We go again on Wednesday against a Burton side who look well set to avoid relegation from the division at this stage of the season. The smallest club in the division by far (and probably one of the smaller clubs in League One) have done extremely well this season and are flying high after a last minute winner at Huddersfield on Saturday.
A win here will tick of a lot of boxes. Obviously winning football matches is mint and I was buzzing on Saturday night with the ten point gap and the win. A win would put us on 84 points, six away from 90 with six games to go. That would leave us needing a point a game for the rest of the season (most likely). A win would see us go into two difficult games full of confidence and also put to bed the unwelcome record we have of not being able to win home games back to back in the same week, stretching back five years.
Burton have won three, drawn eight and lost nine games away from home this season. They’ve lost the same number of away games as Reading and the least amount of games away from home in the bottom six. They’ve lost one of their last six away games (a defeat at Brighton) stretching back to mid-January. Besides the 4 1 defeat at Brighton they’ve conceded two goals in the other five games. They’ve found a formula to frustrate teams which is working. Like us, they’ve a player who has been charged with using racially motivated language but completely denies the allegation and has been found guilty by the FA despite the denials of the player and no concrete evidence. He’s their captain and best defender by all accounts so it is a problem for them.
Everything points to another tough game from a team at the bottom of the division who will come to SJP and be delighted with a point. The crowd were reasonably patient on Saturday and more of the same will be required. There are plenty of tickets left for this one.
Rafa has a habit of changing things when we’ve several games in a short space of time and with there being six more games this month there’s a chance we’ll see changes either this week or Saturday. I thought Diame, Gayle and Goufrann were withdrawn early on Saturday for this game so expect all three to start. I’d love to see Hayden come back in and the rest of the team picks itself unless Clark is unexpectedly thrust back into the side.
Expect possession from United and defense from Burton. They looked handy on the break in the away game when we beat them in December and we relied on two bits of genius from Gayle and then Diame to secure the points. Matt Ritchie has been superb of late and Shelvey looked better and better as the game progressed on Saturday (though that could have been because we were winning and he therefore was afforded more space). If our big players fire and we don’t have any defensive nightmares, this should be straight forward.
Sometimes it takes more than 45 minutes to break a stubborn team down. A win on Wednesday and we’re almost there and we go all go down to Yorkshire with a score to settle after Boxing Day. I think we’ll get it, but it might be tight.
Prediction: 1 – 0 United
Alex Hurst – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892
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