Too soon for Brewers to be at crossroads after double loss?
IT MAY be a little harsh to talk about a season being at its crossroads as early as November but Gary Rowett's comments after Saturday's 3-0 defeat at Wycombe Wanderers suggested that is how it is at Burton Albion.
Rowett might also point out – and he would be right – that a season contains more than one crossroads, or pivotal moment.
But the fact is that what he was saying after the Wycombe defeat sounded familiar – it included the sort of things he was saying towards the end of last season, when he was preparing to sweep a new broom through the club.
Now that he has swept the broom and brought in a lot of his own players, he would not want to find himself thinking they had run out of steam this early in the season.
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Yet this was what he said after a thoroughly miserable, wet afternoon at Wycombe: "Sometimes, when you get to a testing period, you look at the players and see the ones that really want to kick on.
"Maybe not enough have come to the fore.
"At times in the last few games, someone's on the ball and three or four are watching him, when you want to see them running into areas to try to cause the opposition a problem."
Burton had just missed a good opportunity to establish themselves in the top five of League Two by losing to the division's two bottom clubs without scoring a goal.
It is only partial comfort to note that both Aldershot Town and Wycombe are probably in a false position – and both appear to be sorting out their problems.
The same could have been said of Dagenham & Redbridge, who were on a roll when Burton beat them 3-2 with a sparkling display a fortnight ago.
Solving that condundrum – why his side can be so good one day and so poor another – may well be occupying Rowett's mind more than this weekend's FA Cup second round tie at Crewe Alexandra.
That game, to a certain extent, will look after itself. The Brewers can go into it with the freedom and lack of pressure they took to Leicester City and which earned them a memorable 4-2 win in the Capital One Cup earlier this season.
Free at last of midweek games for a couple of weeks, Rowett and his assistant, Kevin Summerfield, can seek to point an undoubtedly talented squad back in the right direction before the arrival of Accrington Stanley at the Pirelli Stadium a week on Sunday.
"We have two more weeks now before the next League game and we have to make sure we bounce back in the way we should do," said Rowett.
"We're a team that thrives on energy. We have a bit of drive in us and that's what made us good in the earlier games.
"We have to get back to doing what we do best.
"We've just come away from where we can be."
The critics who thought Rowett was fortunate to get the manager's job after he was assistant to the dismissed Paul Peschisolido last season will have relished the last couple of results and will see them as a bubble bursting.
They are also complaining that Burton are not playing entertaining, passing football – but these are often the same people who were calling for Peschisolido's head when he was trying to play that way and losing games.
My feeling is that to take that view is to under-estimate Rowett – and to over-estimate the quality of League Two.
Sure, Burton are more, shall we say, basic than last season. But so are most teams in the division, an unavoidable fact which Rowett recognises.
When push comes to shove, can anyone argue that this is not, player-for-player, a better Burton team than last season's?
Players like Zander Diamond, Lee Bell, Anthony O'Connor and Damien McCrory are plainly stronger than most at this level, prepared to work hard and with a cussed streak which serves them well.
Robbie Weir has had a rough couple of weeks but it is a while since Burton had the non-stop, selfless energy in midfield that he provides.
Up front, Rowett is getting more from Calvin Zola, playing to his strengths, than has previously been the case and it is surely only a matter of time before Billy Kee returns to his best form.
Rowett may have allowed himself to hope for better before the last two games were lost – but he has not lost sight of the big picture.
"It is an opportunity lost because we were in a terrific position to establish ourselves in that top little section if we'd have got three or four points from these two games," he said.
"That's two poor games out of an awful lot of games.
"But the league is so tight – two or three good results would put us back up there.
"We've never said we're going to finish in the top three but we have said we want to be competitive and as good as we can be.
"We have come out of a period of a lot of games and now we can allow it to settle down and work a little bit harder to try to improve."
Burton are far from perfect, for sure, but Rowett will not have got it wrong this season if they finish mid-table, as seems likely.
After the alarms of the last two seasons, consolidation would do nicely, thank you, and anything else would be a bonus.