Derby County 0 : Millwall 1 – 8th March 2014

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We knew this was coming. We’ve not played well for quite a few games now. We can’t rely on a few moments of magic to snatch results out of the hat at the last minute & we can’t keep riding our luck. This defeat was, unfortunately, thoroughly deserved, although having to suffer the cheating, time wasting behaviour of this mediocre Millwall team left a nasty taste in the mouth.

Most Rams fans, like me, expected a big win against this struggling team & a chance to put in a decent performance for a full 90 minutes for once. Nope. Didn’t happen. And we didn’t get a McClaren inspired comeback either. As the man himself said, we wouldn’t have scored if we’d carried on playing until Monday. As I left the ground, one word was commonplace amongst the post match discussions. Awful. It certainly was undoubtedly the worst home performance since McClaren’s return.

The team news was interesting to say the least. Eustace dropped (or rested) & Bamford back in on the right ahead of Russell. That seemed ok, perhaps we didn’t need a holding midfielder against this lot & we could attack from the off, rather than leaving it so late. Hmmm…. As it quickly transpired, our formation did include a holding midfielder. Hughes. He played in front of the back four all game & on one occasion near the end was our last defender. I’m no tactical genius but if you need quality in your final third, you need your most creative player playing as far forward as possible.

The other mystifying selection was the retention of Hendrick. His form’s been poor since his return from injury. Gone are the driving runs & neat passing of last season. I suppose we should be thankful that he didn’t start in the “Eustace role”. Why not put Thorne in that role? Why is he on loan if he’s not going to come in for Eustace? Come to think of it, how about Eustace in the “Eustace role”?

Anyway. As the first half drew to a close with no sign of any goal threat or urgency whatsoever, there was always the chance of the master tactician Head Coach turning things around at half time. Wasn’t there? Not this time. The subs came on too late & didn’t work. There was no sense that there was a plan. Keogh up front? Bamford & Sammon up front? Bamford & Ward up front? Ward on the left or in the hole? Getting the subs on at half time might have prevented the Millwall goal. Possibly. Why no change at half time? What did McClaren say? “Go on lads. You’ve played awful in that first half, go out there & carry on for a bit longer”?

Bamford is just too languid for me. No pace, no work rate, no contribution to the team. Not a winger, not a striker. Back to the sub’s bench for you, mate.

Sammon? Plenty of physicality, as you’d expect, but he displayed a poor first touch all game & things tended to break down when the ball came to him. Back to the sub’s bench for you, mate.

We never deserved to win this, whatever Millwall did or how they played. However, I’ve never seen such shameless gamesmanship in all the time I’ve been watching football. Their goalie was warned after 29 minutes for continual time wasting & they spent most of the second half rolling around the field after any contact, any tackle. One player even rolled back on to the pitch after falling over near the touchline. Anything to break up play. Cheats. That can’t have just happened, it must have been coordinated by their faux bumkin, Nosferatu clone of a manager. Disgraceful.

I’ve listened to a few Derby fans saying that we shouldn’t go over the top in criticising this performance. I tend to disagree. If we are going to get promoted, either automatically or via the play offs, we need to be able to cope with mediocre teams who come to frustrate us. It’s good that McClaren has acknowledged that we failed in this game but we need to know why that happened & what the answer is. And we need that by Tuesday.

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