GARY Rowett got the Christmas present he wanted after Burton Albion beat Northampton Town 1-0 to climb to fourth spot in the League Two table.
The Brewers left it late against the bottom club at the Pirelli Stadium yesterday as Ian Sharps struck his first Burton goal to win it with five minutes left.
Albion had wasted several excellent chances but the skipper’s header sent the home fans wild and sealed the three points.
“My household will be a happy household tonight,” said delighted Brewers boss Rowett after a patient and determined performance.
“It’s my wife’s birthday – I’ve got her present spot-on, absolutely delighted she was – and now I’ve got my present!
“We’ve got a good squad full of good players and we’re starting to show real appetite to want to keep improving and that’s a great sign for a promising 2014.
“We’re eight games unbeaten, we’ve not conceded many goals and that’s another clean sheet, which is fantastic for us, and another 1-0 win.”
Rowett saw summer signing Sharps – who was on loan at the club last season – score his first goal in his 43rd appearance for Albion, a slightly surprising statistic considering the big defender’s aerial presence at set pieces.
“If you’d said we’d have won the game with an Ian Sharps header from a corner I’d have thought you were eating magic mushrooms or something over Christmas!” joked the Albion manager.
“I think it was a real surprise. He should score more, Sharpsy, but he got up fantastically well and it’s about time he scored a header.
“He needs to get a few more of them.”
The Brewers again showed their fitness and stamina as Rowett made no changes to the side which drew 1-1 at Hartlepool - and the manager reckons it made a big difference against an unsettled Northampton, who featured several players who have not been regulars this season.
“Second half we really came to life and I said to them that Northampton had four or five in there who hadn’t played regularly and the longer the game went on, the more our energy and fitness would come into play,” he said.
“I felt it did. It opened up from the first minute of the second half and we had lots and lots of good opportunities in and around the box.
“Billy’s (Kee) missed two or three he’d normally tuck away.
“But I felt as though our patience was rewarded in the end.
“If I was stood here saying we’ve only had one or two real chances in the game it’d be different, but we’ve missed three or four great chances and Matt Duke pulled off a great save in the first half.
“We’re creating them. We’ve got good strikers and good players.”
Rowett was also delighted with the contribution of Jimmy Phillips, who was most observers’ man of the match after a sparkling performance down the left wing.
“In particular Jimmy was excellent today and he’s been rewarded for trying to do the right things all the time,” said the manager.
“Whenever he’s played, he’s done well. He’s had to come in and out of the side, which is frustrating at times. It’s the same for Alex MacDonald. He gets a little run of games and then he gets ill or injured and can’t quite seem to put the games in.
“I thought those two played a big part in the game today.
“I thought we were rewarded. We had something like 20 shots, I’m sure not all on target, but it’s about 20 shots.”