This was brilliant. Five wins in a row, which hasn’t happened since the promotion season in 2007. Admittedly, Blackpool were woeful, missing three players sent off in the previous game and devoid of any ambition whatsoever but Derby were brilliant all the same. 5-1. And it probably could have been double that if we’d taken our chances in the first half. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves but I reckon this season is going to be something special. There you go. I’ve got ahead of myself.
Wednesday’s performance against Boro was pretty mediocre (despite the great result) and I did expect McClaren to shake up the side a bit. Or at least rest a few, given the hectic Christmas period is upon us. Perhaps Cisse in for Eusty (given he was subbed at half time on Wednesday) and maybe Dawkins rested. No. It was an unchanged side at the newly renamed iPro Stadium. I’ll give up on predicting the team from now on.
After the well observed minute’s applause to mark the passing of Nelson Mandela, we started in our usual style, passing the ball around neatly. However, within only three minutes Blackpool scored with ease, from their only bit of attacking play in the first half. Another goal conceded from a set piece. It was a decent ball in from Ince Junior and Osbourne rose unchallenged by Martin to send the ball looping into the net, with Grant nowhere near it. At least this goal didn’t result in hordes of Blackpool fans in wheelchairs trundling on to the pitch to join in the goal celebration..
As we’ve come to expect (and admire) since the return of the Mac, the Rams dusted themselves down and started to patiently plug away at Blackpool’s makeshift defence. No panic. No desperate hoofing the ball forward. The rest of the half was all one way traffic as Blackpool sat back and let us come at them. They didn’t have any game plan other than to defend in numbers. To be fair, for the most part the plan succeeded, as last ditch tackles thwarted Martin and Dawkins. Bryson should really have scored after being played in by Dawkins but skyed his shot over. Hughes, Wisdom, Dawkins and Martin played particularly well.
So, we went in one nil down at half time but this was nothing like the Boro game, we’d played well and were unlucky not to be back in the game. Russell replaced Wardy on the right of the front three at the restart. Wardy had taken his time getting into the first half and some of his corners had been poor. McClaren doesn’t shirk away from changing things around during a game does he? Or maybe Wardy was just suffering with his knee.
We were back in it within a few minutes, Martin outpacing Robinson (not sure I’ve seen him do that before) to get in the box and then tumbling over after a nudge from the young Blackpool left back. I didn’t think it was a penalty at the time and replays seemed to confirm that Martin went down pretty easily. Well, like a sack of potatoes actually. He is quite adept at this stuff. There was contact though, I’ve seen ’em given etc etc.. Ince Senior was a bit aggrieved. Bless him. Martin despatched the penalty confidently. I don’t think Ward, Sammon or Russell will get a look in now as penalty takers. Martin’s the man.
For the rest of the second half, the goals just kept coming, as Derby sliced through the hapless, makeshift Blackpool defence at will. They had been pretty resilient in the first half but began to make mistakes. First, another goal from Martin after more great work by Dawkins, then a neat backheel from Bryso and then another penalty from Martin after Dawkins was scythed down by Bishop. He was deservedly sent off (it was a clear goalscoring chance after all).
This glut of goals was followed by a brief bout of tiki taka between the Derby players, knocking the ball around at the back between each other. They were taking the mick, basically. Keogh scored near the end, after a header from Keane was blocked, to give the scoreline a more fulsom look to it. Martinez had got sent off in the meantime. He deserved it. Blackpool have now had eight players sent off this season, demonstrating the values that Ince Senior has instilled in his team.
Of course, Martin was a shoe in as man of the match for his hat trick but I think Wisdom wasn’t far off with some excellent attacking play. I still can’t believe we have him for the whole season. Bucko was also great and deserved the standing ovation when he was subbed near the end, allowing Keane to come on to make his debut. Hard to measure Keane’s contribution, seeing as Blackpool hardly bothered to muster an attack at this stage. Looks tall though. Might be useful at defending set pieces. Or scoring from them. Dawkins had his best game in a Derby shirt. Fabulous work rate, tricky, skilful, pacy and direct, if we don’t sign him permanently in January, I’ll be very surprised. And a bit miffed.
The atmosphere was the best I’ve heard it for years, noise came from all sides of the ground and the drummer-led chanting in the South Stand was fantastic. Just think what it’ll be like if we get to the top of the league and we get 33,000 inside this ground. Sorry, getting ahead of myself again!