The Chairboys will look to keep up momentum at the top after a short break from fixtures, welcoming Burton Albion to Adams Park.
Burton have had a bit of a mixed bag of results in League One recently, but a few wins on the trot will have boosted confidence. How do you think the side are looking coming into this fixture?
I would say that things feel fairly positive around the place at the moment. The word I’d use to describe the Brewers recent league games is probably ‘expected’. They’ve been beaten by sides that I would consider stronger than them, but in turn got the better of teams that they would have been expected to beat. A couple of favourable fixtures has resulted in back-to-back wins and that can never be seen as a negative though!
And it feels like only yesterday that we welcomed the Brewers to Adams Park in the Papa John’s Trophy. Obviously, we are likely to see much changed teams, but is there anything that either side can take away from that game?
Not really for me. That game was the definition of a dead rubber with neither side able to progress, and that was pretty much reflected in the line-ups. The score line might have raised a couple of eyebrows but seemed less of a surprise to me when I saw the squad numbers on the back of those Wycombe shirts. A lot more strength and experience in the Burton team that night and it showed.
Aaron Amadi-Holloway looked particularly impressive in the Papa John’s game, scoring a hattrick, but who are the other Brewers players that look sharp this season?
I think it would be fair to say that Aaron Amadi-Holloway took advantage of the opposition that day. He’s only started one league match so far and featured in a handful across the season.
In terms of who’s looked sharp over the campaign though, one of the standouts would have to be Tom O’Connor. He’s a 22-year-old signed from Southampton in the summer, a versatile player who has looked best as a progressive passer in midfield. He’s also our current top scorer with 5 goals, two of them coming from corners that have gone straight in (I know you lot at Wycombe are familiar with that type of goal!) A lot of Burton’s best attacking play can come through him.
Leading the line now is young Daniel Jebbison, an 18-year-old England Youth International who’s spending the season on loan from Sheffield United. He is showing clear development in his all around game and adding goals as well. It isn’t easy being a striker in this Burton team, given the immense amount of work you often have to do off the ball and with your back to goal, but Jebbison looks like he is settling into the role well.
At the back, a quickly emerging fan favourite is Ryan Leak. He’s a 23-year-old centre-back who caught the eye whilst on trial in pre-season and soon after signed a deal with the club. Something of a no-nonsense defender, he’s adapted to life in the Football League very well and we’re all waiting for him to capitalise on one of the many set piece chances that Burton have created across the season so far.
There are a few others who can be mentioned too. Conor Shaughnessy has been ever-present in defence and provides an aerial threat in both boxes. Jonny Smith is a lively counter-attacking outlet who can be dangerous cutting into his left foot from the right-hand-side. Terry Taylor is a young midfield who sits slightly deeper than Tom O’Connor likely would but is very intelligent when in tight spaces on the pitch. And of course, you can’t really talk Burton Albion without mentioning Lucas Akins. At his 8th season at the club now, Akins has played in every single outfield position for the club and can still be called upon for goal contributions at 32. He’s not the player he was when he first came here, but it doesn’t change the level of admiration he has from the fans and the useful first team option that he always ends up being.
Is there any teams news we might’ve missed on the Burton side? Will they have an impact on how Hasselbaink will set up?
Deji Oshilaja returns from suspension in the game prior to this one (Port Vale in the FA Cup Second Round Proper). He’s been handed the captain’s armband by Hasselbaink and will likely slot back into the centre of the backline if he is available for this fixture.
Striker Louis Moult and centre-back Sam Hughes have been injured since before the campaign began, and whilst there is talk of them nearing a return, it hasn’t been confirmed yet whether or not they will make the squad. My guess for now would be that it will be closer to Christmas time and the New Year before we see them in action.
Hasselbaink has favoured a 3-4-3 formation in recent games and that could well continue here, though I would not rule out the possibility of things being mixed up. The Burton squad now has a lot of options following recent transfer windows and I think if you were to ask what the best XI is, you’d get different answers from different people.
Have you see much of Wycombe playing this season? Where do you think they’ll pose the biggest threat?
I hear all the time about how Wycombe play and I roll my eyes at the typical responses!
There’s no doubting Wycombe are a direct side, but they’re direct with purpose. I’ve always been a believer that if there was one correct way of playing football, everyone would play it. You make use of the style which best suits the players at your disposal and Gareth Ainsworth certainly does that. It’s effectiveness is reflected in the strong position Wycombe find themselves in after a historic couple of years.
In terms of who could pose the biggest threat, I think there’s a good number to worry about. Anis Mehmeti is someone I’m a big fan of after first catching sight of him back in the Championship. He undoubtedly has got a bright future in football. The Sam Vokes signing I still believe is a major coup for the level, and I couldn’t think of a more suitable club in League One for him to join.
I have to give a mention to Joe Jacobson as well for perhaps the most ridiculous quality of in-swinging set pieces I’ve come across, and of course, the Beast. He’s certainly a player I would like to see out on the pitch at some point during this game, but he’s certainly a player I don’t want to get anywhere near the ball (that’s a lot easier said than done!)
What’s your score prediction?
As much as I like the idea of Tom O’Connor and Joe Jacobson having a ‘who can score the best goal from a corner’ contest, that probably isn’t happening!
Wycombe are a very good side and the kind of team Burton have really struggled to compete with. I’m paying no attention to the recent 5-0 and instead all of it on our last two unsuccessful trips to Adams Park whilst in League One. Put it this way, with a tough Christmas schedule coming up for the Brewers, I’m taking a draw if the opportunity comes their way!
Wycombe Wanderers 2-0 Burton Albion.