GARY Rowett will be hoping to rediscover some festive cheer when Burton Albion take on Rochdale at the Pirelli Stadium on Boxing Day after cutting an angry and frustrated figure following Friday night’s 3-2 defeat at Barnet.
A 24-minute hat-trick by Bees striker Ricky Holmes either side of half-time condemned the Brewers to a first defeat in four games, but Rowett was left fuming by a host of decisions which went against his side.
The visitors looked to be cruising after striker Billy Kee had fired them in front from the penalty spot on his return to the side on 16 minutes after midfielder Jacques Maghoma had been tripped in the box, but Holmes ensured his side went into the break on level terms by scoring in bizarre circumstances in the 42nd minute.
Dean Lyness’ clearance clattered into left-back Damien McCrory and the ball dropped kindly for Holmes to round the Brewers keeper and fire into the empty net.
Holmes added a second from the penalty spot on 52 minutes after an Elliot Johnson cross was harshly judged to have hit an Albion arm.
However, there was not doubt about Holmes’ third on 66 minutes as he fired home following a terrific run and cross by Andy Yiadom.
Maghoma pulled one back for the Brewers deep into stoppage from the third penalty of the game having been tripped himself, but it was a frustrating night for Rowett.
The Brewers boss said: “I think what you saw is that we completely dominated the first half, probably had five or six very good chances which we should have certainly scored from, and I felt at half-time really the game should have been out of reach for Barnet.” The Brewers boss pinpointed the poor goal gifted to Barnet just before half-time and a series of decisions which went against them in the run-up to the Bees’ second goal as turning points in the game.
“I think, yes, by conceding a very, very sloppy goal from our behalf - you know, the ball should have gone forward a lot earlier than it did - we give them a bit of a lifeline and you could see straight away, obviously, the goal just gave them a little bit of a lift that they didn’t have beforehand, so yes, it was very disappointing,” Rowett said.
“I think I’d probably be better off not talking about the officiating this evening because, unfortunately, you know, it had a huge, huge influence in the game.
“Firstly, the corner that was given which led up to the (second) goal has not hit any of our players – you saw straight away the shock on our players’ faces – and they gave it as a corner.
“And then he gives a penalty. I think he had his hands down by his side and the signal was that he had both hands up in the air, so you can read into that what you will.
“Listen, I take my hat off to Robbo (head coach Mark Robson) and Barnet, they beat us 3-2 fair and square, but I thought there were certain tackles in the game that were worthy of slightly more than a yellow, and by not giving anything, I think it set the pattern for the rest of the game.
“Listen, I’m not gonna start talking about that. I think the facts are that, first half, we were completely dominant and should have been three or four-nil up at the break.
“The penalty decision just gives them the extra impetus they need.
“I think the players let the frustration get to them.
“I can’t critise them too much for that because I was getting frustrated after about five minutes.
“You look at the game and Jack Dyer’s been booked for a foul that he’s won the ball clearly, Robbie Weir’s been booked for something and I really don’t know what it was for and then (Edgar) Davids squared up to Cleve (Cleveland Taylor) and Cleve got a yellow card for that, so I was bitterly disappointed with one or two things, and I think that probably affected the players’ composure from half-time onwards.” Midfielder Lee Bell could come back into the Albion line-up on Boxing Day having served a one-match suspension but, regardless of the personnel involved, Rowett has urged his side to learn to kill teams off when they are on top having lost to League Two strugglers Aldershot Town, Wycombe Wanderers and Barnet in the last month.
He said: “I think tonight underlines we’ve got to kill teams off when we’re playing that well, and I think that’s the key.
“I think the next game will be a completely different game.
“Whether Lee (Bell) comes back in or not is immaterial at the moment, but I think we need our best players challenging for places all the time.
“I’m not gonna tell you who’s gonna start the next game. At this point, I don’t think any of that is relevant.
“It’s a worry to lose any game – I don’t want to lose any game.
“We’ve created a winning mentality in the team this season, so to lose those games, I think really it’s the way we’ve lost them that’s been more frustrating.
“You know, we’ve lost against Wycombe and again been dominant first half.
“You could argue that was a similar game, where a decision’s possibly changed it for the worse for us, but then we’ve got to react a little bit better to that.”