Gary Rowett thrilled – and relieved – by recovery from defeat at Barnet
GARY Rowett hailed Burton Albion's post-Christmas double victory but admitted that he had been worried about his side's form after their defeat at Barnet the Friday before.
The Brewers bounced back from that by beating Rochdale 3-2 on Boxing Day before Saturday's clinical 2-0 win over Southend United
"If I'm being honest, after the Barnet game, I was a little bit concerned that we might just let it slip," said the Brewers boss.
"We'd just come off the boil a little bit but I think these last two games have really refocused the players and will give them extra belief to take into the New Year.
"I thought we were absolutely magnificent in terms of our work-rate against Southend.
"We created some good opportunities. I don't think you will create as many as you'd like to against a team like Southend – they've not conceded a lot of goals in the last 10 games, when they've been on a fantastic run.
"But we proved again that, if we're on our mettle, we do the right things and we work hard enough as a team, we'll cause anybody problems."
First-half goals from top scorer Calvin Zola and Lee Bell gave Burton a 2-0 cushion and Rowett was delighted with the way the Brewers then coped with Southend's attempts to fight back, especially after Nathan Stanton was sent off for a second yellow card in the 74th minute.
"They tried to throw it at us in the second half, when they put (centre-half) Ryan Cresswell up there but when you deal with the first ball – at either end – it stops their momentum," said Rowett.
"Even with 10 men, we limited them to very few chances and that just goes to show what a great group we have at the moment.
"With 10 men, you have to accept that you're going to have to defend. If it's 0-0, you have a different approach but the fact that we were 2-0 up, you just sit in there and keep on heading balls away.
"It's not pretty at times but it becomes about winning the game. We'd entertained a bit in the first half and got ourselves two up.
"So I'll have a go at the occasional midfielder then who tries to get a bit of glory ending up in their box when we're down to 10 men.
"What happens then is the keeper catches it and we're two men short in the middle of the pitch.
"You can't work so hard and then let that happen, so it's important that we become more and more professional and tougher as a group."
Rowett was not so happy that Stanton got involved in a confrontation with Southend's Luke Prosser to collect his second yellow card.
"It was stupid of someone of Stanno's experience even to be next to someone and allow them to do that," said the manager.
"It gave the referee a chance to send him off and he has to show more experience than that.
"But Aaron Webster cane on and did well. I think the game suited him, because he could just sit in there and head balls. There were times when he was up against Cresswell and he'll head balls against anyone.
"It shows again that we have players absolutely chomping at the bit. I could easily have changed three or four for this game and it's unfortunate for them that I didn't do that.
"But we have a really strong group and no-one's given me an ounce of problems so far."
Rowett had further praise for goalkeeper Dean Lyness, whose handling was immaculate in difficult conditions, and for groundsman Simon Marshall, who made the sodden pitch playable.
"Dean Lyness has been fantastic – and credit to (goalkeeping coach) Kevin Poole," he said.
"He spotted Adam Legzdins and obviously made the club a bit of money on that deal.
"If we keep going like this with Dean, I think he's another one who's going to attract people.
"He's been brilliant, technically. He's a fantastic keeper. He just needs to learn a bit of game intelligence sometimes but he's doing that better and better with each game.
"Also, thanks to Simon for getting the game on at all, which was a huge task with the amount of rain that fell.
"The pitch held up really well, although it was awkward.
"That's doubles against two very different teams, which pleases me; one a passing team with a lot of movement and the other a really physically strong team. I think we've been fantastic over the two games."