Date: 18th December 2011 at 11:18am
Written by:

This morning I should be a very happy Burton fan indeed. Almost half of the season has passed by and we are proudly sitting in sixth place in League Two, three points clear of Oxford United in eighth place.

So why do I feel so uneasy?

Where do I start? Is it the porous defence that can make even the most average of opposition players look like world-beaters? Is it the previously much written about central midfield pairing of John McGrath and Adam Bolder, or is it the fact that our manager seems blind to the things that a great many of us can see?

I will start with the defence. Individually we have many players that the majority of League Two clubs would walk over hot coals to sign for their team. In the middle we have Tony James, Ryan Austin and Nathan Stanton, all of who are now established professional footballers and all who can argue that they deserve a first-team shirt on individual ability alone. But there`s the problem – individual ability. Yesterday and last weekend were great examples of how our central defenders go walkabout during a game, leaving gaping holes for the opposition to waltz through at their leisure. We do this far too often for my liking and if we really have play-off pretensions, it is something that needs to be stamped out pretty smartish. There seems to be little communication between the back two and the consequence is that we keep shipping in goals that really should be avoided. Look at Dagenham yesterday and Crawley the week before. Their defences worked as a unit and their midfielders dropped back to support them when Burton attacked. It is simple, basic football.

Another gripe I have is that of Nathan Stanton and his constant desire to get in the faces of opposition supporters, particularly at home. Why does he do this? It is hardly helping his concentration by mouthing off at the away end, gesturing at them and showing of his biceps from the safety of the half-way line as he did against Dagenham yesterday. Apart from being disrespectful, it detracts from his game and to be honest Nathan, the way players from the bottom club in our division brushed you aside yesterday, you might want to up your game a little in respect of playing football. As WednesburyBrewer said in his match report yesterday, say what you like about footballers, but at times they aren`t too clever.

I think our full-backs are as good as you are going to get in this division and in Aaron we have one of the strongest players in the side. Danny Blanchett I remain unsure about and what worries me is the way he gets easily brushed aside by a lot of players. However as back up to Aaron for a season you can`t argue with that bit of business. On the right side we have our Mr Dependable in Andy Corbett, a player who will give 100% every time he is called on to wear the shirt. He has his critics, particularly on the Popside, but you can`t argue that positioning and distribution aside there are a lot worse out there playing for other teams and I`m happy he is a Burton player. And then there is Kevin Amankwaah and what appears to be reluctance from the club to extend the deal that runs out in a few weeks` time. OK, he is suspect when it comes to injuries, but when asked to play he has put in solid performances and seems more willing to overlap than Corbett. Whether he gets an extension I don`t know and I can only think Peschisolido may have someone else lined up for the January transfer window.

And then there is midfield and the frustration of the Bolder/McGrath pairing. Much has been written about this on this website and the main supporters` forum, and it is a situation that will continue to polarise views for as long as the manager continues to select the two of them together.

For what it is worth, my opinion is that these two are pretty much identical players who can break up opposition play, but neither has the ability to then transform possession into good attacking play. Ask yourself, when was the last time either of them played a defence-splitting ball through to create an opportunity for our attackers?

Teams know that when these two are on the pitch they can attack at will because both of them sit deep, allowing the opposition to run onto them. Russ Penn knew this back in October and every time he had the ball at his feet he ran straight at the pair of them, as did Marlon Pack, his midfield partner.

When Chris Palmer came onto the pitch as a substitute against both Oldham and Hereford two things happened. First of all we became a potent attacking force, keeping Oldham penned into their half for much of the forty five minutes he played, and against Hereford he was very much involved in the build up to our two late goals, securing a win after we had been trailing 2-1. The following week he started against AFC Wimbledon, helping the team to a 3-2 victory in what was an enjoyable game of attacking football.

The other thing that happened in these three games was that first McGrath, against Oldham and Hereford, was allowed more space to operate in and as a result was much more effective and in my mind was man of the match for his second half performance against Hereford. Against AFC Wimbledon it was Bolder in the centre with him and what happened? Bolder gets man of the match and a goal.

With Palmer in the side you don`t have central midfielders getting in each other`s way, you have space in that area and good movement off the ball. And we actually provide a potent attacking force for the opposition to have to deal with. When Bolder and McGrath are paired together we resort to “hoofball” much of the time, which is not the way to play the game.

So that`s my view and you can agree, disagree or be somewhere in between. I am happy that we are sixth in the table this morning but I worry where we will be at the end of February after we`ve played some pretty difficult games. We have the best squad collectively that I have seen in twenty eight years of watching Burton Albion, but we need it to become more of a team.