06:00 Friday 21 February 2014

Gary Rowett: Burton Albion are better equipped to cope than on last two visits to Bristol Rovers

Written byTOM SLOAN

Gary Rowett pointing Burton in the right directionRochdale v Burton Albion Gary Rowett pointing Burton in the right directionRochdale v Burton Albion

GARY Rowett says it is a tougher Burton Albion which travels to Bristol Rovers tonight after heavy defeats at the Memorial Stadium in the last two years.

The Brewers lost 3-0 to Rovers in March last year as their travails away from home ultimately cost them automatic promotion.

And the year before the Gas demolished Albion 7-1 at the end of a difficult season when Rowett first took charge.

Only Jimmy Phillips remains from the side which got hammered two years ago – and Albion are now a much-improved travelling unit.

“I’d like to think a lot of things have changed since then,” said the Brewers boss. “We’re much more solid defensively and our away form has improved.

“We know Bristol’s home record isn’t bad and they’re a team with players that I think should be higher up the league.

“We’ll be wary of that danger.”

Adam McGurk and Chris Hussey are expected to return to the squad tonight after missing Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at Rochdale.

Damien McCrory, though, will have a late fitness test on the dead leg which forced him off on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old has started every game this season and has only been substituted twice – at Hartlepool and Rochdale – because of injury.

Rowett will give the reliable left-back as long as possible in the hope he starts tonight, kick-off 7.45pm.

“If you’d asked me on Wednesday if he could play, I’d have said no chance,” said the manager. “But he improved overnight. We won’t know until he starts running and jumping.

“But with someone like him we’ll leave it as late as possible - if he can play in some discomfort, he will.

“He’s an important player to us and we’ll give him every chance.”

Striker Michael Symes will not be involved but has trained this week and could return to the squad soon.

“It’s probably too soon but he’s trained a couple of times now,” said Rowett. “In an ideal world he’d get a few games under his belt before coming back.

“We’ve earmarked the Birmingham Senior Cup game the week after next and if he trains well he’ll be in contention at that point.”

In Symes’ absence, Rowett has Gary Alexander, Billy Kee, McGurk and Dominic Knowles vying for a role up front.

On Tuesday, Alexander led the line on his own.

“The formation is dictated to an extent by the game and countering what the opposition do,” said the Albion boss.

After tonight’s game, the Brewers travel to face Torquay on Tuesday as they complete a mini-run of away games.

Rowett had no points target in mind from the trio of games.

“We’ve got a rough average targets we need to meet every five to 10 games to stay on track,” he said. “One is for automatic promotion and one is for the play-offs - that’s our minimal expectation.

“If we can pick up points away from home, I would never grumble about a draw.

“It’d be nice to come away with a win from one but I wouldn’t be overly disappointed with two draws.”

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