Brewers at least starting to settle
BURTON Albion endured a lessthan-encouraging opening month to their League One return.
But there has been a sense in the past fortnight of things levelling out and the Brewers beginning to get up to speed as they look to stage a bid for promotion straight back to the heights of the Championship.
Things have not settled down just yet.
The injury woes of pre-season and the early stages of the campaign are still lingering, with several senior defenders still battling back and Albion’s two first-choice goalkeepers now both on the sidelines.
As Nigel Clough put it in his preSunderland press conference: “We’re certainly not there and the finished article yet and will not be until we get everybody available.”
More and more members of the squad, though, are approaching the levels of fitness and form they would have liked to have hit after pre-season. Crucially, Burton have more options, too.
Since the deflating 3-1 defeat at Oxford United on August 25, Albion have steadily built some momentum.
The Carabao Cup triumph over Aston
Villa could yet prove to be a springboard.
The addition of four loan signings in the three days after, plus the fact that Liam Boyce remained a Burton player after interest from elsewhere, added to the positivity.
Four points have been taken from their subsequent two League matches.
That might have been six had they held on to a one-goal lead at Accrington Stanley but the Brewers’ system of play looks more fluid and effective with each passing match and player combinations are beginning to build across the field.
Those combinations – and much more – will be tested over the next two weekends. Albion host Sunderland at the Pirelli Stadium today, before travelling to Barnsley seven days later.
It provides a chance for Burton to test themselves against the two sides relegated alongside them from the Championship in May, both of whom have enjoyed impressive, unbeaten starts to the new campaign.
They will be a couple of tough assignments for Clough’s side, especially with injuries hitting their goalkeeping department.
But seven games into the season and following the promising displays against AFC Wimbledon and Accrington, there is an opportunity for Albion to show that they are settling into consistency and can soon begin to hit their strides.
Sunderland and Barnsley were among most peoples’ favourites for promotion this season and while the Brewers have taken time to readjust, that duo have shown few signs of a relegation hangover.
A couple of positive results against the Black Cats and the Tykes would be a fitting way for Burton to show they are getting closer to where they want to be.
Clough has also previously spoken about how his side will “be playing a little bit of catch-up” after the injury and selection disruptions of July and August.
In terms of their next two opponents, that is certainly the case. They are eight points adrift of Sunderland and Barnsley ahead of this weekend’s fixtures. The Black Cats have won four of their opening seven outings despite having a few injury problems of their own, although their squad is admittedly deeper than Burton’s.
Keeping pace with Jack Ross and Daniel Stendel’s teams may yet prove too tough a task for the majority of the League, including Albion.
But if the Brewers are settling into an effective rhythm and playing in the manner that Clough wants, the next eight days would be a perfect time to prove what that could mean for their season.
The Brewers’ system of play looks more fluid and effective with each passing week. Joshua Murray
Stephen Quinn shoots to open the scoring against AFC Wimbledon in the Brewers’ last home game.