Brewers need to find big finishes
BURTON Albion have been racing out of the blocks this season.
Nigel Clough and his players have regularly spoken before games about aiming to seize the initiative from kick-off, getting quickly on to the front foot and controlling the tempo from there.
At times, it has brought success. They raced into a two-goal lead by half-time in the win over Sunderland, while arguably their best 45-minute display of the campaign came at the start of the loss to Southend United last week.
The fact they did not close the game out for victory in that match, though, points to a recurring issue for Burton.
Ahead of this weekend’s fixtures, they are the only remaining side in League One not to have scored in the final 10 minutes of a League fixture this season.
Their latest goal to date came on the opening weekend, when Liam Boyce finished a close-range chance in the 71st minute (pictured) to rekindle some hope in the 2-1 loss to Rochdale.
It ultimately proved futile.
The same can be said for the last-gasp goals of some of their rivals. Not every goal scored in the closing stages of a game matters.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is the teams currently down at the bottom end of the table, with Burton, whose late efforts seem to have come in vain.
Oxford United, Plymouth Argyle, Bradford City and Bristol Rovers all have examples of netting in the final 10 minutes of defeats, with their consolations coming too late to affect the result.
But, on many occasions, those dramatic goals as the clock ticks down can prove decisive, salvaging a share of the spoils or turning a draw into victory.
The Brewers were punished by Billy Kee’s 84th-minute penalty in last month’s 1-1 draw away to Accrington Stanley, while Lynden Gooch’s goal after 96 minutes earned Sunderland the win over Charlton Athletic in August and Walsall beat Bristol Rovers last weekend with a 94th-minute strike from Kieron Morris.
Albion’s players will be keen to start adding their name to the list of last-gasp goalscorers this season.
But is Burton’s lack of goals after the hour mark an indirect result of their fast starts? Are they struggling to maintain that intensity into the late stages?
They are currently on a four-game winless run in all competitions and, in each of those matches, the Brewers have looked in control in the early exchanges, only to let their levels drop at some point later in the game.
“There’s the mental side where you start the game so well, as we did again on Saturday (in the defeat to Wycombe Wanderers), and you’re in total control for 20 minutes or so,” said Clough.
“You have a couple of chances or half-chances and you don’t score.
“But that’s where the mental strength comes in.
“They have to then say ‘we’re not giving anything away this end and if we finish 0-0, we finish 0-0.’
“But going into the last five minutes of a game, we’re as likely as anybody to get a goal if we’re at 0-0. “When you’re chasing 2-1 and they’ve got 11 men behind the ball, it’s a bit more difficult then.”
Albion need to begin showing consistency across matches and producing 90-minute performances if they are to start climbing the table.
With 12 goals after 11 matches, that means taking their chances whenever they come along, whether in the first minute or the 91st.
The penalty given away by Kyle McFadzean against Wycome Wanderers was an example of how Burton Albion have been punished for every mistake this season.