Pre-season games are obviously about testing formations, tactics, getting players “game time” and working out your best 11 for the start of the league campaign. I had hoped that Clement, with all his much touted coaching expertise, gained from top clubs in England, France & Spain, would bring in some innovative, fresh way of playing that would mark a big difference from the eventually tactically inept McClaren era.
Clement decided to start this game with McClaren’s formation of choice, 4-3-3. Baird played the “Eustace role” & looked exactly what he is – a solid utility player playing in a highly specialised role. It didn’t quite work. He was neither as tenacious as The Eust nor as creative as Thorne.
I think we all realised last season that there is only one (hugely talented, slightly petulant, a bit stocky) player on our books that can play the lone striker role. For all his goals last season, Bent is about as unsuited to that role as you can get. He can’t hold the ball up & involve other players in the game. Apart from nearly getting on the end of a great Fozzy cross in the 2nd half, Bent contributed nothing. Let’s hope Clement’s learnt a few lessons about formations here.
Aside from Carson, the team that started the game, played 60 minutes before mass substitutions ensued in the 2nd half. Presumably that means that they are his current preferred starting 11 & the guys that came on in the 2nd half are slightly behind but still have a chance to impress.
Seeing as I’d lost all faith in Grant by the end of last season, I was sort of hoping Carson would prove to be a solid, reliable alternative. Not on this showing I’m afraid. He was reasonably capable at set pieces etc but didn’t really dominate his area. His distribution was awful to be honest, at times he seemed incapable of keeping the ball on the pitch, let alone finding a Derby player. Perhaps no one’s told him that the only player in the side capable of winning a header from a goal kick is Fozzy.
It was interesting to see how well Alex Pearce did. I’d read an article from Reading fan, Rob Langham recently (via Derby County Blog’s site) about his attributes & weaknesses & this article proved to be quite prescient. He won all his headers & was full of wholehearted endeavour but he’s certainly not a ball playing centre half. He was also playing on his “wrong” side, in order to accommodate Keogh on the right side. I don’t think that helped him to be honest, as he sometimes looked pretty uncomfortable
Not as uncomfortable as Keogh though. This was a typical hokey last season performance from everyone’s love-hate figure. A few dashes forward, a few well won headers, a few flailing last ditch, panicky challenges & a few histrionic hissy fits when he thought he’d been wronged (either by the ref, a Northampton player or a team mate). I didn’t see the penalty he conceded but that prompted ironic chants for Jason Shackell in the main Derby end. Not good. I didn’t even realise he wasn’t captain until after the game. I have to say that the time has come for Keogh. If (& it’s a big if) we get a reasonable offer for him we should take it. I think we all need a fresh start.
Talking of fresh starts, it was “same old, same old” in the full back department. Christie had a decent game, rampaging forward to little effect, occasionally getting caught out of position & defending reasonably well. However, I thought Ssewankambo looked decent when he came on, powerful, mobile & a seemingly more assured presence. I’d like to see him given a go instead of Christie. Fozzy was his usual self from last season. Once decent cross to Bent but aside from that his delivery was poor.
Aside from Baird, the midfield had a familiar look to it with Hendrick & Hughes taking up the more advance positions. Jeff probably did better out of the two. Weimann started on the left of the front three & was pretty quiet, apart from his set up for Russell’s goal. He did have two knocks early in the 2nd half so maybe that put him off. Russell, of course, was the star performer, gutsy, skillful & determined. He put his goal away extremely well & is clearly the player to watch so far this pre-season. Sod off Cardiff.
It was a pretty poor 1st half if truth be told but we did sort of hold out a bit of hope that mass changes in the 2nd would lead to a significant improvement. Er.. no.. And still McClaren’s 4-3-3.
The Cobblers had done pretty well actually. Nippy, organised & clearly up for it, they were better than us for most of the game. They should have equalised after our ex-captain hauled down Woolmer in the box but he proceeded to hoof the ball well over the bar.
Mass substitutions ensued. How did they fare? Shotton & Warnock continued to demonstrate what poor, limited signings they were last season. Bryson was pretty anonymous until he had a chance near the end. Hanson looked ok, as did Thorne. I think we need a lot more that “ok” from George this season though. Him & Martin were clearly feeling their way back to match fitness again. Hopefully they’ll get better the more minutes they get.
Ince was one of the few highlights. We’d started playing some sort of diamond formation after the substitutions & he was playing at the top of it. Hopefully, that might indicate he won’t be stuck out on the right on his wrong foot for the season ahead.
Have I missed anyone? Oh yes.. Sammon. He didn’t play too badly actually & certainly put himself about a bit. But he’s clearly still lacking in confidence in front of goal & that is never going to change, especially when he has to put up with sarcastic chanting coming from a section of our own fans. The miss at the end, from a perfect Ince pass, had a certain inevitability about it. Another player who needs a fresh start somewhere else.
So, there you go. Not the best of performances & plenty of things for us to mull over & worry about as we approach the new season. I don’t think I’d have it any other way..