Exciting encounter in prospect on Saturday
Burton Albion boss Gary Rowett has had something of a nightmare week in terms of trying to prepare for the visit of fellow promotion contenders Rotherham United to the Pirelli Stadium on Saturday. Suspensions and injuries have bitten deep into the Albion squad this week and the Brewers boss is still mulling over his defensive options ahead of the game.
"We have trained this week and only had one fit defender avaiable in training and that has been Marcus Holness" admitted Gary, "We are hopeful that we can add Stanno (Nathan Stanton) to that come Friday and also Anthony O'Connor will come back playing with the under-21s as well so hopefully we can add him to that list which will make three and then we are just hoping for the best with everybody else that is injured at the moment. Aaron (Webster) and Damien (McCrory) are all but ruled out of Saturday and of course Ian Sharps is ruled out and Zander (Diamond) is unavailable so that is the defence accounted for."
It also looks as if the striking options could well pick themselves as Calvin Zola struggles to shake off the effects of his injury and Billy Kee tries to shake off his ankle knock picked up in training this week - as Gary explained further.
"In terms of the striker it would appear as if both Calvin (Zola) and Billy (Kee) are close to being ruled out for the weekend. We are hopeful that one of them, probably Billy, may be able to get out onto the pitch, whether that is starting or on the bench I dont know yet but Calvin is almost certainly ruled out. Its not ideal for us but we have a strong squad now and it will be a big test of just how good our squad is right now. We will need everyone pulling in the right direction and we will need the crowd behind us more than we have ever needed them. We are going to be as competitive as we possible can."
"Alex MacDonald is another one who is a doubt still but we are hopeful that he will be able to train tomorrow and then we will have to play it by ear as to whether he will be involved. We are going to have to try one or two different team line-ups and formations in training and then hopefully come Saturday morning we will have a clear idea in our minds but it is very difficult at the moment to get the ideal preparations for that."
The Brewers boss has not ruled out the possibility of bringing in a fresh face ahead of the game but pointed out that the rules on loan players could make that a difficult option and with the relative short term nature of the injuries and unavailability of players it might not be the best course.
"The problem with going into the loan market is that you can only name five in your matchday squad and we already have that although granted, Ian Sharps cannot be involved on Saturday. Beyond that it could cause me a problem in terms of not being able to play everyone. It is still a possibility though."
"I could try and get someone in for one game or I could try and get somebody on a short term contract who is currently out of contract and both of those are options I am looking into at this moment in time but if we were to do that then, as always, it would have to be someone who I felt could add to what we have and would have to give us another option rather than have someone out of position."
The game against Rotherham United marks the start of a run of three games against sides in and around the Brewers in the fight for either an automatic promotion spot or a place in the play-offs (Rotherham, Fleetwood and Exeter) and Gary feels it is vital that Albion start to take points off their rivals to improve Albion's chances and put a dent in the hopes of their rivals especially as two of the games (Rotherham and Exeter City) are at home.
"What we have said all along is that if we want to achieve anything this season then we are going to have to beat sides like that at some stage. To stay in and around where we are we need to be taking points of these teams around us and come up with some results against those sides. Similarly those sides know that they need to be beating us if they want to push us out of our current position.
It's a challenging run of games, particularly Rotherham this weekend who are of the bigger sides, one of the big spenders in this division and they have one of the newer stadiums in this league but we can take satisfaction that one, we are a point ahead of them at this moment in time and two, it gives us something to fight for and hold on to."
The Brewers boss is also hoping for a good atmosphere at the Pirelli Stadium where a large number of visiting fans are expected to make the relatively short trip from South Yorkshire to get behind the Millers.
"It is always good when the opposition bring plenty of fans with them" admitted Gary, "but I am sure there will be good home support for us as well to help contribute towards a fantastic atmosphere. There arent that many teams, particularly in League 2 with as many home wins as we have had and I would like to think that the home fans are pretty satisfied with what they have seen so far this season and come out and really get behind us for the start of this important run of games."
Albion are yet to taste victory on home soil against the Millers with last season's 1-1 draw in the corresponding fixture the first time Rotherham had been denied the points as Calvin Zola netted for the Brewers and Shaun Harrad netted against his former club.
The referee for Saturday's game is Tyne & Wear's Eddie Ilderton who was last here at the Pirelli Stadium for the visit of Bradford City last season in a thrilling 2-2 draw.