Derby County 2 : Middlesbrough 1 – 4th December 2013

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It was cliché central at PridePro Park last night. Win ugly. Would have been happy with a draw. Super-sub. The three points are what matters. Not easy to play against ten men etc, etc.. It was a bit of a strange game if truth be told. Certainly it was a poor performance against a neat and organised Boro side but it was strangely satisfying all the same. These are the type of games you need to win if you want to get promoted.. Ok, that’s enough clichés for now.

The satisfying part was that, after four wins in a row, we’re fourth in the table and nicely placed as we head into the hectic Christmas period. Come New Year’s Day, I think we’ll have some idea of what this team is capable of achieving at the end of the season. Play offs, automatic promotion or a mediocre top ten finish? We’ll see. We’ve crash and burned before. There is an air of positivity about the club though. And the fans too – a near 25,000 crowd on a cold winter night ain’t bad.

Boro started the game off well, knocking the ball around with aplomb. Presumably that’s the influence of new manager (and former Real Madrid assistant coach) Aitor Karanka. However, apart from Kei Kamara  (played a few games for Norwich last season, thought he looked familiar..) they didn’t look particularly dangerous in the box. We struggled though, losing possession and misplacing passes all over the field.

The most interesting thing that happened in the first half was the sending off for two bookable offences of Boro striker, Curtis Main, and I think the consensus was that it was a “tad harsh”. Certainly, the first challenge on Grant seemed innocuous. The other booking, for a robust challenge on Bucko, seemed about right. Obviously, the Boro fans took the opportunity to moan about this for the rest of the game but it wasn’t really a game changing moment, seeing as we didn’t capitalise on the one man advantage in anyway whatsoever.

Our first goal obviously came at the right time, just before the whistle blew for half time. A great cross from the left by Bryso was prodded in astutely by Chris Martin. That was about the only contribution he made during the evening. I’m not singling him out, a fair proportion of the side were well below par, including god-like defensive midfielder genius, John Eustace.

Eustace was replaced at half time by Hendrick. It was nice to see Jeff back but he was extremely rusty, presumably ending up the game with pass completion stats of about 5%. The second half was a bit unmemorable to be honest. We did put pressure on Boro and unlike the Brum game we were patient and composed in trying to get the second goal. That’s a positive sign. However, Boro defended resolutely and grabbed a possibly deserved equaliser via mistakes from Bucko and a few others. My fellow ST holders saw that as a cue to call for Bucko to be hauled off and replaced by Keane. Thankfully, McClaren responded in the positive manner we’ve come to expect and chucked on Russell and Sammon. We kept plugging away and the winning goal  from the Fish came with seconds to spare. Score ugly?

Men of the match? I thought Keogh was great, particularly going forward. Wardy was brilliant (a few useless corners aside), popping up all over the pitch and a pretty constant threat. If only he’d scored with that volley.

Goal celebration of the match? I thought the Boro fan in the wheelchair who invaded the pitch (or more accurately trundled onto the pitch) to celebrate the Boro goal with their players was great. Is that the next “thing” after flares/smoke bombs? Wheelchair pitch invasions?

Hat of the night? There were several good candidates here given the cold weather but this award must go to my dad for his rotating furry deerstalker. Very Sherlock Holmes.

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