On New Years Day, Burton Albion were dead and buried, at the foot of League One with the drop looming. However, out went Jake Buxton and up stepped Jimmy Floyd-Haselbaink - who returned to the club for a second time in an attempt to steer the Brewers from relegation to the fourth tier, and he was sure to deliver, all with three games to go.
A strong haul of loanees coming to the club via the January transfer window was one of the main reasons that Albion stayed up. An equally as good upcoming summer window would give Burton fans a play-off dream for the new season.
After a summer of uncertainty after the season was abandoned due to the pandemic, Buxton and the board did some respectable business ahead of the new season. One name in particular that impressed was Kane Hemmings scoring 15 goals over the entirety of the season, including an impressive hat-trick in away win at Crewe Alexandra. It was a return to English football which he will cherish, after spending some time playing in Scotland for Dundee.
Another player who came up trumps with a couple of goals in the second half of the season was Michael Bostwick, who signed from Lincoln City after his contract ran out. He struggled with injuries towards the end of the campaign, possibly due to the rate at which the games were coming at. However, Bostwick has cemented himself as a fan favourite after a season of his no-nonsense brutal defending.
When Haselbaink came back in in January, he was quick to reshuffle the pack, and got straight to business bringing in some top talents who proved to be pivotal in the Brewers survival. One of the most influential signings was 21-year-old Hayden Carter from Blackburn Rovers. The centre half played every fixture under Haselbaink and bolstered a leaking defence. He also added goals to his game, where he netted four times. The former product of the Manchester City academy actually got the runner up for player of the season, after just a few months spent in Staffordshire.
Defensively, Burton improved massively under the new boss, and another defender he brought in was Tom Hamer, who scored three and assisted three in just 21 games. The 21-year-old had a great trick up his sleeve - the long throw-in, which Albion managed to get lots of goals from, causing complete havoc in the box. Certainly a great addition to the side.
Turning point of the season
The most obvious turning point of the season would be the reappointment of Haselbaink. But ultimately, the six-game winning streak from February to March was what steered them well away from the relegation zone.
They played Rochdale in the second game of the streak and their last game of February - winning 2-0, and this lifted them off the foot of the table for the first time since October. Next came a hard earned win at home to Bristol Rovers, who eventually got relegated in 24th place. This win came after Rovers' recent appointment of Joey Barton.
What followed was even better, possibly one of their best performances of the season, a 2-1 win against Peterborough United, who came to The Pirelli with just one loss in their last 15. It wasn't pretty, Burton finished the game with 37% of the ball, but two goals in five minutes from Hemmings and Carter ensured the win, and they were sure to hold on despite a goal being pulled back on the 95th minute from Harrison Burrows. After this, they managed to stay unbeaten for another three games in one of the most impressive runs in English football at the time.
The game against Posh was the game where many Burton fans would have started to believe their club would survive.
Player of the season - Ryan Edwards
Ryan Edwards won the clubs player of the season award, and it was fully deserved. The midfielders performances were instrumental in his sides escape from League One relegation. His relentless running in various midfield roles was key to him winning the award. Following a tough first half of the season, the second half of the season was far from that.
The Australian scored a contender for goal of the season in a crucial 2-0 away win against at the time fellow relegation strugglers Northampton Town. He ran from his own half to score a late second goal in an extraordinary solo goal.
The 27-year-old's contract is up at the end of June, and Brewers’ fans will hope that he signs an extension, as he could be key to where they finish once again next season.
Most improved player - Joe Powell
Joe Powell signed for Burton at the end of January last year, only getting a few games before the season was abandoned due the lockdown courtesy of COVID-19. His performances were pretty much unmatched after January when Haslebaink returned, he was playing with confidence and scoring goals. Picking the play with every move.
But this season, he has seen a consistent run of games scoring some pearlers. One of those strikes actually earned him the official goal of the season award from the club. The 22-year-old scored a scorching free-kick away to Portsmouth which made many heads turn.
Having scored six goals and assisting nine this season, its a certain improvement after he had a slow first half of the season - as did most of the Burton squad.