PHIL Edwards admits his chance to stake a claim for a place at the heart of the Burton Albion defence did not come in ideal circumstances – but is determined to take it with both hands.
The Bootle-born 27-year-old was brought on in the 38th minute as the Brewers’ unbeaten start to the League Two season ended in a frustrating 2-0 reverse at home to rivals Oxford United.
His introduction came as a result of the straight red card shown to fellow defender Ian Sharps for kicking out at the U’s former Premier League striker Dave Kitson, with boss Rowett sacrificing Michael Symes to keep four defenders on the pitch.
“The circumstances weren’t so great, but I’m happy to be on the pitch,” said the summer signing from Rochdale.
“I’ve got my chance now and hopefully I can stay in the team with my performance today.”
The score was 0-0 when Albion went down to 10 men, but Oxford gradually made their advantage count, taking the lead in the 49th minute through Alfie Potter, before Danny Rose’s late goal made sure of the result.
On the sending off Edwards said: “I couldn’t see it from the bench so I can’t really comment.
“I just heard a big roar and saw Kitson barge into Sharpy and they went on the floor.
“It should have either been a red for both or a yellow for both.
“That changed the game, and it was always going to be an uphill task then.
“It was quite even up until then, but we went down to 10 men and it’s hard to win a game then.”
Asked how Sharps reacted, Edwards said: “He’s a bit perplexed.
“He doesn’t really think he’s done much wrong.
“The lad’s barged in, and I don’t know what he did, whether he did kick out.”
Though they lost to Fulham in the League Cup on penalties and went out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to Notts County last Tuesday, the Oxford result was the first league defeat.
It was also the first time they had lost at home – play-offs aside – since March, with a fantastic home record having been the basis of last season’s fourth-place finish.
“It was a bit disappointing to lose our unbeaten record,” said Edwards.
“Our run has gone now, but we’ve just got to bounce back and go on another unbeaten run.
“I didn’t really think it was a fair result – there were two deflections for two scruffy goals that they’ve scored.
“They had the ball and the possession but I thought we defended quite well in parts.
“They didn’t really carve us open for saying that they had 11 men.
“It got a bit scrappy, which I think was just frustration from the players with the circumstances.”
With Sharps suspended for Saturday’s home game against ex-Premier League side and 2008 FA Cup champions Portsmouth, and Zander DIamond only just returning from injury, Edwards has a great chance to start his first game at centre-half since joining the club.
“I’ll be fighting for that place,” he said.
“I want to play every game I can – that’s what I’m here for.
“I’ve played most of my career at centre-half, but I’ve played right-back as well.
“But I’ll play wherever he puts me.
“With today’s performance, I think I did okay, so hopefully I should stay in.”