A frustrating yet somehow positive showing against Southend on Monday night where we looked very exposed defensively but managed to salvage a point and had the chances to win the game. Looking at individual games in isolation tends to produce ambiguous outcomes depending on your outlook. This upcoming meeting with Burton then will help guide our thoughts as to whether we should be concerned about that Southend performance or take it as a sign of a good team getting a result when playing badly.
There is of course the caveat that will obscure the analysis of this Burton game in that we are now missing George Thomas, Bryn Morris and Adam Armstrong through international duty to add to the injury losses of Jordan Willis and James Maddison. Whilst Armstrong has had less touches in recent games without Maddison in the team, alongside Jacob Murphy, he benefited from Marcus Tudgay’s presence in the second-half against Southend and Tony Mowbray is unable to put that developing understanding to the test for this game.
Losing Adam Armstrong as an option from the squad means that Tony Mowbray will have to alter the shape of the team more dramatically than he may have liked. First and foremost, it takes the threat of pace away from the team which seems to lead the team into playing with far less incisiveness meaning we’re in danger of forcing our slow defence to play further up the pitch and making the opposition counter-attack more of a risk. The new signing of Marc-Antoine Fortuné should provide us with a greater presence in the final third meaning that when we are playing that bit slower, we have more of a threat when crossing the ball into the box.
As tends to be the case with signing players at the start of September, it is unlikely that Fortuné will be fully match-fit for this game. That should lead to a line of three of Ruben Lameiras, Jacob Murphy and Jim O’Brien playing behind Marcus Tudgay, which could be pretty threatening if Tudgay can open up room for the three behind him to operate in.
Last Time We Met
It’s almost three years to the day that we faced Burton for the first and only time in a competitive fixture. It was 90 minutes of utterly turgid Johnstone’s Paint Trophy football between a Coventry City side being managed by Richard Shaw and a League Two Burton side yet to really discover their mojo under Gary Rowett. It led into a remarkable penalty shoot-out involving all 11 players from each team with Joe Murphy scoring the winner for the Sky Blues.
How Are They Doing?
Burton have recently won promotion to League One after winning League Two last season under the managership of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. A surprise choice as replacement for Gary Rowett last season after the latter moved on up to Birmingham City, Hasselbaink has managed to maintain continuity with the previous era whilst slowly adding little touches of flair to the mix. Burton are currently 3rd in the division having lost just one of their first five games, although that one loss came in their only game thus far against a side currently in the top half.
The formula for Burton’s great start has been based around having a solid defensive shape off-the-ball and being clinical when they do have possession of the ball. The squad is defined by the work-rate and solidity of players such as John Mousinho and Phil Edwards who were instrumental in leading the club to promotion last season. There is not going to be much space either between the lines of midfield and defence for us to exploit and Burton are intelligent enough with their pressing to restrict the ball over the top too.
Burton do seem to lack a natural goalscorer in attack with the hard-working duo of Stuart Beavon and Timmy Thiele mainly there to close defenders down or maintain a good defensive shape. The attacking flair will come from the two wingers Mark Duffy and Nasser El-Khayati. Duffy, on loan from Birmingham, is the team’s set-piece taker but also has good delivery in open play. El-Khayati is big and physical but can pick a pass and is a threat with his long-range shooting.
This game carries the threat that it could be a very frustrating afternoon for us, not only are we going to be trying to play a slightly different style of football to what we are used to but Burton are a very solid defensive unit who’ll be okay with a draw and confident right now to be patient enough to nick something at the other end. The signing of Marc-Antoine Fortuné though may just raise the spirits a little and at least offers something like a plan B should we fail to click into gear in this game.
I can see this game finishing as a 1-1 draw.