Sharps to step in as Brewers bid to take the sting out of Bees' revival under Davids
IAN Sharps is set for his Burton Albion debut tomorrow as the Brewers aim to change their fortunes against perennial League two strugglers Barnet.
Sharps, signed on loan from Rotherham United last week, is likely to line up alongside captain Zander Diamond in what could, potentially, be a formidable central defensive partnership.
They will seek to counter a Barnet side who have won on each of their last two visits to the Pirelli Stadium – as well as beating the Brewers 3-2 at Underhill in December.
On both of the previous occasions, it has been win or bust for the Bees, as they have fought desperately to avoid dropping out of the Football League.
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Two seasons ago, former Burton striker Steve Kabba scored all four goals as the London side embarrassed the Brewers 4-1.
And, last season, Burton took the lead on the last day of the season before Barnet hit back to win 2-1 – staying up in the process.
This time, they are in a somewhat healthier position, having climbed out of the relegation places with a run of four wins in six matches which began with the win over Burton.
"It has been a must-win for them the last two times they have come here," said Burton manager Gary Rowett.
"But I don't really look at the situation we or other teams are in.
"We try to take games in isolation and try to win them.
"They won 2-1 here last year but it was another game which we should have been in control of.
"We were a goal up and Calvin Zola missed a penalty to make it 2-0, which would probably have made it a different result."
When Barnet began their recent run of good form, former Holland international Edgar Davids was their player-coach, working under Mark Robson, but they have since dispensed with Robson's services, putting Davids in sole charge, and Rowett sees a difference in how they are playing.
"They've beaten Gillingham and Rotherham away, which we haven't managed, so they've got to be respected," he said.
"I think that what you've seen since Davids has been in charge has been a more European look to the way they play, especially away from home.
"They work very hard on their shape, as we try to do. They've been playing 4-5-1 away, looking to break and get a goal."
That is how Rowett has been tending to point Burton in away games recently but the difference between their home and away form is marked – they have lost their last three away matches (albeit one of them in the FA Cup at Leicester City) and won their last three home games.
Rowett thinks that particular current form statistic is probably coincidental but he also thinks the points return from it is acceptable.
"What I'd say is that it's good enough to get in the play-offs," he said.
"It's one-and-a-half points a game. If we were to win every home game between now and the end of the season – great.
"If we don't, then we'll have to find a way to win some on the road.
"And there's no one right or wrong way to do it. We're still trying to find the best way.
"It's funny – we were talking to them at Northampton after last week's game.
"They had a worse away record than us and said they were thinking of playing the way we have been away, to see if it worked.
"They went to Aldershot on Tuesday, only had two shots all night and won, which put them put up to third. So who's to say which is the right way?"
The best news for Rowett is that he approaches tomorrow's game with a fully-fit squad, having had several players nursing injuries in the build-up last week.
Calvin Zola and Lee Bell have both been able to train all week, while goalkeeper Stuart Tomlinson has tucked another reserve game under his belt as he returns to full fitness after his knee injury.