Another “new era” begins for the Rams. The Return of The Mac. A New Approach. A continental coaching style. A new defensive solidity. I actually thought for a moment that Derby were going to ditch “Steve Bloomer’s Watching” for an on pitch rendition of “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison. But it wasn’t to be.
However, there was a positivity about Pride Park and a decent sized crowd for once, boosted by nearly 4,000 Leeds fans, who remained, in my view, good natured and vocal (despite what was soon to happen).
Team selection was a continuation from Tuesday night’s second half side, apart from Keogh coming in for Bucko and Russell replacing Bennett. I wonder what that means for Bucko’s future? With the possibility of the Man Utd lad coming (no, not Adnan Januzaj but Michael Keane..) is he going to be a bit part player for the rest of the season? I was keen to see how Whitbread and Keogh worked together in central defence, Keogh probably needs another solid bloke alongside him.
It was 4-3-3 again for the Rams with Eustace in the midfield holding role, Hughes and Bryso a bit more advanced with Wardy and Russell playing in a front three, pivoting around Chris Martin. I’m warming to 4-3-3, I think it gives us better balance, solidity when we’re defending and width when we’re attacking.
Martin was crucial in getting us to a two nil lead after 22 mins, scoring the first after a neat one-two with Bryso and providing an equally neat backheal for Russell’s goal. Both goals were well struck, just the sort of finishes you expect from your strikers. The amount of space Martin had for the first was indicative of the poor state of Leeds’ defence. Their midfield was worse.
Leeds somehow managed to get back into the game after our two goals, not helped by some more fragile Derby defending. Still plenty of work to be done on the training ground then.
Grant flapping twice at balls lofted into the box (the second one leading to the Leeds goal) is a concern. He’s clearly a great shot stopper (as he proved with the penalty save in the Forest game) but has he really been as commanding in the air as we expected? Time for miracle worker (and seemingly the most experienced goalkeeping coach in Europe) Eric Steele to get to work.
Russell had probably his best game for us (at home at least) and looked dangerous throughout. Martin was also excellent and even managed to stay on his feet a bit more than usual (I still don’t have a problem with this, defenders must hate his ability to hold the ball up and the inevitable consequence is a foul).
I’ve seen a bit of criticism of the full backs on Twitter (from Derby fans I have a lot of time for) and while I still have concerns about Smith, I thought Forsyth had a good game. He’s got a decent left foot and got some good balls into the box. Also linked up well with Wardy. He’ll be tested when he faces Watford’s road runner-esque Ikechi Anya in a few weeks, though.
I thought Eustace was great again and he’s absolutely essential to this team at the moment. He got stuck in, played the simple ball and even made a few dinking passes into the box. He did look a bit knackered near the end though, which is presumably why Bucko joined him with a few minutes left. He’s not played that many games over the past year, so I hope he keeps fit. We need him.
I have to mention Will Hughes. Thought his goal was sensational and was just what we needed to keep the pressure off. He could have got a couple more goals too if his lob in the first half had come off and Bryso had seen he was clear in the box near the end. Plenty more to come from young Will, methinks.
Finally, I decided to reacquaint myself with the Brunswick Inn before catching my train to London. Their porter was rather splendid. Tasted like victory..