Meet Town's opposition: Ex-Town striker up Burton's sleeve if needed
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Burton Albion, with a former Ipswich Town warhorse in tow, will be gunning for back-to-back wins for the first time this season when they entertain Paul Lambert's men at the Pirelli Stadium this weekend.
The Brewers may be stuck on the bottom rung of the League One ladder, with just three wins all season, but they did taste victory on their last time out thanks to a 1-0 success at Gillingham last weekend.
A goal on his debut from Hayden Carter, signed on loan from Blackburn Rovers just three days previously, ensured a first win under new boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink since the Dutchman's return to the Brewers hot seat on New Year's Day.
And a familiar face, to Town fans, made a late appearance as an 85th minute substitute for the visitors at Priestfield - striker Luke Varney, still plying his trade in the professional game at the age of 38.
He could well make a cameo appearance this weekend.
The return of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink looks sure to breath new fire into Burton's season.
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The Brewers were on a hiding to nothing under former young boss Jake Buxton, the 35-year-old ex-Derby and Mansfield centre-half overseeing just a couple of league wins before his departure just four days after Christmas.
The last straw was a 4-3 home defeat to fellow strugglers Wigan Athletic, despite the Brewers leading three times in that game.
Hasselbaink, a cult hero at the Pirelli Stadium first time around, faces a far tougher job than he faced six years ago, when the Dutchman led Buxton to the League Two title before exiting for QPR towards the end of 2015.
He has struggled to solve Buxton's immediate problems, both a bad habit of losing games and a tendency to leak far too many goals - but he found a solution to both dilemmas with last weekend's 1-0 win at Gillingham.
In fact, this was the Staffordshire club's first clean-sheet in 29 league games, stretching back to a goalless home draw against the Gills in February.
Maybe the tide is now turning, with Hasselbaink settling into his old job.
A total of 50 goals conceded in just 23 games is the prime reason why Burton are rock bottom, five points adrift of safety.
They have actually been quite effective at the other end of the pitch, to such an extent that they are the ninth highest scorers in the division with 29 bagged. They have tellingly scored four more goals than Ipswich!
Yet in defence, before last weekend's welcome win at Priestfield, they had continued to leak goals at an alarming rate, letting in 19 goals in the previous five games (all defeats) at the hands of Oxford (5-1), Wigan (4-3), Lincoln (5-1), Doncaster (3-1) and Ipswich (2-1).
Hasselbaink has signed a couple of loan players to date, while letting experienced defender Neal Eardley leave on loan to Barrow this week.
Midfielder Sean Clare was signed on loan from Oxford United yesterday, the 24-year-old having previously been on the books of Scottish Premiership side Hearts.
The previous week, centre-half Hayden Carter, who can also operate as a right-back or midfielder, arrived on loan from Blackburn and marked his debut with a 33rd minute winner at Gillingham. The 21-year-old also helped to keep that elusive clean-sheet.
HISTORY ON TOWN'S SIDE
Town have won six of the seven meetings between the two clubs, the other one ending in a goalless draw.
Keanan Bennetts and Emyr Huws scored in the narrow 2-1 home win over Burton in December, while Town's last visit to the Pirelli Stadium, Burton's home since 2005, was on the opening day of the 2019-20 campaign when Everton loanee Luke Garbutt netted the only goal of the game in a 1-0 success.
GOAL THREAT WITH VARNEY IN WINGS
Burton have no shortage of goal outlets.
Kane Hemmings leads the way with eight goals already this season, while club stalwart Lucas Akins (more than 500 games under his belt for the Brewers) has weighed in with seven (six in the league), and Joe Powell and John Brayford have both netted three league goals.
Ex-Town attacker Varney, meanwhile, has occasionally been employed as a late substitute, making four cameo appearances late in games this term. During his injury-troubled stay at Portman Road (ruptured Achilles tendon), he scored five goals in 56 league appearances between 2015 and '17.
The 38-year-old signed for Burton on a one-year deal as a player-fitness coach last summer, having previously joined them from Ipswich three years earlier, and has been introduced as a substitute on 87, 86, 89 and 85 minutes this campaign.