GARY Rowett was pleased to seal a home tie first against Southend in the League Two play-offs after his Burton Albion side lost 1-0 to the Shrimpers.
Barry Corr’s strike on 22 minutes was all that separated the sides at Roots Hall on Saturday.
The result – coupled with York’s 2-2 draw at Scunthorpe – meant the Brewers dropped a place to sixth and will face Southend in the play-offs, with the home tie first at the Pirelli Stadium on Sunday.
“That’s what we wanted if you asked us to pick,” said Albion boss Rowett. “I would never be arrogant enough to pick which side I want to play because I think that’s not the sort of thing you say as a manager.
“In truth, they’re all good sides and are deservedly in those four play-off places.
“Home first is what we would’ve chosen.
“I’m not suggesting we would’ve manipulated today’s result according to that.
“But we knew what the scores were and the outcomes were, so therefore we weren’t too disappointed with keeping the game tight here, coping pretty well with lots of things Southend did and playing the first leg at home.
“That’s what we wanted, so I’m pleased and now we’ve got to make sure that we’re as positive as we can be.
“We’ve spoken to the players about it and have been preparing for these play-off games now physically for the last two or three weeks and that’s going to stand us in good stead.”
It was quite an even battle in Essex on Saturday, something which cheered Rowett, despite the result.
The Brewers had rested Ian Sharps and Billy Kee - the latter had been slightly ill in the week - and did not risk Adam McGurk (groin).
The manager is confident his full-strength team will do better against the Shrimpers.
“What’s important for us today is there wasn’t an awful lot in the game and that’s Southend’s strongest side,” he said.
“For us we know we’ll be much, much stronger come the play-offs because we’ll have more players available.
“I’m not too disappointed with that, restricting Southend to three shots on target away from home.
“I was actually quite pleased.”
Rowett admitted that resting some players and setting up in a 4-5-1 formation allowed him to learn one or two things about Southend ahead of the play-offs.
“People probably won’t realise that there were one or two things we did to learn a little bit about them, in truth, to see what we’ll need when we come here away from home, what we can do and what we might not be able to do,” he said.
“I think we learned a little bit of both and we’ve perhaps made my team selection a little bit clearer.
“We’ve had quite a bit of the play second half without perhaps having that extra little bit of cutting edge.
“I thought Knowlesy (Dom Knowes) made a little bit of a difference coming on with a bit of movement up there, so I was quite pleased with him.
“I felt we dealt quite well with what they had to throw at us.
“That’s the side that Southend have played more or less for the last 15 games of the season.
“We know we can cope with that get much better ourselves.”
Rowett also said that in recent weeks he has been picking sides with the play-offs in mind.
Injuries to key men have bitten hard, but the manager has adapted his squad to cover.
“I think if you’d have asked me a month ago my team selection would’ve been quite easy,” he said.
“As it is, Damien McCrory is out for the season, Jimmy Phillips is out for the season and Shane (Cansdell-Sherriff) might not be fit until next season.
“So, I think what we’ve had to do with that is readjust. There won’t be many sides - you take Barry Corr and couple of other players out of Southend’s side - and I’m sure they wouldn’t be quite the same team.
“That’s why I’ve to chop and change for the last six or seven games to make sure we get everyone through fit enough and willing enough to be ready for these play-off games.
“I know that’s probably been frustrating for one or two of the fans, who want to go and win these games and go into the play-offs off the back of some great wins.
“But they’re one-offs and we’ve got to deal with these injuries and we will definitely have a couple of players back for next weekend and that’s the important bit for us.
“We knew that and we couldn’t risk them today, but certainly there’ll be changes and we’ll be much stronger next week.”