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Maamria surprised to see rivals MK Dons strugglingDino Maamria thinks everyone in League One is surprised that Burton Albion’s opponents tomorrow, MK Dons, are sitting in the bottom four going into December. Nor does he think they will stay there but, obviously, he wants to keep them firmly down there when the two sides meet at Stadium MK on Saturday (12. 30pm) in a crucial basement battle. Milton Keynes are a place better off than Burton by virtue of a four-goal advantage on goal difference, with the bottom four locked together on 14 points, six points adrift.
30pm kick-off. “The big positive is having John and Corrie back, it gives us options, ” said Maamria. “They have been good in training. But we’ve got to be sure not to overload Corrie, we have to manage him for the next two or three weeks to get him going again. He’s been in this position before, where he was fit for a week or two and then broke down again. ” Corrie Ndaba in action for Salford City in January. He had an injury-free loan with them but has not yet been so lucky with Burton. (Image: Getty Images) The situation is new to 22-year-old Ndaba, who has not had a sustained spell out injured previously in his career: “He played a lot of games for Salford City last season, where I think he was player of the season, ” said Maamria. “He’s calm on the ball, he has good pace and is athletic.
In the summer they lost 20-goal forward Scott Twine to Burnley (where he has made only one appearance after a hip injury) and key defender Harry Darling to Swansea City and have been unable to discover last season’s form so far. “We are all surprised that we’re sitting with the same amount of points as MK Dons, especially considering the start we had, ” said Brewers boss Maamria. “I’m surprised they are where they are with the quality players they have. They lost in the play-offs last season and I had actually backed them for automatic promotion.
But Dino Maamria is wary of asking too much, too soon of the highly-rated on-loan Ipswich Town defender. Captain John Brayford also returned from injury and played the full 90 minutes last week, while Adrian Mariappa is still easing himself along with a glute issue – which was why Ndaba replaced him after 66 minutes last week. Maamria is therefore weighing up his options carefully ahead of Saturday's basement battle away to MK Dons, which has a 12.
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Liam Manning’s side are hardly alone in having succumbed to a play-off failure hangover. Recent history in all EFL divisions is littered with examples of clubs who struggled the season after not quite going up. MK were in with a shout for automatic promotion for much of last season but needed a 5-0 win away to Plymouth Argyle on the last day to secure a play-off place and then lost 2-1 on aggregate to Wycombe Wanderers in the play-off semi-final.
“Our performances, overall, have been good and we’ve probably deserved more than we got. But we were unbeaten in November, so it’s been a good month for us. We could have picked up more points – we didn’t. Now it’s a big December with some big games. “We have to learn from Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield Wednesday away. Our performances in those games were OK but we didn’t end up with any points. We have to pick points up in our situation, especially now before the transfer window opens. It’s all very well saying we are learning but we have to have the points as well and Saturday is a very important three points. ” Maamria also talked about the defensive permutations with Sam Hughes injured but John Brayford and Corrie Ndaba returning: Corrie Ndaba’s long-awaited return from a calf injury for an assured half-hour from the bench in Burton Albion’s 6-1 FA Cup win over Chippenham Town last week looks to be perfectly timed with Sam Hughes facing another fortnight out with a thigh strain.
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We will have to use the ball really well. The fans don’t make much of an impact in that big stadium but it’ll be about what’s on the pitch. ” If he believes that MK will escape and also, as he must, that Burton can, too, it stands to reason that they must drag at least two other teams into the dogfight at the bottom and the form book suggests that could happen. Only one club of the seven immediately above the drop zone have won more than one of their last five League games and that is Cheltenham Town. Maamria expects the pressure to begin to tell: “I think there are a few teams looking over their shoulders and I think it’s going to be an interesting second half to the season, ” he said. “We will have a winning run, I’m sure we will, and the sooner we do the better. There’s still a lot of football to be played and a lot of teams will look at January to strengthen.
Terry Taylor and Michael Mancienne try to control the ball in last season's away game against MK Dons, which Burton lost 1-0. (Image: Richard Burley / Epic Action Imagery) “They are a dangerous team and on their day they are capable of beating anyone, ” said Maamria. “They don’t change the way they play. It’s a big pitch, a nice surface and if you give them the ball and let them play as much as they want, they can hurt anybody. We must make sure we don’t fall into that trap. “We’ll have to pick an athletic team to cope with the distances and players who can control and dominate possession.
You’ll have a run like Portsmouth, Bolton, Charlton, Barnsley, Derby. If you have a bad run, all of your games become very difficult. Will MK Dons be in the bottom four at the end of the season? I don’t think so, I think they have the quality to get out of it. They are better than bottom four and anybody in League One will tell you that. ” MK have retained their possession-based approach, which Manning successfully made a little more direct after replacing previous boss Russell Martin and they have a big, high quality pitch which suits it.
They have a good manager and some really good players. For one reason or another, they have lost their way a little bit. “Momentum in football is really important. They had a bad start, they’ve not really recovered from it and find themselves in difficulty. They’ve had a little bit of a recovery but they’re still there and we’re in a similar situation. When you have a bad start, it’s really hard, it doesn’t change overnight because the confidence and psychology of the team has changed from winning to losing. “Our league is really unforgiving.
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He has a lot of good attributes. He’s generally a fit boy and his attitude is spot on. He loves the gym, he loves to stay fit, so it’s been a very unusual start to the season for him. “Sam Hughes has pulled his thigh and will probably be out for another two weeks. It’s a big blow for us because he’s arguably been our best player and we’ll have to find a different solution. I think we can use Corrie at left-back or left-sided centre back but the key now is to keep him fit. Also, Adrian Mariappa is still nursing the injury he had a couple of weeks ago and we’ll have a look at that one and make a decision.
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