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FAN FOCUS: Burton fan confident of win - Will Darren Bent get the goal to seal Sunderland’s fate?

Joining us this week to give the opposition view ahead of our latest upcoming game is Josh Murray, a sports journalist who writes for the Burton Mail.

Burton Albion v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

RF: It looks like we’ll both be heading to League One in a few weeks time. How are Burton supporters feeling about the impending relegation? When we spoke back in November you mentioned that most were delighted to be in the Championship, so are they taking it on the chin?

JM: Everyone involved with Burton Albion knew the challenge the Brewers would face in surviving in the Championship for a second season, so there is certainly no surprise about the difficult position they are in.

There is somewhat of a divide between the supporters who are ready to accept that Albion just couldn’t quite upset the odds this time around - despite the disappointment - and those who are a little more frustrated about certain aspects, such as the seven-month run they went without a win at home before Saturday and the nature of some of their most humbling defeats.

I think their incredible performance last season in reaching 52 points - aided by the surprise factor to many teams - made it a very tough act to follow this time around.

But the majority of fans accept that Burton have still given everything and have, barring a few heavy defeats, competed well again in a division where the size, fanbase and resources of their rivals far outweighs their own.

RF: How do you see Burton faring next season should the inevitable happen? Can you see them bouncing straight back up or will there be a couple of years where they need to consolidate?

JM: It’s not quite over yet, and while the Brewers will have given some thought ahead to what will happen if they are relegated, the focus is on the possibility that they can still survive.

If they were to drop, it would certainly not be a disaster. The club is stable, sensibly managed and run within its means, so there would no major change to their approach.

How they would fare in League One would depend on what happens to the squad over the summer. They currently have a good blend of youth and experience in most areas, with some proven third-tier performers.

If that squad was largely maintained, they would certainly be hopeful of stabilising quickly after relegation and then seeing what was possible from there.

Derby County v Burton Albion - Sky Bet Championship
Nigel Clough has done a fantastic job at Burton but has he taken the club as far as he can?
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

RF: Can you see Nigel Clough moving on at the end of the season? From the outside it seems like he’s still highly thought of at the club, but I just wondered if he may leave should he feel like he’s taken the club as far as he can?

JM: Only Nigel Clough would be able to answer that question. He has played a massive role, over two spells, in getting Burton Albion to where they are today; he has a close working relationship with chairman Ben Robinson and he knows the club better than anyone, barring Robinson himself.

He has never been relegated as a manager so, if they were not to pull off a great escape, that would hurt for Clough and his management team.

But, he is a driven individual and he was the one to get Burton out of League One in 2016 following fine work by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, so he may well fancy his chances of attempting something similar again with the Brewers.

RF: It’s written in the stars that Darren Bent will score the goal to relegate us, but who else should Sunderland be worried about? Who shined in the surprise win over Derby?

JM: Bent’s strike partner Liam Boyce produced his best performance in a Burton Albion shirt in the victory over Derby at the weekend.

It was a small insight into what the Brewers were missing when Boyce - their club-record signing last summer - spent the first six months of the campaign on the sidelines, recovering from an ACL injury.

He is a proven goalscorer in the Scottish Premiership, but it is his all-round centre-forward display that will be important in such a crucial game this weekend.

He can bring Burton’s midfield runners into the game and he will be brimming with confidence after netting his first home goal against the Rams.

Sunderland v Fulham - Premier League
You just know that Darren Bent will score the goal to relegate us, don’t you?
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

RF: What about our lot? Anyone in the Sunderland side who you’ll be keeping an eye on?

JM: I’m sure I mentioned him the last time I spoke to you, but Aiden McGeady is one that Burton will want to marshal out of the game on Saturday.

When two sides at the bottom are fighting for an absolutely precious win, it is likely to be a tight, nervy contest - and a player like McGeady has the class to produce the one telling moment of quality.

RF: How do you expect Nigel Clough to approach this game, and what do you think his starting line-up will be?

JM: I wouldn’t expect too many changes from Saturday’s win over Derby, seeing as it was one of their best results of the season. The difficulty for Clough is knowing who will be fit - they were missing a host of regular starters at the weekend.

There may be the odd switch at the back if Tom Naylor, Tom Flanagan or Damien McCrory return from injury, while Darren Bent will push too to feature against his former club. Ultimately, though, it may well be an unchanged XI.

Brewers (4-1-4-1): Bywater, Brayford, Buxton, McFadzean, Turner, Davenport, Akins, Akpan, Murphy, Sbarra, Boyce

RF: And to finish off, can we have a score prediction please?

JM: The two most porous defences in the Championship would suggest goals, but neither side will dare make a mistake given the price of defeat this weekend.

I’ll go for a 2-1 Burton win.