The importance of tonight is so high that the old “cup final” quotes are doing the rounds with Gary Johnson using the description to get an atmosphere going this evening at Burton. The difference is that cup final defeats usually just leave you dejected at being runners up, not staring at an uncertain future that would hang in the balance should the result go against you.
The target of winning for the first time in thirteen is less important than winning meaning what it would mean tonight. That being some breathing space and seven points worth of a gap between ourselves and Barnet going into the final six games of the season. It all adds up to a tense, nail biting evening whether you’re at The Pirelli Stadium or not.
We only have to cast our minds back to two recent games between the sides to know that we could be in trouble. Two out of the three meetings we’ve had since Albion rejoined the league have ended 3-2 to the Brewers (the other a 1-1 Sixfields draw) and on both of those occasions we’ve found ourselves three down in the first half.
So Plan A will be to score first, to get in the game and not collapse to leave ourselves frantically fighting back. Plans B and C, probably even D could be needed but it’s fair to say we need this. Burton will feel exactly the same though as their mid-week win last week was cancelled out by Barnet’s 4-1 victory on Saturday at the Pirelli. A win for them and they’ll see themselves as pretty much safe with a couple more games in hand to follow.
The Cobblers look set to be without Andy Holt, someone we really need in this sort of games and are definitely without another, in Ryan Gilligan who will be out for the rest of the season. Gary Johnson has indicated that changes could be made so that could mean Leon McKenzie returning to the starting line-up.
A bonus story line to the evening of course is the return to Burton of Shaun Harrad who will hopefully score the customary goal against the former club. Harrad missed out on a quick fire appearance against his old mates when he was suspended for the game at Sixfields that cost Sammo his job back in March but will be fired up to get stuck in tonight.
Burton have Russ Penn back from suspension this evening after sitting out of the last two games. Penn picked up his tenth booking of the season in the 3-0 reverse at Oxford but is back in contention tonight to leave Paul Boertian as their only absentee.
The thing spurring them on tonight is the thought of going above Town with victory and the hopes of burying the shocking 4-1 home defeat to Barnet at the weekend.
Steve Kabba’s return to his old club was the catalyst for Barnet’s success on that day…if only Shaun Harrad can do the same then we will all sleep a lot easier tonight!
Tonight’s other League Two action
Wycombe’s ambitions of catching Chesterfield must surely now be ending but they can take a step towards League One football with victory at Hereford this evening. Wanderers kept up the pace with a 2-0 home win over Stockport on Saturday and with most around them picking up points it was a crucial three points. More of the same tonight and they’ll be well on the way to automatic promotion. Hereford won’t want to be reminded of their last outing in mid-week, a 4-0 reverse at Accrington last Wednesday but they did pick up a decent point at Gillingham on Saturday.
Accrington themselves know that a draw will be enough to take them into the top seven on goals scored but victory tonight against Southend would be an eighth straight home win in the league. The Shrimpers have disappointingly slipped away from the top seven over the last few weeks and tonight surely is their final chance to get back in the thick of things. If they can upset the form book and take home three points from the game, they would be back in the top half and six points from the top seven.
The final game of the night sees two sides moving away from the relegation zone clash at Moss Rose. Macclesfield won at Bradford back in November and the two sides meet again tonight. The Bantams have Peter Jackson in charge now and despite a good start to his reign, two defeats recently have got the nerves jangling again and his side will be desperate to put their fears finally to bed. Macc are two points better off but have lost their last three games, making tonight a crunch one for two teams clambering for a final move away from the bottom.