Derby County 3 : Doncaster Rovers 1 – 21st December 2013

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Seven wins in row. Can we really keep this up? Well, I think the answer is probably “yes we can, just for a bit longer..”.

This was another not quite so brilliant performance (like the win last week at Charlton) and pretty scrappy at times. Doncaster were actually a decent side, gritty, determined and they knocked the ball around well in the first half. The pace and mobility of their front two also caused us a few problems later on. Richie Wellens was definitely the stand out midfielder in the first half. He drifted around the centre circle playing short passes or the odd long ball, all accurate and all done with a rather laconic air. The diminutive Duffy, on the right wing, was also a constant threat.

Still, we would have come a cropper against a team like this in previous seasons (and possibly earlier this season too), so this was a pleasing win. Arguably, if we had taken our chances (and scored from the penalty) then the score could have been significantly higher. Some of our football was of the highest quality, in particular the goals.

Martin had another excellent game  with a hat trick of assists plus another out of character burst of pace that led to the penalty. It did seem to take an age for him to step up and take it and maybe that was part of the reason why he missed it. Having said that, looking at it again on TV, it was more of a great save than a penalty miss. Martin is essential to this team and this formation. He has so much ability on the ball, holds it up better than anyone I’ve seen in football since Paul Goddard and has added a bit of pace and directness to his game in recent weeks too.

Granty continued to be so reliable in goal, making at least one brilliant save from Robinson at a crucial time in the second half and doing the basics well throughout the game. Theo looked dangerous at times mainly due to his pace and willingness to have a go. But still clearly not the greatest finisher in the world.

Bucko struggled at times in the second half. Outpaced by Theo at least once and his own goal was pretty ludicrous, knocking a header past the bemused Grant when he didn’t seem under pressure at all. Bizarrre. He’s been excellent since the Ipswich game, so let’s see how he refocuses for the next one.

By the way, Keogh looked heartbroken when he went off injured, clearly a heart on the sleeve type of player. Keane looked comfortable, played a few loose passes around at the back when he came on but he soon settled down. He should’ve scored with a header from a Wardy corner but headed wide, when it looked easier to score. He also had one loping run forward where he appeared to want to take on the whole Doncaster team. Nearly succeeded too. Clearly a bit of a rough diamond but who better than Steve McClaren to whip him into shape. Given Keogh will now be out for a month we’ll need his loan extended. We have reasonable cover at centre half though, Whitbread and O’Brien (or even Wisdom) could step in if necessary.

Wardy was a constant threat on the right side and continued to work well with Wisdom and Hughes. Took his goal well too. And hit the post. Dawkins took his goal extremely well, showed blistering pace, directness and composure after being sent through by Martin (who else?). That goal reminded me of Phil Gee in the 1986/87 promotion season. Well, sort of.

I’ve got to mention Forsyth. There is no better player in the side for fizzing in a cross into the box on the floor. He’s come on a lot defensively too. He’s always seemed to me to be the type of player who needs looking after (the metaphorical “arm around the shoulder”) and I suspect our coaching team has made all the difference here. A couple of my fellow season ticket holders were speculating we needed a new left back in January. Seriously?! He’s played every minute this season!

While I’m on the subject of the January shopping window.. Our former manager has been talking about potential Sheffield United recruits and has suggested Johnny Russell might be a target. What absolute nonsense. Why would he drop a division? Nigel’s gone down in my estimation this week.

The next (and last) footy match for me this year will be a visit to Vicarage Road to see Watford v QPR. It’s been exhilarating watching Derby these last few months but I’m rather looking forward to refocusing on my local club.

Happy Chrimbo, folks!

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