GARY Rowett says Adam McGurk should be embraced for his raw ability after the forward netted to give Burton Albion a 1-0 lead in the League Two play-off semi-finals.
The 25-year-old striker has not always been a fans’ favourite this season, despite bagging some vital goals.
His deft finish against Southend on Sunday gives the Brewers a slender advantage going to Roots Hall on Saturday – and Rowett reckons McGurk is a class act.
“It was a brilliant finish,” said the manager. “I just think that one or two people who have occasionally questioned Adam’s performances, you can’t question his ability.
“He’s got so much ability and I think someone like that we should be trying to embrace.
“We should be trying to work with him and hoping he can be a star player for us this season and next.
“Sometimes you’ve got to put those match-winners in – Billy (Kee), Adam, Zeli (Ismail) – they were going to be important for us in the first leg and hopefully they’ll be fit for the return.”
McGurk suffered a touch of cramp against Southend, while Ismail slightly aggravated the hamstring injury he sustained against Wimbledon in March.
Rowett is hopeful both will be fit for the weekend’s second leg with a place at Wembley at stake.
“Gurks is okay,” he said. “He just cramped up. He’s not played much and only trained twice last week.
“You could argue it was a gamble to put him in, but I just felt we needed a bit of mobility up there.
“We needed a bit more pace because a) the way they defend and b) the fact that Ryan Leonard sits in there and you need someone to get in and around him.”
With Ian Sharps suspended for Saturday after his red card, Damien McCrory recovering from his knee operation and Shane Cansdell-Sherriff touch and go with an Achilles injury, the Brewers will have a very different back four to the one which has taken them to the play-offs.
Rowett, though, has faith in the replacements who will come in for his missing stars.
“We’re not getting rewarded for the bravery, effort and desire we’ve shown,” he said. “You don’t mind if you go into a game with a bit of a fighting chance because you’ve got roughly the team you’d like to play.
“But when you’ve got five or six who have to come in - and I’ve got trust in every single player - but the starting XI is the starting XI because they’ve been the ones in form all season.
“That’s what our defensive record has been based on, so we’re going to have to go there, be really brave and we’re going to have to make sure one or two put in a bigger performance than perhaps they even think they can.
“It’s all to play for.”