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Burton Albion preview and pub guide: Goal-shy Brewers next test for Brentford

Burton Albion preview and pub guide: Goal-shy Brewers next test for Brentford

Burton arrive at Griffin Park on Tuesday back in the relegation zone after the weekend’s results.

Their 3-1 home defeat to Sheffield United on Friday night, coupled with Birmingham’s 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest dropped them back into the bottom three.

The Brewers’ record suggests they are struggling at both ends of the pitch.

Their goals for total of 11 is the second lowest in the division, behind Birmingham, and their goals against record of 34 is the worst in the Championship.

Burton have failed to score in nine of their 17 league matches and have only found the net in two of their eight away games.

One of those goals came in a 4-1 defeat at Hull back in August and the other in their solitary away win at Millwall at the start of November.

Their other games on the road have resulted in goalless draws at Norwich, QPR and Bristol City and defeats at Middlesbrough (2-0), Leeds (5-0) and Nottingham Forest (2-0).

The match will be only Burton’s second visit to TW8.

They only joined the then Conference in 2002 and the Football League in 2009 and were promoted to the Championship for the first time in their history in 2016.

They avoided relegation with one match to go last season – eventually finishing 20th, two places and one point clear of the drop.

WHO’S IN CHARGE

Nigel Clough is in his second spell in charge of Burton, the club where he finished his playing career.

Embed from Getty Images

In his first spell from 1998 to 2009 he took them from the Southern League to the verge of the Football League – leaving midway through the 2008/09 season with them 13 points clear at the top of the Conference.

He rejoined them in December 2015 to replace Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who left to join QPR.

In-between he managed Derby, one of the clubs managed by his late father Brian, and Sheffield United.

In January, Clough had the chance to return to Nottingham Forest and had talks over their managerial vacancy – but decided to stay at the Pirelli Stadium.

“Having started this historic season in the Championship it is only right that we should stay and continue the job of trying to achieve the miracle of keeping Burton Albion in the Championship. Staying is the right thing to do,” he said.

As a player, he played more than 400 games in all competitions for Forest, winning two League Cups in the process, and went on to represent Liverpool and Manchester City before joining the Brewers.

He also won 14 caps for England.

LAST SEASON

Brentford ended a run of four straight defeats in Burton’s first-ever visit last December, as Scott Hogan scored his last two goals at Griffin Park for the club to give us a 2-1 win.

Hogan gave us an early lead but Jamie Ward equalised before the break. However, Hogan, who also hit the post in the first half, pounced on a loose ball early in the second half to restore our lead with his 13th Championship goal of the season.

Tom Field was denied the chance to make it 3-1 by a goalline clearance from John Brayford.

In probably our most extraordinary game of last season, Brentford overturned a 3-1 half-time deficit to win 5-3 on our first visit to the Pirelli Stadium in March.

Sergi Canos scored his first goal for the club since signing permanently to give us an early lead, but Burton turned the game on its head as Marvin Sordell scored two almost identical goals from corners and Cauley Woodrow curled in a free-kick from 20 yards.

The comeback started early in the second half when Jota slipped in Lasse Vibe to pull one back and just past the hour mark, Canos squeezed in the equaliser from a tight angle after a one-two with Vibe.

Woodrow missed a great chance to put Burton back in front and Jota then hit the post before two goals in the final five minutes sealed victory.

First, substitute Florian Jozefzoon crossed for Vibe to stretch and finish off and then another replacement, Alan McCormack, found Vibe, whose cross was converted by Jota.

To complete the joy of the travelling Bees fans, Canos appeared on the platform at Burton station while a lot of them were waiting for their train home.

 

OPPOSITION VIEW

BBC Radio Derby’s Burton Albion commentator Mike Perkins tells us how he sees the Brewers’ season panning out, why Nigel Clough is so important to their hopes and which Bees players he will be watching out for on Tuesday night.

Q – What were the general expectations from Burton fans at the start of the season – another relegation battle or a mid-table campaign – and why?

A – I don’t think anyone at Burton, fans, management, players, club officials, local media, were under any illusions that 21st place would be a huge achievement. The task in the Championship will always be to try to stay up and it has been described as a footballing miracle by many since they achieved it last season.

Whilst I often hear those following teams at the top end of the division casting doubt over the quality of the Championship this time round, there’s no doubt that the task facing Burton has become more difficult again this season.

One slight issue Brewers fans certainly do have is the slightly less swashbuckling approach their side has taken this season. It seems more than likely that can be put down to teams knowing what to expect and being less surprised when Burton do show attacking intent.

Q – How would you assess the Brewers’ season so far?

A – It has been below par. The mantra was a point a game until Christmas and stay out of the relegation zone as much as possible. Staying above the dotted line on the league table is something they did very well last season, but this year Nigel Clough’s side have had to deal with dropping below it due to indifferent form at both ends of the pitch.

Burton have generally competed but, despite that, they’ve often not looked like scoring and therefore winning games of football. That has inevitably put pressure on at the other end.

The Brewers were four points behind their own point a game target at the latest international break and my feeling was they could ultimately end up around that many points short of survival come the end of the season. That said a win with a not particularly impressive performance at Millwall in the fixture before the break meant they were out of the relegation zone going into it and I’m sure as the players and management would make a point of telling you, there’s plenty of games to go to prove that prediction wrong.

Q – Burton are the second lowest scorers in the Championship and have failed to score in nine of their 17 league games. What is the reason for that? I saw that Bristol City slammed their tactics in the goalless draw at Ashton Gate.

A – Goals are a big problem. I had a conversation with one particularly irate Bristol City fan on the bus back to the city centre after the match so I’m certainly aware of their criticisms. Given Burton had just been beaten 4-0 at home twice in a week, with both games feeling all but over after quarter of an hour and certainly done by the 30-minute mark, I’m not sure quite what they were supposed to do, so it’s possibly slightly unfair to be too critical of their approach.

That’s certainly true when you consider despite Bristol City’s dominance they didn’t do enough to win the game and nearly lost it when Marvin Sordell’s shot bound for the top corner was blocked by a home defender’s head.

That’s what Brentford will have to be on their guard against, but the reason for Burton’s lack of goals is simple – they don’t have the quality to score them and possibly even if they did, wouldn’t manage to create enough chances.

That said, the loss of record signing Liam Boyce for the season before he’d even kicked a ball competitively has been a big issue. It seemed he’d been brought in to replace the goals that would be lost when the anticipated transfer of last season’s top scorer Jackson Irvine went through. The Australian had also arrived, like Boyce, for a club record fee from Ross County, but did eventually depart for Hull, whom he’d scored his 11th and final Burton goal against before being sent off in the early weeks of the season.

Q – With 17 games gone now, how do you think the season will eventually pan out for Burton?

A – My feeling at the last international break was that they’d come up around about three or four points short of survival. Every time it looks as if they’re going to drift away towards the bottom of the table it seems they manage to find a win like the one against Millwall. That has been a cause for optimism, but they’re going to have to keep finding those sorts of results and possibly need one or two more to stay up.

Brentford will need to be the sort of game where they pick up at least a point and give themselves a chance of three in. Expect them to keep things tight, but look to make the most of any opportunities to go for the win that do present themselves.

Q – How important was Nigel Clough’s decision to stay instead of taking the Forest job last season?

A – When I began commentating on Burton I was told that’s the thing that gives them a chance this season. He says the decision was down to walking out on Burton not being the right thing to do, although it’s likely the chaotic nature in recent years, of his former club that his father managed to the European Cup, had something to do with it too.

Nigel Clough has often told me he has the best chairman in the league in Ben Robinson and the appreciation goes both ways. In fact Ben told BBC Radio Derby the club’s recent record profits were all the achievement of his manager. Despite the less than satisfactory results, the pair are seen talking after most games and the conversation certainly doesn’t appear to have turned to a change of manager which is a rarity in the Championship.

Q – Which Burton players should we watch out for?

A – Burton in many ways are a team who aren’t about individuals. The first team captain Jake Buxton though is a player who represents all the things we’re often told footballers don’t have in the modern era of the game. Honest, committed, hard-working, playing in a good old-fashioned pair of black boots. He even sported a bandage around the head after sustaining a cut, as if to emphasise the point, during the game against Millwall. His season hasn’t been as faultless as he’d have liked, having signed for Nigel Clough for a third time and rejoined the club who he was player of the year for the season they were promoted from non-league.

Lucas Akins is another who has all those attributes and is a genuinely lovely bloke. He’s risen through the divisions from League Two with Burton and provides a formidable presence as well as being a strong runner with the ball. He’s offered those strengths in a number of positions from a central striker to right-back this season.

In terms of Burton’s threat that’s also likely to come from the Huddersfield loanee Sean Scannell and the experience of Lloyd Dyer if they play in the wide attacking positions.

Q – Which Bees players will you be wary of?

A – I’m sure most visiting BBC commentators probably say the thing they’re most wary of is having time to pronounce the name of Ilias Chatzitheodoridis before the game kicks off!

In terms of what I’ll be watching out for in regards a threat to Burton in this game – pacy running at or when playing 3-5-2 between the centre-backs has caused a big issue. I see Nico Yennaris has been getting himself on the scoresheet again this season. I also remember being impressed by Romaine Sawyers as part of an entertaining Walsall side in League One so it’ll be intriguing to see how he’s looking as a Championship player now.

Brentford are also a team you hear a lot about in terms of the way they play the game and have gone about their rise through the divisions. So I’ll be keen to see who I come away thinking epitomises that, which can often be a complete surprise.

SQUAD NEWS

Burton usually play 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 after trying a 4-1-3-2 formation against Sheffield United last Friday which did not work.
They could line up like this:
Stephen Bywater
Tom Flanagan or Stephen Warnock left-back
Ben Turner and Jake Buxton centre-backs
Kyle McFadzean right-back
Tom Naylor may come in somewhere in the back line.
Midfield trio of Luke Murphy
Matty Palmer
Jamie Allen or Matty Lund
Lloyd Dyer or Lucas Akins wide left
Sean Scannell wide right
Lucas Akins (if not in a wide position or Marvin Sordell if he is)

IAN WESTBROOK

@ianwestbrook

PUBS IN BRENTFORD

For Burton fans coming down, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).

We are now back to the traditional four pubs around the ground, following the reopening of the Royal Oak.

The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.

Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.

The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.

There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.

There is a pub right by Brentford station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.

For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.

The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge with a beer deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel.

A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.

Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Rd (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.

Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.

This is relatively straight forward but can actually take longer than if you get the tube due to waiting times (overground trains come every 15 mins and the journey from Vauxhall or Waterloo to Brentford is 30 mins on the fast train – 51 mins on the slow train – so you could find it takes you over an hour including the journey from Kings Cross/Euston/Paddington).

Many fans choose the tube over the overground. It’s 35 minutes to Northfields station from Kings Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Brentford from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford pub crawl outlined above (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe, Griffin) of course. If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops).

You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.

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About The Author

Ian Westbrook

Bees fan since 1971 - been through all the ups and downs. Written about, reported on, commentated on and wittered on about all things Brentford in that time as well as watching hundreds, if not thousands of games, and loved every minute of it!

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