PREVIEW: Burton Albion v Luton Town
A poor Easter period in terms of results finally ended Burton’s hopes of featuring in the end of season play-offs.
The Brewers had given themselves an outside chance after winning five from seven, including three victories in a row, triumphing 3-0 at Scunthope put them nine points adrift with four games left.
However they were unluckily defeated 2-1 on home soil by Portsmouth on Good Friday, after a stoppage time winner that had hints of offside and handball.
They followed that up with a 3-2 defeat at relegation-threatened Southend United on Monday, a result which saw Nigel Clough’s side remain on 60 points with two games to go and unable to catch the top six.
The boss couldn’t quite believe they finished the Easter period empty-handed either, telling the club’s official website: “To play as well as we have done the last two games and get no points is incredible.
“That’s the next step we have to make, ensuring we don’t lose these games and ultimately winning them.
“Our young players especially have to learn how to win matches.
“Reece Hutchinson and Ben Fox haven’t played much football recently and have come here where the crowd are vociferous, Southend are fighting for their lives and competing for every ball.
“It’s a hard game and it’s brilliant for them today to experience that.”
A poor start to 2019 was the main reason behind Burton spending another campaign in League One as going into the turn of the year, they were starting to build up a head of steam, hammering Rochdale 4-0 on their own patch on January 5.
However, a 9-0 battering at Manchester City in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg appeared to damage the Brewers’ league form, as they managed just one win in their next nine encounters.
Clough’s side were tough to beat in that time though, drawing six games, while they also saved some face in their return clash with Pep Guardiola’s side, losing just 1-0 at home.
Burton’s form at the Pirelli Stadium has been decent this term too, with 10 wins, proving they can beat anyone on their day, including Barnsley and Sunderland.
They have also drawn at both the promotion-chasers, while a 2-2 at Fratton Park shows they are not a side to take lightly.
Team news: Luton have Alan McCormack and Dan Potts back in light training, but both remain a doubt for the clash.
Alan Sheehan (Achilles) is out, although goalkeeper James Shea is back in contention after recovering from the illness which kept him out on Saturday.
Glen Rea (knee) and Danny Hylton (knee) will miss the rest of the season, loanee George Thorne also struggling.
The Brewers have a lengthening injury list, added to by top scorer Liam Boyce who was stretchered off on Monday with an ankle injury.
David Templeton (knee), Colin Daniel (hamstring), Scot Fraser (calf), Jake Buxton (calf) and Brad Collins (groin) are all doubts, with Collins rated as 50-50 for the weekend, Fraser having the best chance of returning.
Top scorers: Hatters – James Collins (24). Brewers – Liam Boyce (14).
Milestones: Matty Pearson made his 50th appearance for the Hatters during Tuesday night’s 2-2 draw with AFC Wimbledon.
The 25-year-old, who signed from Barnsley in the summer, has scored six goals in that time.
Man in the middle: Peter Wright - taken 35 games so far this term, showing 103 yellows and seven red cards with four of the dismissals coming in his first six matches.
Debut campaign in the Football League after spending two years in the National League, while this will be the first Luton fixture he has officiated.
Assistant referees are Andrew Hendley and Wayne Grunnill with the fourth oficial Richard Wigglesworth.
In charge: Nigel Clough – son of the legendary Brian Clough, the 53-year-old had a fine playing career, starting out with Nottingham Forest, where scored 131 goals, the second highest amount in the club’s history.
Went to Liverpool for £2.75m and Manchester City for £1.5m, then heading to Sheffield Wednesday, while he also won 14 England caps.
Became player manager of Burton in 1998 at the age of 32, spending over a decade at the club, taking them to League Two, before leaving in January 2009 season, appointed Derby County boss.
Spent four years at Pride Park, sacked in September 2013, named Sheffield United chief a month later, staying at Bramall Lane until May 2015.
Returned to Burton Albion for a second spell as manager in December 2015 and has completed over three years in charge now.
View from the opposition: Nigel Clough, talking to the club’s official website: “They are the champions-elect, they deserve it - they had an incredible run and they’ve been up there for quite some time.
“They always say it’s getting over that finishing line that is the hardest part in a lot of sports.
“I think there were nerves on Tuesday, when they conceded an equaliser in the 93rd minute at home to AFC Wimbledon.
“They will just be desperate for that victory to ensure automatic promotion, which they could get here.
“We’re expecting a lot of visiting fans, so it should be a good atmosphere, like the Portsmouth one, the Barnsley game.
“I don’t think it’s about enjoying being a party spoiler, I just think you enjoy beating the best teams in the league.
“Competing against them is the best measure that we can have, and we want to do well against them.
“It won’t be anything about spoiling Luton’s party, I hope they go up. But we want to win our last home game.”
Friendly faces: Luton striker James Collins was loaned to Burton from Aston Villa in August 2010 for three months, as he scored five goals 12 games, before being snapped up permanently by Shrewsbury in January 2011.
Defender Alex Baptiste signed for Burton from Mansfield in February 2004 for a month, playing three games in the Conference for the Brewers.
Played for both: Steve Kabba – Striker who began his career with Crystal Palace in 1988 and was loaned to Luton in March 2002 for a month.
Made just three substitute appearances in the old Division Three, his debut coming in Town’s 5-3 win over Mansfield, but failed to find the net.
Spent time with Grimsby, Sheffield United, Watford, Blackpool, Oldham and Brentford as he was loaned to Burton from the Bees in November 2008 until the end of the season.
Notched six goals in 24 matches, finally going to Barnet and then retiring at the end of 2012-13 season, aged 32.
One to watch: Lucas Akins - 30-year-old striker is something of a fans favourite after signing for the club in June 2014.
Began with Hudderfield and then went to Northwich, Hamilton, Partick, Tranmere and Stevenage before moving to the Brewers.
Never been the most prolific of forwards, with 44 goals in over 200 games, but has found some form in front of goal this term
Managed six from his first 45 games before doubling that tally in the next seven encounters, including netting in four matches on the bounce to take his tally to 12 for the campaign.
We’ve got form: Luton have made just one trip to Burton Albion in their history, going down 1-0 in League Two during November 2014, in what was Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s first match in charge of the Brewers.
Phil Edwards scored the only goal on 47 minutes as Town defender Luke Wilkinson was dismissed in stoppage time.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Michael Harriman, Scott Griffiths, Steve McNulty, Luke Wilkinson, Jonathan Smith, Jake Howells (Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu 56), Shaun Whalley, Luke Guttridge (Ricky Miller 63), Nathan Doyle (Andy Drury 71), Paul Benson.
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Fraser Franks, Luke Rooney, Mark Cullen.
Referee: James Adcock.