BURTON Albion boss Gary Rowett reckons the excellent 2-0 home win over Rotherham United was the best result of his tenure at the club.
The Brewers defied a mounting injury list and the unavailability of key players to beat the nine-man Millers thanks to Billy Kee’s brace.
And Rowett was left deeply proud of his men after they once again climbed into the automatic promotion places with a “monumental” performance.
“It was brilliant and I’m very proud of them,” said the Albion boss. “We’ve had a very, very bad week in terms of preparation – its been horrendous, probably the worst since we’ve been here.
“I’ve just said to the lads that we’ve preached about squad, everyone playing their part, and we knew we had to have that today.
“If you look at the likes of Nathan Stanton and Marcus Holness, they both came back into the side today and I thought both were absolutely immense.
“It just shows that we’ll need everyone between now and the end of the season.”
Rowett was able to piece together a side missing key men Zander Diamond, Ian Sharps and Calvin Zola – and thinks the win over Rotherham sends out a powerful message.
“I would say that’s probably the biggest result for us in the league in terms of the magnitude of it and the message it sends out,” he said.
“We’re going to have poor afternoons between now and the end of the season, but it’s things like this that will carry us through.
“It’s the character that’s carried us through and I’ve said it before, we might lack a bit of ability, but one thing you can’t question is the character of the players. I thought we defended manfully.”
Rotherham were reduced to nine men by the end after David Noble was sent off on the stroke of half-time for two bookings and Michael O’Connor saw red late on for a stamp on Jacques Maghoma, with Michael Symes missing the penalty which followed.
“Rotherham are always strong and I think you can argue we had a little bit of furtune with the first sending-off,” said Rowett. “I think we earned that fortune with the hard work, energy and commitment we showed.
“I thought we had some excellent, excellent performances today and it’s very difficult to single out which were the best ones.
“I thought Symesy (Michael Symes) was terrific up front for us, apart from his penalty, and Billy is back to his goalscoring best.
“So, there were some immense performances and to beat a side like Rotherham at home and preserve this home run was a monumental achievement.
“We’ve been fantastic at home and always seem to find a way.
“We seemed to come alive a little bit about 20 minutes before half-time. The front started linking well and bringing other people into the game.
“We’ve created a side that on its day is more than a match for any of the big guns in the division.”
The late sending-off of O’Connor led to some disturbances in the visiting support, who aimed their wrath at referee Eddie Ilderton.
There also seemed to be a bit of needle between Rowett and opposite number Steve Evans, who once labelled Burton Albion a “pub side” when he was manager of Boston United.
“It’s always friendly from our side,” said Rowett. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Steve because he’s achieved a lot more in the game than I have.
“We’ll always be humble and respectful – they’re passionate, Paul (Raynor, assistant boss) and Steve.
“If we finish above Rotherham at the end of the season, I think we’ll get promoted, such is their ability. They’ll win an awful lot of games between now and the end of the season.
“I fully expect them to be challening for the top three.
“Stuff goes on on the side and that’s just passion and commitment.”
Rowett was also amazed that Kee managed to start the game, such was the bad state of his ankle in the run-up to kick-off.
“I can’t believe Billy got through the game, his ankle was like a balloon,” said the Brewers boss. “He strapped it up and did really well.
“I thought Stanno had gone down after 15 minutes and Aaron said he didn’t know how he got through the game.
“They’ve done brilliantly to get through it.
“On Tuesday we only had one fit defender and it wasn’t a case of can we win the game, but can we get a team out.”