Albion boss looks to keep team fresh ahead of busy schedule
Albion boss Gary Rowett believes squad rotation will be the key to gaining maximum points over the festive period.
The Brewers host back-to-back home games at the Pirelli Stadium this week, firstly welcoming Northampton Town on Boxing Day and Newport County AFC on Sunday December 29 for Albion’s final game of 2013.
Rowett’s side then travel to Mansfield for the New Year’s Day fixture before heading to AFC Bournemouth for the third round of the FA Cup.
“We didn't make these changes last season and in hindsight I felt we needed to be braver and rotate the squad," said the Albion manager.
"You can't talk about the quality of the squad if you're not going to use it.
"We changed it against Hartlepool on Saturday with some of the substitutions and the team selection to a certain degree as well.”
Strikers Adam McGurk and Billy Kee were replaced during the second-half at Victoria Park and Rowett admits the decision was made with the festive fixture list in mind.
"I know sometimes that's going to make people wonder why we did take them off, but taking Billy (Kee) and Adam (McGurk) off keeps them fresh for the next few games, which are going to be difficult to get through at the same tempo we want to play with."
The manager will assess Hartlepool absentees Alex MacDonald and Lee Bell ahead of the Boxing Day fixture as they look to overcome illness and hamstring injuries respectively.
"I would hope Belly will make Boxing Day, and Alex I would hope to see as well," said Rowett.
"That's another two bodies and Rene has had a little breather today after playing three games on the bounce, again that was with half an eye on the home game.
"We need to make sure we keep people fresh rather than hope they can get through this amount of games and risk serious injuries,” he explained.
One man likely to miss the Boxing Day game is left-back Damien McCrory who had to be substituted at half-time against Hartlepool with a hamstring injury.
Zander Diamond was introduced at half-time and played right-back, with regular right-back Phil Edwards moving to left-back.
The manager was full of praise for Diamond, who has been on the periphery of the starting eleven and has had to bide his time as he looks to dislodge Ian Sharps or Shane Cansdell-Sherriff at centre-back.
"I've said about Zander (Diamond) being important and today he had to come in and play 45 minutes and I thought he was excellent.
"(Losing Damo was) probably the one downside to come out of the weekend, if you like.
"He felt his hamstring tighten, and we've got to hope that's just the travelling and the amount of games he's played.
"The timing of it is bad.”
He added: "Any other time, he might miss one game at the worst, and now the he might miss three or four.
"We'll have to have a little look at that."