By Gareth Walker
Jon McLaughlin – 7
Had no chance with any of the three well-taken Burton goals, but McLaughlin did produce one outstanding stop with his feet from a one-on-one situation that might hopefully prove vital. He wasn’t helped last night by the poor performances of the back four, but his communication with his defence still worries me at times and almost led to a shambolic mix up with McArdle in the second half.
Stephen Darby – 5
I recently described Stephen as possibly the unsung hero of the team. He has been Mr Reliable for large parts of the season, but last night was possibly the worst game that I have seen him have for quite a while. He looked petrified every time Jacques Maghoma got the ball and was largely at fault for the first goal by standing off his man allowing Maghoma to cross. He did improve slightly after the break and tried to get forward towards the end.
Michael Nelson – 4
To say that we missed Andrew Davies last night is a massive understatement. Nelson is normally a solid League Two defender who dominates in the air and this makes up for his poor distribution. Sadly last night, he was well and truly dominated by Zola and had a game to forget.
Rory McArdle – 4
City’s Marathon Man has been a little bit shaky since his injury just before Wembley, and last night it started to look like this arduous campaign might have finally caught up with him. At least partly at fault for Burton’s second goal. Along with Nelson, he couldn’t handle Zola and, again, his distribution has never been his strong point.
Whether we point a finger at Davies for getting needlessly sent off at Cheltenham or at Phil Parkinson for running the risk with playing City’s leader at the back when he was already on a yellow card is unclear, but Davies is sure to come back into the side on Sunday. I don’t think that Zola would have enjoyed such a good game if Davies had been playing and, to be honest, neither of last night’s centre backs could really complain if they were dropped to accommodate him coming back into the team.
James Meredith – 5
Similarly to Darby, I don’t think that I’ve seen Meredith have such a poor game before. Completely went to sleep and lost his man for Burton’s third goal, and his link up play wasn’t to its usual standard. Again, Meredith improved slightly after the break and looked more of himself, when his usual partner on the left, Kyel Reid, entered the fray.
Garry Thompson – 7
One of the few City players who did himself any kind of justice. Thompson looked the most likely of any of our players to create something and he never stopped working. He capped his performance off with a stunning goal that keeps us clinging onto the tie by our finger tips. Thompson has become a key player for the team over recent weeks and he was my man of the match last night.
Gary Jones – 6
Jones was well below his usual standards in the first half and his passing was often astray. Another player who improved after the break and tried to drive the team on in his usual style. Garry Thompson’s shot looked to skim off his head for City’s second goal and, again, I am clinging on to the hope that this could prove vital.
Ricky Ravenhill – 5
I can’t remember noticing Ravenhill too much last night and I had almost forgotten that he was on the pitch until he was substituted. City’s form player of recent weeks wasn’t his usual busy self, and maybe this was one of the reasons why Burton seemed to play the better football.
Will Atkinson – 5
Another player who was almost anonymous. Atkinson could easily be described as City’s most improved player this season, but he hasn’t featured in the team much since the Cup Final. It was a big surprise when neither Kyel Reid or Zavon Hines started the game last night, because I can’t remember the last time that neither of these two started a home game. We understand that Reid wasn’t fit enough to start the game, but Phol Parkinson has previously stuck with Hines when Reid has been unavailable despite his obvious deficiencies on the left, and I was shocked at the change in approach last night.
Maybe it was because our management team expected Burton to pack the midfield. Whatever the reason, it didn’t work and City looked drastically short of an outlet or any width, which resulted in too many long balls being played up to James Hanson.
James Hanson – 7
Last night was the ideal opportunity for many supporters to get on Hanson’s back but, in my mind, he didn’t do too much wrong other than miss his only chance near the end, and he was far better than many of his team mates.
Hanson battled admirably against the solid Burton defence and won his fair share in the air which he had to do, as it seemed to be our only tactic at times. James often gets a rough deal out of referees and last night was no different as he was punished for the most minor of indiscretions, whereas Zola seemed to get a free ride at the other end of the pitch in particular with a couple of dubious looking hand balls.
Nahki Wells – 5
Something of an enigma last night. Wells put his penalty away when he was called upon, despite probably wondering, like the rest of us, why a red card hadn’t been shown to the offender. However, Wells appeared to becoming more and more frustrated with the long ball tactics as the game wore on. Spent a lot of time in the second half diving on the floor looking for free kicks and it became almost embarrassing to watch.
The complete airshot as he tried to pirouette and switch feet in the second half when it looked easier to score somewhat summed up Nahki’s performance. He missed a couple of other decent chances too, which you would normally have expected him to score.
Kyel Reid – 7
Looked a threat when he came on, but Reid’s clear shortage of fitness probably prevented him from turning the game around. He was on the end of a shocking challenge in front of the main stand that somehow only resulted in a booking. His performance against Burton in the cup earlier in the season, coupled with the nervousness of the opposition when he came on last night might give us a glimmer of hope if he is fit enough to start the return leg on Sunday.
Nathan Doyle – 6
Doyle made a difference when he came on because of his physical presence and his ability to pick a pass. I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts the game on Sunday.
Alan Connell – N/A
Was given his standard poultry allowance of just a few minutes to try to change the game. Connell didn’t really have time to get involved, but frustratingly attempted an overhead kick from the edge of the box near the end when he had a simple pass available to Darby who was galloping into acres of space on the wing.
Connell’s comment on BBC Radio Leeds, after the game, that he won’t hold his breath about starting the game on Sunday may indicate that his future lies away from the club. This would be hugely disappointing in my mind as he is clearly a quality player at League Two level.