GARY Rowett admitted his side were feeling the effects of their punishing FA Cup tie as an off-song second-half performance against Bury on Saturday denied them the chance to go top of League Two.
Four days after being beaten 4-1 at a rainy and windy Bournemouth, the Brewers were held to only their second 0-0 draw in more than a year.
In the first 45 minutes of the Gigg Lane encounter Albion did not look as though they were suffering any ill effects, with full debutant Zeli Ismail leading an attacking display that overwhelmed their hosts.
However Ismail, along with many of his colleagues, faded after the break as – probably for the first time this season – the Brewers failed to maintain a high level of intensity for the full 90 minutes,
“Second-half we died a little bit, and I think that was Tuesday night coming out,” said Rowett.
“We knew it would have an effect, and you don’t know what that will be until you come off the pitch.
“We just didn’t quite have the same energy as we usually do, as we usually come on strong in the last 20 minutes or so.”
However, the Pirelli chief was far from despondent after watching his side go 10 games unbeaten and stay in the League Two automatic promotion zone.
He said: “It’s important that when you don’t play as well as you’d like to, that you then don’t go and lose the game to a goal on the sucker-punch.
“It was important that we got a clean sheet, and picked up another point, and I still see it as a bit of momentum towards where we want to be.”
Ismail, along with Billy Kee and later Adam McGurk, were all replaced with fresher legs, while Rowett also switched his formation to a 4-5-1 early in the second half, to counter the additional man that Bury’s 3-5-2 afforded them.
“Bury gave us a problem in the way they played, and I thought the team selection by David (manager David Flitcroft) was very brave in playing two full-backs as the centre-halves,” said Rowett.
“We felt as though there was a few spaces behind our midfield that they exploited well, so we decided to block it up a little bit and see if we could get one on the break.
“I wouldn’t normally have brought Billy off, but we felt as though we needed some legs up there.
“It was difficult for him being up there as the furthest man forward on the pitch on his own.
“He’s battled up there against Bournemouth to no avail, and it was a little bit similar in the second-half.
“So we thought we’d save his legs and give him a breather.”
Before fading after the interval, Ismail had been Albion’s best player, cutting Bury open at will on the right flank – something he showed he could do the previous weekend in coming off the bench against Cheltenham Town and setting up two goals.
“In the first half, Zeli has done his job, he’s beaten the full-back a couple of times and put some excellent balls in.
“The one where he flashed it across the face of goal, I’m a little bit disappointed that the strikers haven’t read that and gambled a little bit as it was the perfect job to get a tap in.
“He’s done bits of damage in the right areas and we’ve not managed to capitalise on it.
“Second half he faded a little bit and it looked less and less likely that we’d be able to get him one-on-one with the full-back.
“So we needed fresh legs on, and we just felt as though we needed to make a change.”
Burton now have a week to recover before hosting Fleetwood Town on Saturday, although Rowett said that was not necessarily all good news.
“I think there’s one or two a little bit leggy at the moment and we’ve got a week’s break to get them back sharp and kick on again,” he said.
“It’ll be nice to allow them to recover because we’ve had a lot of games and a lot of travelling.
“But it could be a double-edged sword because we’re in the second-half of the season and at some point we’ve got to push on.
“We had a rest of 10 days when the Bournemouth game was called off, and I think we’ve actually had too much of a breather – and we’re ready to go again.”