I felt a little bit apprehensive about this one. We’ve not had the best of results against Wednesday in the recent years and they thrashed Reading 5-2 last week. And, of course, the foundation stone of our recent success, holding midfielder par excellence, John Eustace, was missing due to suspension. With no other fit Eustace clone available, most Derby fans were assuming the flexible Andre Wisdom would slot in.
Nope. As I approached the ground, it was announced that Kalifa Cisse had signed up on “a non-contract basis” and had gone straight into the side. That’s the same Kalifa Cisse who McLaren suggested last week wouldn’t be joining us. A bit of a gamble? Well, it paid off in spades. Cisse was excellent. As were Derby. Wednesday, however, were atrocious and deserved a lot more more than a three nil defeat.
The game got off on a bit of a sour note with a disrupted minute’s silence due to chanting by Wednesday supporters. However, apart from a few isolated idiots, the chanting clearly came from fans who hadn’t arrived in the stands yet (and, therefore, weren’t aware of the silence). To be fair to them, the near 4,000 Wednesday fans gave a good account of themselves throughout the game, remaining vocal even after the third goal.
As the game proceeded, we were completely dominant. And we bloody well should have been, Wednesday were dreadful, truly dreadful. Ponderous, overly physical, lacking anyone capable of passing a ball to feet and devoid of any threat apart from at set pieces, they were perfectly summed up by the guy sitting behind me, “They’re just big, aren’t they?” Yep. That was their sole attribute as a team.
As McClaren said after the game, this win was built on a great performance by the back five (six if you count Cisse). Granty’s performance was a marked improvement on recent games, making a number of important, brave saves and at last looking confident with crosses. Eric Steele must be working his magic (especially if the half time practice drills were anything to go by). Wisdom put in another assured performance at right back (Adam Smith’s position at the club looks more precarious by the week). Forsyth put in probably his best performance in a Rams shirt. At last there were hints that he can be strong defensively plus a few dangerous sorties upfield, which included an assist for Hughes’ goal.
Bucko was great too and his thunderous header for the first goal, settled the nerves, providing the platform for a more relaxed attacking second half performance. If we hadn’t scored in the first half we may have got frustrated, so it was a crucial moment. Two central defenders signed since Clough’s sacking but Bucko’s still in the first team. Not many Derby fans, including me, expected that.
Cisse was a revelation. From what I’d read on the internet, I expected an inelegant clogger, perhaps reminiscent of a Darryl Powell type player. He was nothing of the sort. Strong in the tackle, for sure, but he was massively composed on the ball and also managed to see the 90 minutes out. Not a bad fitness level for someone who’s only played a few games in the US this season. Three month contract, please.
The defensive performance provided a solid base for our attacking players to have a real go at Wednesday. Dawkins, Hughes and Wardy (in particular) were superb. Certainly the best home performance of the season and puts us in a good position in the table before the international break.
As an aside, I think I’ve perfected my ten minute power walk to The Brunswick for my post match celebratory pint. That Railway Porter seems to be tasting better with every passing game. Wonder if I can persuade my dad and brother to join me after the Boro game..