A 2-2 draw for a Burton Albion against Belper Town marked the end of a promising preseason for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink‘s side. 12 players were signed, 12 players left, four academy players graduated, and the Bass Charity Vase was won with a penalties victory over Leicester City.
Promising Season Lies Ahead For Burton Albion
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s Side Have Promising Preseason
Fans returned for the first time since March 2020 for the game against Leicester and a defeat to Newcastle United. The Brewers fanbase is optimistic after last season’s great escape so the players must live up to these expectations. We take a look at the main talking points and evaluate where Burton may finish.
Injuries To Strikers May Cause Difficult Start
While the home friendlies were great for the fans, they did give manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink an unwelcome headache. Strikers Kane Hemmings and Louis Moult both picked up injuries. Moult is expected to miss five months with ankle ligament damage and while Hemmings’ hamstring injury doesn’t appear to be serious, he’s unlikely to be risked for Saturday’s opener against Shrewsbury Town.
Currently, Burton’s striker options are Aaron Amadi-Holloway (who is rumoured to be injured himself), Lucas Akins (who is better on the wing), and Josh Parker (who has only appeared in one preseason game).
The preferred option will likely be fan-favourite Akins. Akins’ hold-up play is as good as if not better than Hemmings’ but he lacks the finishing ability of Hemmings so Burton may struggle for goals to start with. New signing Holloway isn’t a goalscorer either, he’s only scored 22 goals in 225 career appearances. This leaves Burton relying on set pieces for goals, as they did for much of last season.
Burton Albion’s Squad Evaluated During Preseason
With 12 players coming in, they’ll be limited time for each new signing to make their mark. Here will go through each area of the squad and evaluate Burton’s options.
Burton Albion now has three goalkeepers that could capably be number 1. Kieran O’Hara is expected to leave but Ben Garratt and Ellery Balcombe will battle to start throughout the season. Callum Hawkins and Daniel Moore will be ready if an injury crisis strikes.
The Brewers have many options in defence too. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson will challenge the favoured John Brayford and Tom Hamer at full-back while Frazer Blake-Tracy will provide a good backup. Ryan Leak was impressed as a trialist against Leicester so was signed to provide depth at centre-back. He will look to form a solid partnership with Michael Mancienne before Michael Bostwick returns from injury.
Kieran Wallace will also return from an anterior cruciate ligament tear at some point next season and Conor Shaughnessy, Thomas O’Connor, and Deji Oshilaja can all play at the back if needed. Youngsters Ben Mclean, Luke Redfern, and Thierry Latty-Fairweather may also make their league debuts at some point.
In midfield, Hasselbaink has clearly favoured a taller, more physical profile of a player. When he arrived Stephen Quinn and Ciaran Gilligan started in midfield, two smaller players who try to make up for their lack of height with their work rate. As a result, Burton Albion would struggle to control games and be dominated in midfield.
With the signings of Oshilaja, O’Connor, and Shaughnessy, Burton should be able to win the midfield battle and create enough chances for the attackers. Bryn Morris only briefly appeared in the home friendlies but he will provide even more physical presence along with composure on the ball. Ciaran Gilligan has barely been involved in 2021 and should look for a loan move. Terry Taylor is the only midfielder left from last season’s survival team as both Sean Clare and Ryan Edwards departed. Taylor joined from Wolves in January and will look to become a key player this season.
Jonny Smith and Joe Powell will look to continue last season’s form, while Jacob Maddox and Omari Patrick will bring some pace and skill to the attack. Danny Rowe rejoined The Brewers after signing on a free in February but has barely appeared in the preseason and may be injured. The signing of Patrick continues Burton’s commitment to giving players from lower leagues a chance. Tom Hamer, Jonny Smith, Mike Fondop, and Borthwick-Jackson were all signed from League 2 or below. The success of Smith and Hamer shows the method can be successful so Burton will hope for more of the same with Patrick.
As mentioned before, Burton may struggle for goals until Hemmings returns so another striker may be needed. Lucas Akins will try to hold on to his starting position for one more season at least. The winger scored 9 goals last season but registered no assists so will need to improve his creativity to keep his place.
Burton Albion’s Promotion Hopes
Overall, Burton has assembled a solid squad going into the new season. One or two loan signings may be needed to bolster numbers at centre-back and striker but apart from that, the squad has strength in depth everywhere. In any ordinary season, Burton Albion would be considered promotion hopefuls but this season is different.
Good Preseason Needed Ahead of Tough League One Season
League One has possessed clubs bigger than it for a while now but this season it really is stronger than ever. Ipswich Town, Sunderland, Portsmouth, Sheffield Wednesday, and Bolton Wanderers will all consider their clubs bigger than League One. Wycombe and Burton both beat Leicester in preseason and Rotherham United is a typical ‘yoyo’ club.
Burton‘s aim should be to start the season well and go from there. League One is always hard to predict and no one predicted Burton’s early season struggle this time last year. If The Brewers can start the season strongly, they can look at promotion but the target, for now, should be avoiding a relegation battle.
Main Image Credit
Embed from Getty Images