Rovers and Albion have crossed paths just four times in total, with one win to each team and two draws. Rovers lost on their first ever visit to the Midlands two years ago and last season came that 1-1 draw.

Looking at his team’s season so far, Gary Rowett admits his side are not scoring the spectacular goals they did last season but thinks they are better in other ways. They are missing the striking skills of Calvin Zola and Jacques Maghoma who have both moved on.

Rowett commented, “Last season we scored a lot of wonder goals, 10 to 15 of them. In lots of other areas I think we’ve improved.

“I still believe we’ve definitely improved as a whole group. There’s not a lot of difference in midfield we’re much of a muchness what we’re doing.

“Adam McGurk’s approach and link-up play is as good as anything I’ve seen at League Two level. But at the moment we haven’t just got that last little bit that Billy (Kee) gave us last season where he came to life in the box and haven’t got what Calvin brought to the team.

“There are lots of things we’ve done well over the last 18 months and at the moment we’ve not quite managed to do that. Wide we’ve not had the same impact. We’ve not quite had that ability to break down a defence when it’s a tight game.

“We’ve got to try to work at more ‘rubbish-looking’ goals,  more goals where we bludgeon a goal from nothing. Recently things have been down to an individual sparking something off.”

Burton defender Ian Sharps added his assessment of recent games,” We played OK against Dagenham & Redbridge but OK wasn't enough to get us anything from the visit to Victoria Road. Performances of an OK nature won't secure promotion though will they?

"We haven't played that badly but haven't played well enough to get anything. Playing OK doesn't get you wins and doesn't get you promotion but it's important not to get too high when you win or too low when you lose."

Meanwhile Rowett has been looking at improving the Brewer’s defensive abilities. Even when they had their best season last time out, finishing fourth and getting into the play-offs, they conceded 65 goals in 46 games.

This was an improvement on the 81 conceded in 2011/12, 70 in 2010/11 and 71 in 2009/10, but Rowett wants to do better and emulate the tight defence displayed by champions Gillingham last season.

“Keeping clean sheets is massive. I look at our best season in the league and we conceded somewhere in the mid-60s. If we keep going like we are it could be 50-odd. So, keeping clean sheets is massively important and keeping them doesn’t seem to be stopping us scoring goals. I’ve been really, really pleased with it”

“And if you think about it, three of those clean sheets came with Matty Palmer, an 18-year-old, playing in central midfield. You might think that would make you weaker defensively, but it hasn’t.

"Gillingham conceded only 39 goals last season as they waltzed to promotion, while Chesterfield, who missed out on the play-offs, shipped just 46.

 “Sometimes the fans can perhaps perceive it as negative but if you look at teams like Gillingham who won it last season, they did it without conceding a lot of goals. There’s something in it.

“With all due respect, there isn’t a Gillingham, Port Vale or Bradford at the moment running away with it. There are lots of good teams in the division and lots of teams cancelling each other out.

“It’s an even division and anyone with ambition is sensing a chance to be up there. Every game is winnable, where there were times last season where we thought we’d be happy with a point. Every Saturday is a big game now.”

Written by Gerry Prewett

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