Gary Rowett looks ahead to Saturday's League 2 fixtureBurton Albion head to London on Saturday to take on AFC Wimbledon looking to consolidate their position in third place in the npower League 2 table and attempting to build on Tuesday evening's encouraging away performance at Oxford United. the 1-1 draw at the Kassam Stadium brought a first away League point of the calendar year and helped propel the Brewers into the automatic promotion places.
Manager Gary Rowett was keen to stress the important of building on last Saturday's battling victory against Barnet but is taking nothing for granted against a Wombles side who gained an impressive point against the side directly above the Brewers in the table, Port Vale, in their last home outing.
"It was crucial to pick something up from Oxford on Tuesday so that we could build on the win against Barnet" explained Rowett, "The fact that we moved into third place in the table on Tuesday night with that point on the road that we have been looking for will, I am sure, spur the players on to extend that run. However, Saturday is not going to be an easy game. They (Wimbledon) gave Port Vale a very difficult game and were unfortunate to only come out of the game with a 2-2 draw in their last home outing. They have certainly picked up recently so we have got to go down there and do what we think is right, be competitive and see if we can build on our recent good form."
Albion will be looking to complete a league double over the Wombles after beating them in the first home league game of the season in a comprehensive 6-2 victory. Wimbledon have since replaced the then manager, Terry Brown, with former Dons defender Neal Ardley and there has been a significant turnover of players at the Cherry Red Records Stadium meaning that the side that faces the Brewers will be barely recogniseable from the one that was beaten at the Pirelli Stadium
"I dont think anyone expects them to have anything resembling the side that came to Burton earlier in the season" Rowett continued, "The players that are left from that game will no doubt want to erase that one from the memory and it will be a very different game this weekend. It will be like playing a new side but we will judge it like we do every game. We will see what they are good at and judge it for ourselves and see what we think we need to do to go and get a result either way."
AFC Wimbledon go into the game bottom of the League 2 table and Albion's record against sides at the bottom this season has not been good folllowing defeats to Aldershot, Wycombe and Barnet when they were at the foot of the table and Rowett is keen to focus his team on having the same mentality against the lower sides as against the top sides in League 2, against whom the Brewers have much better records this season.
"In this league you have to give every side respect" Rowett explained, "Once you go into a game thinking that the opposition are low down in the League then that is a dangerous mentality to go into the game with. Maybe that is something that we need to look at. When we have played the sides near the top we have performed better against them. Currently our away form is not good enough to be able to look at it like that and we have to go on our travels and play to our maximum levels to get anything be that away to Port Vale or away to AFC Wimbledon."
Games between the Brewers and the Wombles have so far been goal-laden affairs with no less than seventeen goals in the three previous meetings. Last season's corresponding fixture saw four goals in the back of Albion's net in one of Gary Rowett's first games as caretaker manager of the Brewers and is a game that the Brewers boss is keen to put right this time around with a much different squad to the one that took to the field last season.
Rowett said, "Last season's game certainly wasnt one of the highlights of my time as caretaker manager. It was a very disappointing game but probably symptomatic of our current season early away form. It started off as a tight game but then we found ourselves behind and we ended up being too open as we tried to get back into the game and we got caught on the break with two of the goals right at the end in stoppage time. I dont think the scoreline accurately reflected that game and we wont worry too much about that one when we go there this weekend. There aren't many of this current team that were involved that day which shows how much we have moved on and we will not focus on our last visit too much at all."
The Brewers boss will have to wrestle with the dilemma of what formation to play away to the Wombles although there will surely be a temptation to stick with the 4-4-2 that earned the point at Oxford United although it is not guaranteed that it will be an unchanged side.
"We have slight doubts about both Calvin (Zola) and Damien (McCrory) who have both picked up knocks" Rowett explained, "Both are slight doubts for Saturday but we will wait and see on Friday morning and we will make last minute decisions on those two to give them as much time as possible to be declared fit to play. I think what is crucial with that as well is that the two new lads (Michael Symes and Alex MacDonald) will come straight into the equation in terms of the squad so we have plenty of options."
AFC Wimbledon were busy on transfer deadline day with striker Byron Harrison leaving for Cheltenham Town but Crawley Town frontman Gary Alexander joining on loan to bolster the Wombles front line. Versatile Bournemouth man Jonathan Meades extended his loan deal with the club and Wimbledon could also give a debut to former Hereford United midfielder Harry Pell who joined earlier this week.
Neal Ardley has guided his side to an unbeaten run since the turn of the year with away wins at Torquay United and Rochdale followed up by home draws with Wycombe Wanderers and Port Vale, both by 2-2 scorelines.
The referee for this weekend's game is Lancashire's Jeremy Simpson who is in his first season on the Football League list. Mr Simpson has seen action at the Pirelli Stadium where he refereed the 1-1 draw against Bristol Rovers and has also taken charge of an AFC Wimbledon game just the once, their 1-1 draw away to Fleetwood Town back in October. Mr Simpson has issued 51 yellow cards and 3 red cards in his sixteen games this season.
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