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Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
This is the Toughest Relegation Scrap We Will Ever Experience – Notes for Burton Albion
Friday, 9th Feb 2018 11:07 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at Portman Road by delving into their forums.
“I’m walking back to the pub in the rain after a woeful home defeat to Reading and thinking of Goole away in the early 1980s. It rained all the way there and back and we drew 0-0 in a terrible game. We looked tonight like a team resigned to its fate but I will be at Villa, hoping for something unlikely.”
The Brewers head down to East Anglia bottom of the table having lost five games on the bounce, but their bright display in Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Villa Park erased the memory of a poor home defeat to Reading the previous Tuesday. Fans are now more optimistic that a way to safety can be navigated.
“After our performance at Villa, I am more hopeful of staying up”, “A couple of wins and we can be top of our mini-league”, “It’s a tense time to be a Brewer but we’re used to it”, “I’m not giving up yet. I don’t know a true Brewer that would”, “If we do go down, then let’s give it a bloody good go.”
“I’m proud of the fact that we must be the only club in the Championship sitting at the bottom and enjoying the season”, “Let’s be honest. We survived last season with players that are no longer with the club. When the season finished we were left with a shell of a squad that had to be rebuilt.”
“Take a look at Villa Park and then at the Pirelli Stadium. We are totally out of our league”, “It is not sustainable to survive at this level on gates of 2,700 and a ground wanting millions spent on it just to be adequate. We need a minimum 15,000 fans”, “How can we be critical? We’re enjoying the ride.”
“I understand that Clough has a massive task, I really do. I admire and respect him and used to love watching him play for us and I respect his loyalty too, but something is wrong at the moment”, “It strikes me that he doesn’t have the confidence in our fortunes changing any time in the near future.”
The 51-year-old returned to the helm in December 2015, having previously been in charge for a highly successful period between 1998 and 2009. Many rank last season’s achievement of keeping the side in the Championship ahead of his work building their foundations in non-league football.
“At times it has sounded like Nigel has had enough”, “I really hope he hasn’t lost the players with his constant reminders that we aren’t good enough”, “If you tell people that they are not good enough and that others are far better off than you, then those people will eventually end up believing you.”
Some fear that his honesty in interviews may have tipped over recently into talking down his playing squad, but this has not diminished the trust in which their manager is held. “Albion have finished in a record league position in its history in an amazing 15 of the 16 seasons he has been in charge here.”
A Change to Passing Football
“At Villa, we built from the back with a passing style that gave them a real run for their money”, “With Jacob Davenport arriving and Liam Boyce coming back from injury at the same time, we could be forgiven for thinking that the tide may be turning fortune-wise”, “We have a bit of hope now.”
Brewers at Villa Park were buoyed by marquee summer signing Liam Boyce scoring in stoppage time in his first appearance after a serious knee injury sustained in August, but it was the quality passing football played by teenage midfield debutant Jacob Davenport which transformed the team’s play.
“Kudos to Nigel for identifying that our most important piece of the puzzle was a holding midfielder who can play the ball”, “He should be praised once again for his recruitment. The new boys have brought an air of positivity and if we can find some consistency we might just survive this season.”
Clough has often played with a back three this season, but he went with a 4-1-4-1 shape (above) at Villa Park. Before Saturday’s game, fans had regularly criticised the long ball percentage football which had primarily been blamed on a lack of imagination and technique throughout the side.
“My problem is stopping the other team scoring”, “We have to protect a slow backline so we defend from the front. Teams know that we can’t deal with pace”, “We try to compensate for our sluggish defenders but have conceded 12 goals in three games. Our goals against column is embarrassing.”
Brewers worry about the age and lack of mobility of their otherwise physically strong backline. “Persisting with veterans at the back will see us go straight down to League Two. The usual culprits, Ben Turner, Kyle McFadzean and Jake Buxton pick up yellow cards almost as a weekly occurrence.”
“Davenport is a very good passer of the ball”, “His contribution at Villa was magnificent, but his presence brought about an even bigger transformation. We became a lovely passing team again with the defenders and midfield looking to play the ball out constructively instead of lumping it.”
Brewers hope that Davenport’s footballing ability will balance the industry of central partners Tom Naylor and Luke Murphy. Summer arrivals Jamie Allen and Hope Akpan have failed to establish themselves but Martin Samuelsen has quickly impressed with his creativity since arriving last month.
“We have progressed with hard-working strikers rather than prolific goalscorers.” Marvin Sordell and Luke Varney have struggled to score this season. Wingers Lloyd Dyer and Lucas Akins have been tried up front but they will now have central targets to aim for in Boyce and new arrival Darren Bent.
This new strike partnership has enthused fans. “I can’t wait to see what we look like with Bent and Boyce up front together. Potentially we have a strike force that can keep us up”, “Lloyd Dyer and Lucas Akins up front missed good chances at Villa that Bent and Boyce would have tucked away.”
Aston Villa 3 – 2 Burton
“Well done Brewers, that was much better than expected”, “A moral victory today and an enjoyable afternoon, even in defeat”, “We pushed Villa all the way and deserved more, quite frankly”, “I will most definitely take that. We will stay up if we play like this every week until the end of the season.”
Scott Hogan put the hosts ahead with a tap in on 33 minutes and Albert Adomah headed a second on 65. Ahmed Elmohamady’s own goal six minutes later brought Albion back into the game, but Jack Grealish sealed victory on 88 minutes. Boyce then added Albion’s stoppage-time consolation goal.
“We lose the game in the first half hour. We had three very presentable chances and if one had gone in, it would have put Villa on the back foot”, “I can’t remember the last time I felt proud in a defeat. We played really well and it was worlds away from the Reading display”, “We’re not quite gone yet.”
Burton 1 – 3 Reading
“I would love to sit here and say something positive but there is really nothing to say. I hope it’s not the case but I feel we have a long few months ahead”, “We looked a very poor team tonight in every area of the pitch”, “That was the most despondent I have felt walking back from a match in years.”
Jon Dadi Bodvarsson put the Royals ahead on 20 minutes after being fed by Leandro Bacuna, but Akins levelled from the penalty spot on 51 after Samuelsen was fouled. Chris Gunter’s shot restored Reading’s lead six minutes later before Bodvarsson scored his second on 68 latching on to a cross.
“There was nothing wrong with the effort but this was a frightened side utterly devoid of confidence with players looking to give the ball away rather than try and do something with it”, “I will be there next season whatever happens, but I don’t want to witness another gutless ‘hit and hope’ display.”
Fans felt that the starting shape (above) exposed both a lack of technical ability at the back and the lack of width. “I’m not sure why Clough persists with centre-backs who just hoof it forward. Play a flat back four. Bent had no service and we need more creativity in midfield and down the wings.”
Fulham 6 – 0 Burton
“A long, miserable journey home for our diehard fans”, “We were bad, but we caught Fulham on a very good day at their best. They will be up there. We never really got a sniff and it was all over at half-time”, “It wasn’t about Fulham at all, just poor gifting of goals and no substance to our play.”
Fulham put Albion to the sword with three goals either side of the interval. Rui Fonte’s brace on 18 and 34 minutes bracketed Lucas Piazon’s curling shot on 31. Ryan Sessegnon added two close range finishes on 72 and 79 before Aboubakar Kamara finally chipped a sixth goal two minutes from time.
“Fulham were having a training session, passing at will”, “Out of our depth against teams that play proper football”, “The lack of penetration and the inability to maintain pressure was a huge factor. If you are continually under pressure, there will inevitably be games when you simply get found out.”
“We could not cope.” Most watching Brewers felt that the starting line-up and formation (above) was simply way too open against a Fulham side set up to play high-tempo passing football. “The defence was ripped apart again by pace, the midfield battle was lost and the strikers disappeared.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“I see Stephen Bywater as being a good, experienced back-up.” The 36-year-old ex-Doncaster keeper played on loan for Town in 2008. “He has done a good job but it’s usually always when the ball is at a comfortable height. Anything low or away from him and he struggles a bit with his lack of agility.”
“Remember Bywater’s saves and the fact that he’s playing behind an immobile defence”, “He is very commanding and quick to spring off his line to collect or clear the ball. He’s a strong character who has kept us in a fair few games with his saves”, “The goalkeeping position is the least of our worries.”
“Kyle McFadzean is a good old-fashioned English centre-half, nothing more, nothing less.” The 30-year-old former Milton Keynes man “is one of the worst players we have in possession. His passing is absolutely appalling and he’s not quick but he’s fine as a defender, heading and getting in the way.”
Leon Best shields the ball from Kyle McFadzean
“I hope McFadzean enjoyed Craven Cottage. It’s full of shadows, now you see them, now you don’t”, “He is too slow to play in a back three and I would have a more attacking player in his place”, “If the bloke in a yellow shirt is more than five yards away, his pass is probably not going to be a good one.”
“John Brayford is a real asset and a vital player for us.” The 30-year-old former Derby and Sheffield United man “can play that right wing-back role effectively and has some pace to cover for the slower centre-halves”, “He’s an outstanding defender who has some pace to deal with quicker attackers.”
“Brayford played a great through-ball for Boyce’s goal at Villa”, “He showed his class with a defence-splitting pass”, “He can help us move the ball out of defence without having to kick it long”, “He was a crucial summer signing for us. Our defence struggles without him”, “If only he could play up front.”
“I can’t fault Jake Buxton’s effort for the team.” The 32-year-old ex-Derby and Wigan centre-back “is far too slow and struggles on the ball”, “He has done reasonably okay but it’s fair to say that his lack of pace is noticeable”, “He has looked very slow at times, I am worried that his legs may have gone.”
“Buxton is no different to 10 years ago [when he previously played for Burton], giving 100 per cent for the cause”, “He has looked leggy in the second halves of games, notably at Fulham”, “He looks exposed playing as an outside centre-back in a back three. He has a role to play but it’s very limited.”
“It should not be underestimated how difficult it was at Fulham without Turner.” The 30-year-old former Cardiff and Coventry centre-back” is still one of the best in the Championship on the left side of a defence. I can’t see us winning a game without him and the defence looks out of its depth.”
Ben Turner celebrates with his team after scoring against Town in October
“Turner is a tank, and one of our best goal threats from set pieces”, “He’s good at defending but he’s not comfortable on the ball”, “I have lost count of the number of times he hoofs it forward”, “He has a habit of lumping the ball forward at every opportunity. Just take a touch and find a midfielder.”
“Tom Naylor, despite his many plus points, is not a ball-playing midfielder.” The 26-year-old former Mansfield and Derby man “is a holding midfielder who plays in defence. He is strong, his work-rate is phenomenal and he makes crucial blocks to prevent the backline being exposed with one-on-ones.”
“The ever-reliable Naylor has been making mistakes lately”, “He had a nightmare against QPR [in a recent 3-1 home defeat before the Fulham rout], losing possession for two of their goals”, “He has mental strength and a positive attitude. I’m sure Nigel will forgive him the odd lapse on the ball.”
“Luke Murphy had 12 stitches in a gash to his shin at Villa and there was no booking for the player that did it.” The 28-year-old loan signing from Leeds is a doubt for Saturday’s game. “He’s the main protector to our backline. He’s very comfortable on the ball and can hold it up or pass it from deep.”
Tom Lawrence v Luke Murphy
“When Joe Sbarra attacks with the ball at his feet, you can see that defenders are uneasy with it.” The 19-year-old youth product has featured recently from the bench. “He just needs confidence to take the last man on, he certainly has the ability for it”, “He looks promising and plays with no fear.”
“Sbarra knows how to kick a ball. He just needs his mind to work quicker and build some strength”, “He gets outmuscled but you expect that from a young lad against seasoned professionals”, “If he can produce wonder balls like he has in every game, you can stick me up front and I will bag a couple.”
“While Jamie Allen has shown signs of promise so far, he is becoming less and less influential.” The 23-year-old summer acquisition from Rochdale “doesn’t look like he has the ability to step up to play at Championship level, but it takes time which we don’t have the luxury of giving him right now.”
“Allen is too lightweight. He must learn to control the middle of the park”, “He makes great box to box runs but his indecision means that chances go begging”, “He has played plenty of games for Rochdale but there are question marks now about his ability to perform consistently at this level.”
“Hope Akpan looked promising in pre-season but he has just not cut it when asked.” The 26-year-old former Blackburn player “could be good for us, but Nigel can’t risk waiting for him to mature into the role”, “He offers little other than a physical presence and appears to play in energy-saving mode.”
Freddie Sears v Hope Akpan's former club Blackburn
“Akpan is someone who can break up the opposition play but also has a good range of passing”, “He was one of the moderately good things when coming on for Bent against Reading”, “He doesn’t take a shot when the chances arise”, “Something is awry with Akpan, he seems to be a waste of a wage.”
“Martin Samuelsen was brought in partly with Darren Bent in mind. He can add creativity and balls into the box from the right.” The 20-year-old arrived from West Ham last month and many see the playmaker operating in a wide role. “The counter-attack will become a bigger weapon than it is now.”
“If opponents don’t know how good Samuelsen in particular has the potential to be, then they are in for a rude awakening”, “He looks exciting, a tall lad who can’t half carry a ball and he has a confident swagger about him. If he has the work-rate to match his ability, Bent will get the service he needs.”
“What a transformation brought about by one player. Davenport took the ball off our back four at every opportunity to prevent us having to lump it, and made himself available virtually every time in possession. It was a simply unbelievable performance from a 19-year-old playing his first match.”
“For those who didn’t go to Villa, Davenport was worth the £30 ticket alone.” He arrived on January deadline day on loan from Manchester City. “He can pull the strings in midfield and play a ball to a team mate’s feet 50 yards away”, “His composure will cement the link we need from back to front.”
“Lucas Akins works his backside off.” The 28-year-old ex-Stevenage man “gives his all for the club but he is most effective on the right. His touch lets him down at times in the more congested middle”, “A Trojan up front but with the best will in the world he’s not prolific and is not an out-and-out striker.”
Lucas Akins scores penalty against Town
“Akins is our only robust player who can unsettle opponents. He deserves great credit and often he creates chances through sheer endeavour”, “He’s adept at playing a central role leading the line. He is a good foil up front and will create opportunities for a goal poacher with his superb link up play.”
“Where does Dyer get his energy? I love watching him.” The 35-year-old former Leicester, Watford and Burnley winger, who had a trial with the Blues two years ago, “is a model professional. I love his attitude, he gets on with it and runs his heart out. I don’t think I have ever seen him get booked, dive or even have a crossed word with anyone.”
Luke Chambers v Lloyd Dyer
“Dyer being our top goalscorer this season says it all”, “He has been our only naturally composed finisher”, “If he’s fouled he bounces back up, he gets on with it and runs his heart out. He looks so fit”, “He always gives 100 per cent, but needs to stick to the left side where he is really dangerous.”
“Does anybody know what has happened to Luke Varney?” The 35-year-old former Town striker has been a peripheral figure lately. “He works hard up front but will only get the occasional goal”, “A bit-part player at best, he has really offered very little when coming on apart from conceding freekicks.”
“Marvin Sordell is nothing like a 20-goal striker.” The 26-year-old ex-Coventry man “needs the ball in to his feet. He’s a tricky player who can pull defenders out of position”, “We would love him to come good as a scorer but it wasn’t realistic given that we signed a League One striker making a step up.”
“We need to stop lumping the ball up to Sordell as his strength is his footwork”, “He has a role to play here, but he’s is not a target man”, “We still launch the ball up there for him. He rarely wins a header”, “He needs other quality forwards and wingers around him to bring out his best form.”
“Liam Boyce on, wow. Better again, Boyce scores!”, “I don’t care if we lost at Villa, Boyce is back.” The 26-year-old arrived in June from Ross County but suffered a serious knee injury at Shrewsbury in early August. “Our day was complete when he put the ball into the Villa net for our second goal.”
“Boyce’s goal was proper striker stuff. Keep going if there is nothing on and confidently nipping it in with one touch”, “We have had some really good strikers over the years but it has been a long time since we had anyone like Boyce. There is still plenty of time for him to help us get out of this mess.”
“Darren Bent pulling on the yellow shirt of the Brewers, who would have thought it?” The 34-year-old former Town striker arrived on loan from Derby last month and made his debut against Reading. “He will offer more of a threat than we have had this season even playing 45 minutes every week.”
Darrens Bent and Ambrose
“Bent is no prima donna despite his lofty credentials. He will get goals for Burton, that is a certain as the sun rising tomorrow”, “He’s an off the shoulder striker, like the ones that keep catching us out”, “He will get into the right positions and will get chances. His goals could be exactly what we need.”
“[Former Burton manager] Gary Rowett gets maximum credit for being instrumental in getting Bent to us, giving us a little extra hope of staying up”, “We need manage his fitness carefully, but if he can carry on his career scoring record here it could be a very interesting last few months of the season.”
Brewers’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Now we visit a pillar of Championship football with a squad value of about £18 million and only three players costing £1 million or more [sic], but a typical Mick McCarthy team, very physical and hard working. After the thrill of Villa Park, this will be a true test of character and every ball will be contested.”
“I expect to lose to Ipswich.” With key players doubtful, most Brewers expect defeat on Saturday. They played a dull scoreless draw at Norwich in September and this approach has been discussed. “Nicking a goal from nowhere and parking the bus for the rest of the game would be lovely.”
“Ipswich will probably be our toughest game for a while so it is perhaps okay that some players are out for this game”, “It’s a tough ask at the best of times but being without Tom Flanagan, Ben Turner and possibly Darren Bent makes it very difficult”, “I think I am being silly going for a 1-1 draw.”
“Ipswich are the killjoys of many a football club, dour and relentless with Waghorn, Garner and McGoldrick to sting a little.” They had plenty to say about our 2-1 October win at the Pirelli. “We took the game to Ipswich and really deserved more but sadly goalkeeping errors lost us the game.”
“Ipswich are the worst team we have come up against since entering the Championship and having taken a deserved lead we quite simply just stopped playing and handed the initiative back to them”, “I’m so disappointed but what a quality [Bersant Celina] freekick. We all knew that was going in!”
“Ipswich were pretty poor up until we scored”, “They were the worst team we have played, and we lost”, “Ipswich were garbage in the first half and that really was the time to score against them. They constantly lost possession and gave away silly freekicks. We should have made something of this”.
“The windy conditions played their part. First half Ipswich could not get out their own half because every time the keeper tried to kick it the ball was coming back at him. We overhit a lot of crosses due to misjudging the wind. We were under more pressure for the same reasons after the break.”
“A very disheartening result. We deserved more having dictated the game for long periods”, “Our keeper [Connor Ripley] got nervous and let their fans behind the goal affect him, his inexperience showed”, “Other sides’ forums can be very funny, the Ipswich one after Saturday is brilliant.”
The busiest Brewers’ message board is the polite, friendly and knowledgeable Brewers Talk.
Photo: Action Images
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