BURTON Albion will be without midfield workhorse Lee Bell in their final outing before Christmas.
The summer signing from Crewe Alexandra has been ruled out of Friday night’s League Two trip to Barnet after picking up his fifth yellow card of the campaign in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Chesterfield.
Manager Gary Rowett described the loss of Bell for the Underhill clash as “a blow” to Albion’s hopes of going four games unbeaten.
The Brewers boss said: “You never want to be without one of your most conistent or influential players — and Belly falls into that category.”
Bell was one of the stars of the show as Albion survived a second-half battering at the Proact Stadium to pick up a valuable point at the weekend.
Rowett said: “Lee has been excellent since he’s been here and when we play a system that requires someone to play the holding (midfield) role, he does it so well.
“I think as well his ability on the ball is really underrated.
“He showed in the second half at Chesterfield how good he can be when we’re under the cosh.
“He doesn’t just do his defensive stuff, but he plays with a lot of composure and has the ability to make passes that get up the pitch and help to relieve the pressure.”
Bell’s absence could pave the way for club skipper John McGrath to make his first start of the season.
Rowett last week spoke highly of the Irishman as he recovers from a serious foot injury and believes the long-serving player is close to regaining full fitness.
However, the Brewers boss could hand the responsibility to Jack Dyer — just as he did the last time Bell was ruled out through suspension.
The former Crewe man was sent off for two yellow cards on the opening day of the League Two campaign when the Brewers went down 3-0 at Rotherham United.
Dyer deputised as Albion ran out 6-2 winners against AFC Wimbledon and kept his place in the team for the following home game against Fleetwood Town.
However, Bell was back in the side that pulled off a stunning 4-2 win at Leicester City in the Capital One Cup and has since been one of the first names on the teamsheet.
Rowett said: “We have a few options in terms of replacing Lee in the side, but first we have to decide how we will approach the Barnet game.
“My gut instinct is to go back to 4-4-2 and try to play a more attacking game than we have done in the last two away games, but it hasn’t worked out that well for us on the road.
“The last time we tried it, at Wycombe, we lost 3-0, so we tried something different and we’ve beaten Crewe in the FA Cup and come away from Chesterfield with a decent point.
“It’s a difficult one because we would like to be more entertaining than we have been in the last two games, but at the same time we want results.”