Derby County 0 : Queen’s Park Rangers 1 – 24 May 2014

image

An exhilarating season comes to an end in the cruellest of ways. Defeat to that buffoon of a manager & his randomly assembled menagerie of overpaid mercenaries. Triffic.

To be honest, I’m not that distraught. I was inconsolable when we got beaten by Leicester at the old Wembley 20 years ago but not now. Of course, it hurt to lose after playing so well but, if we react in the right way to this defeat, and learn from it, we’ll have a great chance of automatic promotion next season. Having said that, a Watford fan has already pointed out to me that he said the same thing after their play off final defeat last year. And look how their sodding season turned out.

Being around so many great people on Saturday took the edge off the heartbreak for me. Of course, I couldn’t imagine being at Wembley without The Witch & the Not So Big Man (& I was there for them last season for Watford’s depressing defeat to Palace). But this was a opportunity to meet some folks from Twitter & spend some time with the guys I sit with at the iPro. At the end of the day, the camaraderie with other fans is what makes football such a special thing.

A couple of pints of Tetley & a £6 cheeseburger & we were ready to enter the fray. Team news was as I wanted it. Hughes kept his place, with Bryso on the bench. How could McClaren drop Will after such a brilliant game against Brighton? The selection was justified in my view & I thought he was up there with Thorne as our best player of the day.

A scruffy first half went pretty quickly. We had a bit of a hokey first ten minutes but settled down & started knocking the ball around in our usual way. George Thorne was immense, always looking for the ball & spraying it around with confidence. He made a brilliant last ditch tackle on Kevin Doyle too.

We didn’t really carve out many chances though, a free kick from Wardy being our only shot on goal. Fozzy had a decent header from a Wardy cross. That was it. Dunne was a rock in central defence for QPR & certainly kept Martin quiet. Kranjcar & Traore were fleeting threats. I thought we had a good penalty shout when Hughes’ legs were taken away by Dunne but apparently there was little or no contact. What was I to know? I was 16 miles away in the upper tier.

The 31st minute ovation for Colin Bloomfield was emotional, what a tribute to an inspirational bloke. And well done for my fellow “Guthrie” ST holder, Scott Gillett, & others for organising the campaign. That’s done a lot to raise awareness of melanoma and raised a fair bit of cash too. Well done, Scotty.

The second half was all Derby but the QPR defence was holding firm. When self confessed cheat Gary O’Neil was sent off in the 60th minute, I thought that was the watershed moment. What a cynical, dishonest foul that was. Despite what any QPR fans have said, I can’t see a Derby player doing that. Down to ten men & already outplayed, QPR only had one option left – play for penalties. And hope for a mistake.

Playing against ten men, it was just going to be a matter of time, wasn’t it? Just keep knocking the ball around prettily & eventually, like most times this season, we’ll score, won’t we? No, not this time. We dominated possession & QPR gave up trying to get forward but it just wouldn’t work for us. Shots from Bryson & Martin were saved easily by Green. We weren’t direct enough to get through the massed ranks of the QPR defence. Corners came & went without any real goal threat.

Times passed. Bryson on for Hughes (when perhaps Hendrick merited going off) and Dawkins replaced Russell. More intricate passing moves around the box. And then it happened. Hoilett made some progress down the right, his cross went to Keogh and the rest his history. One shot on goal all game & QPR scored from it. Within minutes it was over. Like most of the 38, 000 Rams fans, I was in shock. We all solemnly trudged back to Watford in a semi-catatonic state.

So, what next for us? A summer of clearing the decks – Bamford, Wisdom, Bailey & Legzdins have already said their goodbyes. Who next? I can’t imagine Neo-Eustace staying, given his Premiership level performances in the last few months. If he is available, he’ll cost a bomb, surely? If Thorne goes, who do we stick in the Eustace role? Do we need a plan B when 4-3-3 doesn’t work? Do we need to be more direct &, if so, who’s the striker to help us do that? What players can our much vaunted recruitment team pick out?

Lots of questions for the summer then. I for one can’t wait for us to start again. And I know we can come back stronger.

Come on you Rams.

Posted in Uncategorized

Derby County 4 : Brighton & Hove Albion 1 – 11th May 2014

image

Glorious. What a sublime performance & an almost perfect day (spoilt only slightly by finding out that the Mexican we intended to go to in Sadlergate was closed. Well, half derelict actually..). There can’t be much that can top this. Apart from a victory in the final at Wemberleee, of course!

The nerves had set in hours before kick off (about 630am to be precise). Yes, we’re the best team in the play offs & McClaren’s clearly got the lads focused but anything can happen in these sodding games. One bad refereeing decision or a loss of concentration in defence can make all the difference. Brighton proved in the first leg that they’re a pretty decent side. Certainly capable of causing us damage. Thankfully, we got through it. And we did it in style.

The Witch was with me today (seven rows down from my seat in the “Guthrie”). I’m sure she found it a bit of a contrast to sitting in the away end with a few hundred disconsolate Watford fans.. One quick pint of Pedigree on the concourse & we were ready to take our seats & soak up the steadily building atmosphere.

The team had one change from the first leg, Hughes in for the injured Bryson. Quite content with that, as I thought Hughes’ guile might help us control possession a bit more in midfield. I think it did help but it was also clear that the whole team was massively up for this one, spurred on by the fantastic atmosphere from the capacity crowd. I thought we controlled the game from start to finish.

It was still a bit nerve wracking in the first half though. Seeing Hendrick booked after 21 minutes for a “studs up” challenge didn’t help, we didn’t want to be down to ten men in a game like this. However, Wardy carved out a few good chances early doors, Fozzy hit the side netting with a fine strike & even Wisdom had a crack at goal. He’s been brilliant in the last few weeks. What a beast of a full back.

The first goal, courtesy of a sublime backheel by Hughes, via another fine cross from Fozzy, settled the nerves a bit. It was a quite wonderful goal, the power & placement was amazing to see. I think if I’d have tried that I would have broken both my legs.

Wardy nearly got another after chasing down Kuszczak. He’s due a goal but his aggressive, all action, endeavour is an essential part of this side. Despite being 3-1 up on aggregate, things were still a bit tense & it took a great save by Granty to prevent an equaliser from the lumbering, petulant Ulloa, who was played in by a lofted pass from the tricky Lingard. That proved to be the nearest Brighton got to our goal for a long time but it could have changed the match completely. Well done, Granty. Again.

The half time whistle blew & after a comfort break & a quick debrief with the Witch, it was time for the second half. Were we going to come out on the front foot & kill the game or were we going to allow Brighton to get back in it? Rather pleasingly, we proceeded to put Brighton to the sword.

Martin (who had a great game, revelling in the space he had) bagged his fourth goal against Brighton this season, bundling home when Wardy astutely headed across goal from Russell’s cross. 25 goals. So far. Not bad for a free transfer. I think I celebrated that one a little too extravagantly, it was hugs, high fives & pats on the back all round for our little band of ST holders. All very manly stuff.

I was a bit worried at this stage that the goal had made people overlook the planned 56th minute tribute to those who died in the Bradford fire disaster 29 years ago. No chance. Within a couple of minutes, the whole stadium was standing up, applauding & chanting. What an emotional moment & what a fitting tribute.

Next came a sweet volley from outside the area by the excellent Thorne, not the most powerful of strikes but placed well enough to creep in the far post. 3-0 on the day, 5-1 on aggregate & we all knew we were on the way to Wembley.

Before long it was a 4-0, with Jeff whacking in a powerful shot, after a typically direct run into the box. We were all in dreamland, how many were we going to score? Well, no more goals from us but there was just enough time for Lua Lua to remind us that Brighton were still on the pitch. 4-1. Wasn’t a brilliant goal but most Derby fans applauded it, we were feeling pretty generous at this stage.

There was only one thing left to do. Prepare to invade the pitch. Apart from a few idiots who got on to the pitch before the whistle blew (shades of the Fulham game in 1982-83, anyone?), it was quite a pleasant affair. The club had clearly decided that they couldn’t stop it happening, so they concentrated on segregation duties.

And that was it. Time to depart & work out the quickest route to the Brewery Tap & start to think about Wembley. Short journey for me & the Witch..

Posted in Uncategorized

Derby County 4 : Watford 2 – 26th April 2014

image

What a weird game. Derby dominated proceedings, played some sublime football & had even more chances to score than in the Barnsley game (20ish perhaps?) Despite that, there were certainly times where I thought we were going to lose or, at least, end up with a frustrating draw.

I had some mixed emotions about this game. I wanted a big win but kind of suspected Watford wouldn’t just roll over. Dad, brother & sister in law were about ten rows behind me in the South West Corner & I also had a good view of The Witch & The Not So Big Man, emblazoned in purest yellow, sitting in the Watford end. I normally sit with them when I watch Watford play. It was pretty obvious they were going through a mixture of emotions too as the game went on.

Still. Another three points in the bag, a good win (eventually), third place secured, momentum maintained & the reassurance (for me anyway) that we weren’t going to face Forest in the play offs. One shouldn’t complain.

Derby started with an unchanged side, probably the team that will face Wigan, Brighton or Reading in the play off semi final. Hendrick, Thorne & newly crowned Player of the Year Bryson are clearly nailed on for our midfield trio. Wardy, with his energy & passion is surely going to keep his place, unless McClaren drops him for not taking the many chances he had to score in this game. Russell? Perhaps in danger of being replaced by Dawkins, who gives a different dimension to the forward line.

Watford were missing two of their most important players, Angella & Abdi. They still had their best player, the awesome Troy Deeney, playing up front though. If he’s not playing in the Premier League next season, I’m a Dutchman. It was Deeney who put Watford ahead after five minutes, with a typically powerful finish from an exquisite through ball by Battocchio. Bit of a shock that. Never mind, we quickly got back to the job at hand. Missing loads of chances, that is. After 28 minutes, Hendrick scored the equaliser with a sharp strike from inside the box following some hapless Watford defending. On a bit of a scoring streak is our Jeff.

Things proceeded in the same fashion for the rest of the first half. Martin and Ward were particular culprits in the missed chances department. Watford lost possession whenever they got it & their defending left a lot to be desired. They were showing a bit of indiscipline too. The classy, ageing Cassetti had been booked after four minutes & Riera followed him into the referee’s notebook after swinging an arm at Forsyth after 22 minutes.

I couldn’t believe it when it was still 1-1 at half-time, it should have been at least 3-1. Still, the second half could only go one way, surely? 

Er… No…. Watford started the second half brightly & carved out a few chances. Great. We only appeared to get back into the game after Watford suffered a few injuries, first Ekstrand & then the anonymous McGugan departing the field, replaced by Hoban & Anya respectively. We took the lead with style too, with Martin, Bryso & Russell all combining well to set up Forsyth, who crashed a rising drive into the roof of the net from just inside the area. He deserved that goal, some of his attacking play was outstanding (something Wisdom could probably learn from, to be honest).

We continued to press forward in order to extend the lead & it looked like the advantage was tipped even more in our favour after 68 minutes when Cassetti was sent of after another reckless booking. Well, I’m assuming it was reckless, as I didn’t really see what happened, I just saw him sprint off the pitch. If that’s his last game for Watford, it’ll be a shame. Absolute class, I would have loved to have seen him play in his prime.

Right, time for Derby to to knock in a few more goals & make the scoreline reflect the possession & chances we’d had… Er.. No…. Watford equalised within a couple of minutes, via an unchallenged header from Ranegie. More sloppy defending from us.

I felt, at that stage, that the score was going to stay like that & despite a great strike by Wardy, well saved by Bond & a few incursions into the box by Martin, there was little indication that we were going to get a winner. Dawkins & Bamford then came on for Wardy & Russell. For Watford, Faoroni, a right wing back, came on for Ranegie, leaving Deeney isolated up front. That sort of ceded the initiative to Derby I think. 

Despite that, the decisive third Rams goal felt like it came out of the blue. Hendrick just picked the ball up well outside the Watford area & wellied it. It flew in, Bond had no chance. Watford went to pieces after that & were subject to wave after wave of Derby attacks. With a few minutes remaining, the ball found it’s way to Martin in the six yard box & he slotted in his 20th league goal of the season (& 23rd in all).

And that was it. 4-2. I don’t think I was the only person who thought the margin of victory could have been significantly more in our favour. The lack of ruthlessness in the final third & the sloppiness in defence remain a causes for concern but, at the end of the day, there were plenty of positives. Martin’s clearly got more goals in him, Hendrick is in the form of his life & we again demonstrated some resilience after getting ourselves out of trouble for the umpteenth time this season.

On to the play offs then. Anything can happen, of course, but if we maintain our momentum with a result against Dirty Leeds & work on our failings from the last few games, we’ll have a fighting chance.

Posted in Uncategorized
Steve Bloomer's Watching

Musings on Derby County FC

shout to the top!!

the ram-blings of simon penney

Experimental 3-6-1

Data analysis, visualisations and (hopefully) insight for all 72 Football League clubs

In The Wolf's Mouth

A Chronicle of Watford's Italian Journey

BHaPPY (not BSaD)

Or, alternatively, \"BSaD: Mission To Moscow\". Don\'t ask why. Or do ask why, but don\'t expect an answer. Or expect an answer, but brace yourself for bewilderment. And so forth.

RAMSPACE.CO.UK

Dedicated to the Glories of Derby County Football Club

Rams Corner

Nathan's Rams Blog.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.