It’s something of a strange thought when one looks at the league tables and sees Burton Albion setting the pace at the top of League One. The Brewers currently sit second, having only been displaced by Walsall on October 10th, and seem like they could be starting to sustain a battle for promotion which has seen them accrue 25 points from 36.
What makes this observation even more astounding is that Burton are in their maiden season in League One, and have only been in the Football League as recently as 2009. Though they finished last year as League Two champions, it was anticipated – as with many newly-promoted teams – that they would be firmly in the thick of a fight to stave off relegation.
Not the case, however. The Brewer’s terrific start to the season has been build on a premise of admirable stability on and off the pitch, and a vociferously solid defence which has let slip just 6 goals this season and taken 6 clean sheets, an average – your abacus will tell you – of a goal conceded every other game.
Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink is fast developing a reputation as a very solid, tactically astute coach within the Football League. Considering he only arrived at the club early in the 14/15 season, and subsequent achieved promotion with them, he and his squad have gone from strength to strength. He has consistently chosen the same core group of players, with 16 squad members making it to 10 appearances this term, built on a sturdy defence, and an edgy attack of which a one goal difference seems to be enough for the Brewers.
In games against Swindon and Sheffield United, amongst others, Burton’s winning of these games has been preceded by their opposition having more of the ball, but being prevented from utilising it. It often means they are forced into the long ball routine, with Albion’s dominance and success at challenging for the second ball, particuarly in the air, providing a terrific platform for their attacking group – namely Mark Duffy, Lucas Akins and Stuart Beavon, to run at the opposition goal. Akin’s pace down the right hand side has proved particularly problematic for oppositions of late, whilst Beavon’s eye for goal has seen him notch 5 this campaign.
Despite the setback away at Walsall, whom many see as genuine title contenders this year, Burton’s next game is away at 23rd place Fleetwood. Much like Burton themselves, Fleetwood’s stark and rapid rise from the Conference has not gone unnoticed, so the game may prove trickier than the paper suggests. It is games like this that the Brewers have to come away from with all three points if this promotion challenge that has really kicked off so far may continue.