Of course, Blackburn deserved a draw after putting in an organised, wholehearted performance and hitting the post twice. But most Rams fans will have left Pride Park a tad frustrated and disappointed, as we played pretty well at times and nearly hung on for the three points. The fact that we failed to close out the game will bring back a few uncomfortable memories from last season. Anyway, what were the positives and negatives?
Russell – we might just have a reliable penalty taker as well as (hopefully) a natural goalscorer.. After missing our last four penalties last season, this was a crucial moment for Russell and he didn’t disappoint. His goal celebration gave you a hint at what it meant to him to get off the mark in his first game. He was feeding off scraps for most of the game and is obviously not fully match fit yet, so there is a lot more to come, I think.
Grant – I thought he was solid throughout and had an air of experienced authority about him. Definitely an upgrade on Fielding and Legzdins. Hopefully, he’ll strengthen the defensive unit as a whole.
Hughes & Wardy – Hughes was brilliant at times and got a standing ovation when he came off (even my dad stood up and joined in with that..). My only concern is, given the exposure he got yesterday from Sky and a positive article from Henry Winter in the Telegraph, we’ll soon receive a bid we can’t refuse. Wardy was also a creative force on the left, although there were a few times he could have used Forsyth on the overlap. No creativity or width on the right but more on that later..
Atmosphere – The crowd was smaller than last season’s opener but not surprising really given the presence of the TV cameras, the timing of the game and the diminutive contingent of Blackburn fans. However, the atmosphere was excellent, mainly due to the massed ranks of Rams fans in the new South Stand section. A good decision by the club to put our fans there. Should be interesting when a decent away contingent turns up at the Leicester game.
Formation – I had a little moan about this on Twitter before the game. We look unbalanced whenever Clough tries to shoehorn Hughes, Bryson and Hendrick into midfield. Jeff started stuck out on the right and looked a bit of a spare part. Things improved when we switched to 4-3-3 but I still prefer Coutts on the right in a 4-4-2. Jacobs could also play on the right. Just think what Russell could do with crosses pinging in from both wings.
Closing out the game – Despite some sensible substitutions we still weren’t able to see out the game. This has got to improve if we’re going to compete this season. I thought Bryso was at least partly at fault for not cutting out the cross for their goal. Some fans said on Twitter we lost our lead because of the substitutions. I don’t agree, they were all necessary.
Martin – I’m still not sure about him. Some good touches and an excellent shot on goal but he looked ponderous at times (never more so when Russell went off and he was on his own up front). I prefer Sammon and maybe even the lad Bennett alongside Russell.
Play off contenders? – I think there is plenty to take heart from this game. I’ve told a lot of people I think we’ll be runners up to Watford this year. I’ve seen the light after this weekend. Not going to happen for us. But we can definitely get in the play offs. And we’ve still got the Brayford cash to invest. Let’s not spend it on another central midfielder though!