Thanks to Richard Cusack of The Burton Mail for giving us The Brewers’ perspective on things going into a huge game at the bottom of the table. You can find him on Twitter @RichardCusackBM.
Last time we spoke, you said Burton were making a “pretty good go” of staying up - have the last few weeks made relegation seem more or less likely?
Any one result can change the complexion of this league dramatically, and Burton’s back-to-back defeats to QPR at home (a 3-1 loss) and Fulham (a 6-0 loss at Craven Cottage) have left Burton at the bottom of the table.
The QPR performance was the most jarring of the two. The Fulham loss was simply a battering by a team on a great run of form, but the performance against the Rs was way off the sort of levels we had seen at Reading or Sheffield Wednesday (a 3-0 win on New Year’s Day).
It was littered with mistakes, and a soft underbelly at home was exposed yet again. Burton haven’t won at home since mid-September, and in that time have collected just one point out of a possible 30 in that time at home. If they can reach the mistake-free level of performance we saw over Christmas, they’ll continue to make a good go of it.
What did you make of Reading when we met back in December?
With Reading you could see a team that had clear instructions to keep the ball and not to deviate from those. Whether the players are good enough to play that possession-based style of play is another matter. I was impressed with Modou Barrow and Leandro Bacuna – when Reading worked the ball wide and tested Burton’s defence, they threatened. They lack goals – and you don’t need me to tell you that’s always going to be a big problem in this league.
Who’s the key player in this Burton side that Reading fans should be wary of?
If he plays, it has to be Darren Bent. The Brewers signed him on loan until the end of the season from their friendly neighbours, Derby County, and he’s always going to be an asset for any team. He’s yet to make a senior appearance this season after injuring his hamstring in pre-season, so look out for him on the bench.
Should Nigel Clough deem him starting to be a risk, Reading should be wary of Lloyd Dyer. Burton look a much more threatening team when the veteran winger is on the pitch, with a genuine willingness to run at players lifting the crowd and the players.
It’s still early days, but the relegation fight is hotting up - who are your three picks to go down?
I tipped Sunderland for a double-drop at the start of the season, as my colleague Joshua Murray will attest, because I don’t think they have the quality to stay up.
I can also see Birmingham and Bolton down there at the end of the season, too. Bolton need another good run to elevate their chances, and Birmingham need to sign some players - and the clock’s ticking.
How do you see the match going, and what will the score be?
I suspect it’ll be a tight affair given both sides’ standing in the league. But, if Burton are going to win their first home game for over four months, it has to be against fellow strugglers - so I’m backing them to beat Reading 2-1.