Holness aiming to stay ahead of competition after Brewers return
THE return of big centre-half Marcus Holness to Burton Albion's team in Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Cheltenham Town served to emphasise the current competition for places in the Brewers' squad.
Before he picked up a hamstring injury after an hour of the 3-1 home win against York City in September, Holness had established himself as first choice alongside Zander Diamond at the heart of the defence in a run of eight games.
The 23-year-old summer signing from Rochdale was keeping out his former Dale team-mate Nathan Stanton at that point and, indeed, it was Stanton who came on for him when he was injured.
Hamstring injuries are especially frustrating for footballers. They cannot be rushed and getting back proved a long haul for Holness.
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Once he got fit, he found that the determined and experienced Stanton was immovable in the team.
Holness's chance arrived only on Saturday because left-back Damien McCrory was suspended for one game, having picked up five bookings. With the club's other left-back, Aaron Webster, also injured, Stanton was asked to fill in at left-back.
"I was on quite a good run in the team, so it was frustrating because you know you're going to have to work for your place again," said Holness.
"But Damien McCrory got banned through bookings, so I managed to get a spot in the team again.
"I'm feeling good. I played a reserve game a couple of weeks ago and I've been back training for three or four weeks so I'm happy with my fitness.
"Hopefully, I'll be able to cement my place in the team again."
Holness has had a grandstand seat while Burton went on a run of one defeat in 12 League Two games before losing to Cheltenham on Saturday.
"The team has real good spirit," he said.
"We stick together, we know what plan we're working to and we've been getting success from it.
"It's two losses in maybe 15 games so you have to take a defeat every once in a while but we'll push on next week."
Nor were Burton outclassed by Cheltenham – as they had been in both matches against them last season.
The game seemed destined for a draw when Chris Zebroski poked in an 85th-minute winner after an almighty goalmouth scramble from a corner.
"The boys had put in a great performance for 85 minutes and I thought it had 0-0 written all over it – a nailed-on draw," said Holness.
"Then we conceded a scrappy goal from a set-piece but that's football and we have to swallow it.
"I didn't think Cheltenham had many chances. They had a lot of set-pieces but they didn't get anything from them.
"We kept clearing them and going on breaks, so it was very disappointing to concede from one once we'd defended so well throughout the game.
"The ball seemed to hit everybody's knee, shin, elbow, everything and the keeper just couldn't get hold of it.
"There was a deflection off Zander and he (Zebroksi) managed to tap it in. He was alert. But we had defended really well as a team."
Holness will hope to be involved again tomorrow night as the Brewers begin an awkward run of three games in six days with an FA Cup first round replay away to Altrincham.
It is followed by home League matches against Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday, then Aldershot Town on Tuesday night.
Holness admits that the Brewers were surprised by the quality of Altrincham's performance when the teams met at the Pirelli Stadium, Burton having to come back from two goals down and then salvage a replay with a stoppage time equaliser in the 3-3 draw.
But he is confident they will get the job done in the replay to set up a second-round tie away to Crewe Alexandra.
"We weren't really expecting them to be a good passing team and they kind of took us a bit by surprise," he said.
"We started a bit sloppily but we'll go up there, play how we played against Cheltenham, really get at them from the beginning and try to put it away early doors and have a comfortable win on our hands."