A question you will regularly heard asked of managers ahead of international breaks is whether the two-week interval has come at a good time for their team.

There can be no doubt that this one has arrived just in time for Burton Albion.

Nigel Clough and captain Jake Buxton said as much in the immediate aftermath of Saturday's 4-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

It was the Brewers' second home game in the space of four days against a side who look set to be firmly part of the promotion conversation, and they struggled to land a telling blow on either opponent.

Nigel Clough, Connor Ripley and physio Nick Fenton look on

There can be no denying the quality in both of those squads, the resources at their disposal and the momentum both have behind them at this stage of the campaign.

But what left the Albion fans frustrated on Saturday - and that frustration will surely have been shared in the home dressing room - was the fact that the Brewers did not truly force Wolves or Villa to have to work for their victories.

On Tuesday, they were 2-0 down inside 16 minutes.

Wolves took five minutes fewer to take such a stranglehold on proceedings, and Albion were again forced to chase the game, a factor that played perfectly into the hands of a visiting side who looked scintillating on the break.

In such a ruthless division, you simply cannot afford to allow any team such an advantage.

Burton's slow start defensively against Nuno Espirito Santo's big-spending Wolves might in part be put down to the changes Clough was forced into following the Villa defeat.

With John Brayford and Ben Turner both ruled out with hamstring injuries - and the club are still waiting to discover the full extent of those problems - the Brewers recalled Tom Flanagan at right-wing-back, while Lloyd Dyer earned the start he has been pushing for over recent games on the left flank.

That meant Stephen Warnock moved into the back three alongside Jake Buxton and Kyle McFadzean, in front of goalkeeper Stephen Bywater.

Tom Flanagan came back into the Burton starting XI
Tom Flanagan came back into the Burton starting XI

Albion's only other change came in midfield, Hope Akpan earning his first league start since August 12 in the central midfield three alongside Luke Murphy and Jamie Allen.

That meant Lucas Akins was pushed forward to partner Sean Scannell up front, with Marvin Sordell the man to make way and move to the bench.

Akins and Scannell were the pair tasked with leading the charge for a first Brewers goal since the 2-1 victory over Fulham, and making sure it was not a fifth game in six without an Albion player finding the net.

It would prove too much of a task for Clough's team, a worrying trend to be in at any stage of the campaign.

Only bottom-of-the-table Bolton Wanderers have scored fewer in the league than Burton after 11 games, and they are not creating enough chances to feel hard done by when looking at that statistic.

Clough believes the reason for those struggles at one end of the pitch can be explained by what is happening at the other end for his side, though.

For a third time in six outings, the Brewers were forced to chase the game from a nigh-on impossible position after seeing their opponents seize the early initiative.

Against Leeds United, that was largely down to the hosts' outstanding class.

Against Villa, it was a mixture of clinical finishing and a little fortune.

Against Wolves, Albion had a hand in their own downfall.

Diogo Jota's fifth-minute opener was well finished off, but it could have been cut out at source in the midfield.

A bouncing ball deceived Murphy and, with Warnock and McFadzean both trapped between going for the ball and holding back to cut out the potential pass, Ivan Cavaleiro got a touch to it first to send possession through for Jota.

The Wolves forward - on-loan from Atletico Madrid - had more than enough pace to go clear and slide a shot past Bywater.

The second, too, was frustratingly avoidable.

Wolves' Romain Saiss celebrates scoring his side's second goal against Burton Albion
Wolves' Romain Saiss celebrates scoring his side's second goal against Burton Albion

Sixteen-million-pound summer signing Ruben Neves curled a free-kick towards the near post that should have been claimed by Bywater.

But the Burton keeper spilled the effort, and Romain Saiss was the quickest to react in the six-yard box, poking it over the line at Bywater's feet before the ball had even hit the ground.

Eleven minutes gone, and Albion were again being asked to produce a miraculous response.

It plays into the hands of teams like Wolves, who love nothing more than for an opponent to stretch and open themselves up, leaving holes into which the pacy Jota, Cavaleiro and Helder Costa can charge.

Those gaps were there too often on Saturday, and Burton struggled with the speed of the visitors attacks.

Wolves also had to take fewer risks themselves and could afford to sit off.

Not that they always did that, pressing Albion and not allowing them to settle.

Allen - arguably Albion's best player during the latest batch of fixtures, having taken little time to adapt to the Championship - was the only player who really forced the Wolves defence to actually defend.

He displayed a real energy in the first half, running directly at the centre-halves with possession at his feet and trying to link with Dyer and Akins, who also forced the likes of Ryan Bennett and Danny Batth to turn.

Allen tested John Ruddy in the visiting goal midway through the first half, curling a fine 20-yard effort towards the top corner, only for the ex-Norwich City keeper to dive across and tip the shot over.

John Ruddy tips over Jamie Allen's shot as Wolves beat Burton Albion 4-0

That was as close as Burton would come. There was a lethargy to their play at times and a lack of genuine attacking intent.

Wolves, on the other hand, looked a threat every time they took possession in the Brewers half.

And with an early two-goal advantage, they were able to attempt things they might not have done at 0-0. One such move saw left-winger Ruben Vinagre turn Flanagan on the flank and cut inside, produce an eye-catching one-two with Cavaleiro and then drill a low finish inside Bywater's near post to make it 3-0 just before the break.

It meant a third time this month that Clough was delivering his half-time teamtalk over a three-goal deficit.

Changes were made, Tom Naylor replacing Flanagan to perhaps add more further upfield as a wing-back, while Akpan – unable to recapture the influence he showed in the Manchester United cup game – came off for Sordell before the hour mark as the hosts chased more incision.

The second half drifted for large spells, though, and Albion, despite offering more directness and pace, still failed to truly worry the visitors.

Instead, just as in midweek, it was the away side who produced the one telling moment of quality after the break.

Again, it owed something to some Burton sloppiness, a weak Warnock pass cut out by Matt Doherty, who pumped the ball down the right wing for Cavaleiro.

He raced away and then cut back sharply to beat the sliding Warnock before laying the ball back for Doherty, who had carried on his run.

Rather than shooting, he passed selflessly across for substitute Leo Bonatini, whose first-time shot was a simple one into the unguarded net to complete a fine team move.

The damage was complete, and there was some audible dissatisfaction from Brewers fans upon the full-time whistle.

Defeat to these sorts of teams is not a shock. It is, if anything, a likelihood, given the gulf in resources. This exact fixture, with Wolves’ eye-opening recruitment over recent windows, typifies that.

But it is the nature of the loss that is what Burton will want to spend the next fortnight addressing.

The expressions say it all from Kyle McFadzean (left), Stephen Warnock (centre) and Luke Murphy

Clough questioned his players' desire to keep the ball out of the net, such was the easy way in which they were opened up at times.

It is in stark contrast to only seven days previously, when they frustrated Queens Park Rangers so effectively.

Albion were beaten 20 times last season, but rarely - if ever - did they fold as they seemingly have done in the past week.

Struggles in keeping themselves in the contest at one end against Villa and Wolves have made the task at the other end too much, and they have struggled to get close.

Still, despite the disappointment, the table is worth a look.

Burton's tally of nine points after 11 games means they are a point clear of the bottom three at this stage, ahead of Bolton, Sunderland and Birmingham City.

A win next time out would get them exactly back up to their intended point-per-game total.

They are level with Reading and Brentford. Their performances against the likes of Fulham, Birmingham and Norwich so far this campaign have shown what they are capable of.

Lloyd Dyer in action for Burton Albion
Lloyd Dyer in action for Burton Albion

That form must be more consistent, though.

While Northern Ireland duo Flanagan and Matty Lund head away for a couple of crucial World Cup qualifiers against Germany and Norway, the majority of Clough's squad will start the steady build-up to the trip to Bristol City on October 13.

The Robins are flying at the moment, proof after two tough home fixtures for Burton that there really are no easy games in this division.

Whatever the outcome in that one, and whatever team starts the clash, Clough will want to see a more competitive performance from his players.



Jota 5, Saiss 11, Vinagre 41, Bonatini 62

BREWERS (3-5-2): Bywater, Buxton, McFadzean, Warnock, Flanagan (Naylor 46), Murphy, Akpan (Sordell 58), Allen, Dyer, Akins, Scannell (Varney 67)

Subs: Ripley, Barker, Lund, Palmer

Yellow cards: Varney 78

Red cards:

WOLVES (3-4-3): Ruddy, Miranda, Batth, Bennett, Doherty, Saiss, Neves (Price 73), Vinagre, Costa (Bonatini 51), Cavaleiro, Jota (Ronan 76)

Subs: Norris, N'Diaye, Deslandes, Enobakhare

Yellow cards:

Red cards:

Referee: Tony Harrington

Att: 5080

Match verdict: A disappointing afternoon at the Pirelli. For all of Wolves' attacking class on the day, the Brewers did not make themselves hard enough to break down - and the game was all but gone inside 11 minutes.

Man-of-the-match: Jamie Allen - the most industrious Burton player on the pitch and one of few who looked to threaten the Wolves defence with some direct running. Saw one superb 20-yard effort well saved by John Ruddy.