Gary Rowett ponders Burton's away conundrum as they take on bottom club
BURTON Albion travel to Barnet tonight with manager Gary Rowett still pre-occupied with the need to improve their away form.
It means Rowett is wrestling with a conundrum ahead of the game – just how adventurous to be against League Two's rock-bottom club.
Although Burton have won three and drawn three of 11 games on their travels, they have scored only seven times.
Rowett is becoming convinced that their best efforts have come playing with Calvin Zola as a loan striker, with two wide men joining in and central midfielder Robbie Weir given licence to join the attack as much as possible.
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For that reason, he may resist the temptation to play a second striker tonight.
"Our current away form has not been good enough and we have to find a way of improving it," said Rowett.
"So we've sat down with the players and talked it through and I'm fairly confident that they have bought into what we're trying to do.
"Put is this way, if they don't buy into it, they're not likely to be playing!
"We started the season playing two up front away from home but we didn't get as much as we'd like out of 4-4-2.
"If you look back, the best results away from home have come playing 4-5-1."
The decision to go with 4-5-1 at Chesterfield last week, when the Brewers drew 1-1 against an in-form Spireites, looked especially tough on striker Billy Kee.
He had scored the only goal in a 4-4-2 line-up at home to Accrington Stanley the week before and had looked back in the sort of form which made him such a hit last season.
But now Rowett is also considering the option of playing one of the strikers – Kee probably fitting the bill – further back in the 4-5-1 formation.
"I know it's disappointing for the strikers who miss out and one option I've been looking at is whether one of the strikers can be fitted into the system away from home, either playing in the middle or out wide," said Rowett.
"If we could do that, we wouldn't have to change the personnel as often after we've played 4-4-2 at home, which we'll always do.
"In the end though, it's about the players. If you have the best team in the division, you can play how you want. Players make formations."
Added to Rowett's thoughts is the fact that a key man is missing tomorrow, holding midfielder Lee Bell having collected his fifth booking of the season at Chesterfield to incur a one-match suspension.
Bell would be replaced by Kee if Burton were to go with a 4-4-2 set-up. But he could also be replaced by Kee or fit-again club captain John McGrath in a 4-5-1.
Whichever way Rowett chooses, there will be no under-estimating Barnet, who are likely to include their player-coach, 39-year-old Dutch legend Edgar Davids.
"Barnet are unbeaten in four games at home and, of course, they've beaten us a couple of times in recent seasons," said Rowett.
"We've also lost to Aldershot and Wycombe, two teams who were down there, so you take nothing for granted.
"We'll respect Edgar Davids but we'll treat him just like any other League Two player.
"It will be important not to give him – or anyone else – too much time and space on the ball."
Tonight's game kicks off at 8pm.