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League Two

Sammy McIlroy's Blog 30

13 March 2013

I spoke last week about my sadness at the news that York City had sacked Gary Mills, but one man's misfortune is another's opportunity and just a couple of days later the Minstermen announced Nigel Worthington as the new manager.

Nigel's been out of the game for a couple of years after stepping down as Northern Ireland manager but he's certainly got the experience York were looking for. He knows what he's doing and although he's still got some work to do to ensure the club don't get sucked down into the bottom two, I think he'll do a good job.

I've known Nigel as a player and as a coach and there was definitely a big contrast in his personality on the touchline compared to when he was on the pitch. We played together at the 1986 World Cup in Spain and back then he was a very quiet lad who kept himself to himself.

He was then the Northern Ireland Under-21 manager when I was in charge of the senior team and I saw a different side to him. He was still a good fella but he'd developed a steely side and wasn't afraid to hand out a rollicking when it was needed.

He got some flak for his time as Northern Ireland manager but speaking from experience, it's an incredibly tough job and one where you're so vulnerable to just a couple of injuries. All Northern Ireland managers have to cope with a small pool of players and Nigel did a decent job with that he had at his disposal.

It's been a good few days for Burton Albion on the back of Saturday's 3-1 victory against Cheltenham Town at the Pirelli Stadium - their ninth home win on the bounce - and they followed it up with a 2-1 win at Aldershot Town on Tuesday night.

Gary Rowett has tried to talk down his team's chances of automatic promotion but just one defeat in their last 10 npower League 2 games makes the Brewers the division's in-form team and with Port Vale having a bit of a wobble lately, Burton have put themselves in a great position.

I can't blame Gary for trying to manage expectations. When things are going well, the last thing a manager wants is for his players to get ahead of themselves and lose a bit of focus but privately at least, he must be delighted at hitting form at this stage of the season.

Fleetwood Town bounced back from their recent shaky spell on Tuesday with a 3-0 win at Accrington Stanley and after suffering a bit of a goal drought in recent games, Graham Alexander must have been a relieved man to see his side back in the goals.

The Cod Army had scored just once in their last five npower League 2 fixtures before Tuesday. Big Jon Parkin's hat-trick got them back on track but I know what a headache it can be for a manager when the goals suddenly dry up.

It happens to every side at some stage. You can't seem to buy a goal and the most worrying thing is it affects the whole team. It's fine if just one player has a bad run in front of goal because you can usually rely on someone else to chip in but it's a nightmare when none of the team can seem to find the back of the net.

I tried not to make a big deal of it. I didn't organise extra shooting practice for example because I felt it would only make the players more anxious and focused on working on their self belief. More often than not, the drought would end with a lucky goal or a deflection and we were suddenly back in business.

Accrington remain in deep trouble and they've decided to roll the dice and sign Francis Jeffers on a deal until the end of the season. You'd have to say that it's a bit of a gamble based on Jeffers' recent career but with the situation Stanley are in, it's a gamble worth taking.

Jeffers last club was in Malta and before that he was playing in Australia, so he's not been around the English game for a while, but Accrington are desperate for goals and maybe he can work some of his old magic.

I think his arrival will give the squad a bit of a boost. Jeffers and James Beattie have both played for England and although no-one's pretending their best days aren't behind them, they've both got a pedigree that demands a bit of respect.

It will all depend how hungry Jeffers is. He's still only 32, so he's not too old to make an impact and if he wants to sign off with a few decent seasons, he's got a great opportunity at the Crown Ground.

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