Will we stop the rot this evening? I can't say I'm feeling much confidence. I see that Burton have signed a new striker, Oumar Niasse, and if he's still got a bit of pace, he'll be looking forward to giving our defence the runaround. When I think of Xhemajli, I'm reminded of the Seventies joke, “What's taken to Wembley Stadium and never used?” The answer is Malcolm Macdonald but Xhemajli must be wondering if he's just on the bench to make up the numbers. I hope Neil will give him a try as surely he can't be worse than the other central defenders. We brought on two subs rather early for us on Saturday but hopefully we'll see Clarke, Roberts/Embelton and Defoe on from the start tonight. Also, I expect Pritchard will start in the middle and not stuck out on the wing like he was for too long on Saturday. Burton are mid-table and have only won once in their last five games but they must be fancying their chances today. I may go over and watch the match at the Southwark Brewery along with fellow fans but I might just watch it at home. Given the date, I suppose I should predict 2-2 but I'm going for 1-1.
I got the team-news at 7.00 and there were two changes from the last starting line-up – Gooch and Defoe were in for Neil and Dajaku. Batth was on the bench and Xhemalji wasn’t in the squad. I was pleased to see Defoe starting at last. I got the stream online and was looking forward to the game.
After thirty seconds Stewart nodded down to Defoe in their box and he almost got on the end of it so that was a promising start. After two minutes Matete made a good run through their defence and got a low shot on target. Just after that there was some kind of incident, apparently of a medical nature, in the West Stand and the ref paused the game. After eight minutes or so the teams returned to the dressing-rooms while the person concerned received medical attention. Time went on and by 8.30 we were forty minutes behind schedule so I wondered if the game would be abandoned. I wasn’t sure of the protocol involved. Anyway, by half-time the other results weren’t going well for us with Wycombe, Rotherham and MK Dons all winning and Oxford drawing. Finally, around 8.35 the adverts stopped and on the screen we could see both sides warming up again. We heard that the game would definitely restart after the players had warmed up for ten minutes. At 8.45 the match restarted, commencing from the twelfth minute, strangely. The missing eight minutes or so would be added as stoppage-time. The first item of interest was a very long throw that Burton’s Hamer took from their right and these would be very dodgy if they got many more in similar positions. We continued to do most of the pressing and in the twenty-third minute we won the first corner, which was immediately followed by another from which Doyle headed well over. Burton threatened for the first time in the thirty-second minute following another long throw from their right when Patterson saved and Evans turned out a follow-up shot for their first corner. Next thing we won a free-kick on our left after a foul on Pritchard and his shot wasn’t far off the mark. Smith fluffed a great chance for them and straight up the other end Defoe had a good effort blocked. The game was now very open and a goal looked imminent but at which end was unclear. Winchester was the first player to be yellow-carded five minutes before the break. Our rivals’ games were all around the midway point of the second-half and there’d been no significant changes in their scores. Assistant Coach Canning was also yellow-carded after a dodgy free-kick was awarded against us. Ten minutes of stoppage-time were announced so the match was likely to finish around 10.35. We’d lost our flow and Burton had been getting the better of things for a while. In the final minutes of stoppage-time we revived a bit and won a corner from which there were big shouts for handball but referee Ollie Yates ignored them. It remained goalless at the break. As Wigan had gone 2-1 up against Wycombe we’d snuck up into sixth place, for a little while at least.
By the time we kicked off again Wigan, Rotherham, Oxford and MK Dons had all won while Wycombe and Plymouth had lost. We were awarded a free-kick almost straight off but Pritchard’s shot went wide of the left post. We’d made a good start to the half but in the fifty-third minute we went behind when Smith passed to the on-running Jackson on the left of our box and when he wasn’t closed down by Winchester, his low shot had Patterson well-beaten. Winchester almost made amends at once but his stinging shot was well-saved by Garratt. On the hour Embleton replaced Evans. We created a couple of tasty moves both involving Defoe and I’d have been ‘happy’ with a draw but Burton, who’d been in no hurry before they scored, were even happier to slow things down. Clarke came on for Defoe with twenty-one minutes on the clock. Patterson did well to block a shot from sub Saydee after he’d outpaced Doyle. Neil replaced Gooch with around fifteen minutes left and there was plenty of time to grab that equaliser. We started putting a lot of pressure on and Clarke was looking creative down the left flank but Burton were of course defending in numbers. In the final minute Winchester had another great shot which Garratt tipped over for a corner. Five minutes of stoppage-time were announced and in the third minute Clarke and Pritchard combined down the left and Stewart nodded in the cross to put us level. It ended 1-1 and there was some booing as the whistle went.
Yet another disappointing result and another goal given away by poor defending. We’re back in the play-off spots, though I don’t feel like celebrating. There was no further news about the person who was taken ill but let’s hope they’re doing okay now.