PROMOTION IS BREWING!
Rowett’s ‘misfits’ see off Southend to book Wembley showdown with Fleetwood
BURTON boss Gary Rowett hailed “misfit” Adam McGurk after the striker’s second goal of the tie sent the Brewers to Wembley.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, Southend looked dead and buried when Marcus Holness headed the Brewers into an early lead.
But quick-fire strikes from Ryan Leonard and Anthony Straker pulled the hosts level before McGurk tucked away a loose ball to seal a final berth against Fleetwood.
McGurk, 25, came through the ranks at Aston Villa but retired from football after an injury-ravaged campaign saw him released in 2010.
Even after rebuilding his career with Hednesford and Tranmere, the striker faced more heartache when he was put out to pasture by Rovers last summer.
But Rowett took a chance and has been repaid with 12 goals this season – including one in both legs of the play-off semi.
“That’s what we’re about here,” said the former Derby and Birmingham defender. “We’re a team of misfits who haven’t quite made it or haven’t quite done what everyone thought they would. What we try and give them is the platform to show off.
“I said to Gurks when he came into the club ‘Listen, if you can achieve something here and go sailing off into the sunset, if you go and play in the Championship like Calvin Zola and Jacques Maghoma, I’ll be absolutely delighted’.
“We’re not a team who are going to play in the Premier League. We don’t mind being a stepping stone. As long as they show that drive and commitment when they’re here, I don’t care.
“I’m so pleased for Adam, but I’m pleased for all of them because they’ve been terrific.”
Beaten by Bradford in the play-off semis last term, Rowett feared the omens were against his side again after a wretched fortnight.
“We had about six or seven injuries, lost Ian Sharps to a poor red card,” he added. “Yesterday, the team bus even broke down before we set off. I can’t begin to tell you what we’ve had to deal with. But sometimes out of adversity comes triumph and we all wanted to put right what happened last year.”
Burton’s afternoon looked like it was going to be far easier when Marcus Holness nodded in a cross from the excellent Chris Hussey to make it 1-0.
Coming so early, the goal could easily have flattened the atmosphere and knocked the fight from Southend’s players.
In fact, it had the opposite effect, galvanising both into action. Barry Corr scuffed at a ten-yard effort, then sent a header narrowly over the bar.
But from the resulting corner, a loose ball was headed into the box and Shrimpers player of the year Ryan Leonard unleashed a spectacular bicycle kick that gave Dean Lyness no hope.
Now roared on by a fullthroated Roots Hall, Southend went for the jugular and as Burton shrivelled, Anthony Straker struck, stealing in at the back post to nod in a wonderful cross from Michael Timlin.
At that point it was one-way traffic, but while Leonard again went close just after the break, Southend’s fire had clearly fizzled.
That was the cue for McGurk, the brightest player in the box after Hussey’s free-kick was blocked, to turn home from close range.
In fairness to the home side, their kitchen sink effort was impressive, with keeper Daniel Bentley up for corners as early as the 86th minutes. But when Leonard fired wide in injury time, their golden chance had gone.
“I’m sad for the players because we’re a young group and they’ve been fantastic for me all season,” said Shrimpers boss Phil Brown.
“I think we had five or six 20year-olds out there at the end of the game but they need to use this as a learning curve now.
“Burton went through this pain last season when they lost in the semi-finals but they’ve come back stronger from that disappointment to go one step further and that’s exactly what we need to do next year now.”
SUPER MACS: Alex MacDonald jumps on the back of Burton hero Ryan McGurk, who scored the equaliser at Southend to clinch a 3-2 aggregate win
STAR MAN RYAN LEONA
nd KEY MOMENT: Burton’s Adam McGurk scores the goal that settled the tie. Inset: Marcus Holness celebrates his opener