Doncaster Rovers v Burton Albion: Brewers aren't far away from fizzing '“Â the opposition view
Of the three teams relegated last season, Burton Albion have had the toughest time mounting a push to return to the Championship.
As they prepare to visit the Keepmoat this weekend, we spoke of Brewers reporter Josh Murray of the Burton Mail to get the lowdown on Nigel Clough's side.
Q: How do you assess the season so far from Burton's perspective?
JM: Burton's season has repeatedly felt like a 'nearly but not quite' campaign - and their inconsistency is preventing them from launching a real push for the top six. Clough's Brewers play an attacking brand of football, and when it has clicked it is very effective. But in far too many games they have wasted chances and then invited the opposition in with a poor decision or defensive slip, losing games they should have won.
That is why they currently sit in that congested mid-table section of the division.Â Â
There was some frustration after a slow start left them in the relegation zone at the end of August '“Â but the general consensus is they are not too far away from clicking into a very good League One outfit.Â
The run to the Carabao Cup semi-finals has obviously been a highlight and a bit of history, too.Â
Q: Does a top six finish remain an aspiration and do you think Burton are capable of making up the deficit to do so?
JM: Nigel Clough and the players still speak of closing the gap and being in contention for the top six down the home straight.
They certainly possess the quality to do that, but the big question mark is whether they are consistent enough to string a run together to achieve it.
It's looking like teams are going to need close to 80 points to qualify for the play-offs this season and if they are to reach that tally, they're going to need at least 12 wins from their final 19 games. So far, they've not shown the form to do that.Â
Q: What business has been done so far in January and is there any more to come?
JM: Brentford right-back-cum-winger Josh Clarke arrived on loan last Friday and made his debut in Saturday's loss to Gillingham.
He is Burton's only new signing so far this month, but Nigel Clough is keen to sign a centre-back.
Q: What style of play and system does Clough favour?
JM: You can almost guarantee Burton will line up in a 4-3-3 system at the Keepmoat. That is the formation they have favoured all season, and the August arrival of Stephen Quinn to make the holding midfield role his own has only strengthened their belief in it.
They like to play at a good tempo, with Quinn pulling the strings and keeping things ticking over.
Q:Â Who are the danger men for Burton?
JM: Liam Boyce is Albion's leading scorer and is crucial to how they play. He has 10 for the season, although he has dropped away from the form of the opening months of the season.
In midfield, Scott Fraser is catching the eye. His energy and intent to get forward and support the forwards has helped him score six goals while Lucas Akins is always a danger man for Burton, too - wherever he plays. He has featured in every outfield position for Albion, and his versatility makes him a priceless operator for Clough.