Derby County 0 : Bolton Wanderers 0 – 11th March 2014

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A frustrating night? Yes, especially as we could and SHOULD have won this game easily. But, to be honest, I went home from this game in a reflective mood. I think I must have used up all my hissy-fit, ranting frustration on Saturday. Thankfully..

This was a massive improvement from the performance against Millwall, two of our play off rivals (QPR & Forest) stuttered and we’re still in third place. And we got a point against an in form team (with bags more resources than us), after two dispiriting defeats. I’m not clutching at straws but automatic promotion has gone now, so all that matters is ensuring we’re in the top six, come 3 May.

My sulky twitter requests to drop Bamford, Sammon & Hendrick nearly came to fruition, the latter only being retained (I reckon) due to the injury to Hughes. Jeff actually pulled off his best performance since last season, especially in the first half. He knocked the ball around well & made some great forward runs. Presumably, this means McClaren will attempt to shoehorn Jeff, Bryso & Hughes into central midfield again next Saturday against Reading. I hope not though.

We started the game with a tempo & urgency that had been lacking against Millwall. Consequently, Bolton were only passingly effective on the counterattack. I wasn’t overly impressed by them as the game went on. Giant defenders, giant attackers, Neil Danns running around like a headless chicken & a horrendous luminous orange kit. That’s all I can remember about them. Oh, and they only played one up front & defended well. Clearly, the game plan of choice for every team who visits the iPro from now on.

Having Eustace, Wardy & Martin back helped us a lot. Eusty provided his usual defensive solidity combined with his usual couple of “Oh sod it, he’s lost possession again” moments. Martin, as you would expect, added fluency  & a focal point to the front line. He must have had three reasonable chances on goal in the first half & probably should have scored with one of them. He fell over unnecessarily a few times, as expected. Wardy was back to his terrier-like tenacious best down the right wing. He seems to have been allowed back on the set piece rota though, which is a bit of a regression. Especially as it felt like we had about 50 corners in the first half.

The first half ended with no goals but the satisfaction of a good performance. Lots of pressure, possession &, dare I say it, dominance. But very little cutting edge or decisiveness in the box. I think I’ll give up on ever seeing Derby score in the South Stand goal again.

Sadly, although we started the second half well, with the same urgency, our performance dropped off a bit as time went on. Frustration or a fracturing of our self belief perhaps. I can’t fault McClaren for his choice of substitutions, four up front was worth a try. However, only Russell looked dangerous. Bamford had a few languid excursions across the edge of the box without any end product & as for Sammon… Well, he should have scored near the end when he scuffed a shot at Bogdan. Everyone knows that. Everyone also knows we need a striker who’s reasonably clinical in the box. That needs to be put right in the summer, whatever division we’re in.

One last word on Craig Forsyth. Our best player last night, in my opinion, despite the occasional lapse. Confident & diligent defensively, comfortable in possession, excellent distribution & the best crosser in the squad. And he’s played every single minute of every single game this season. Player of the season anyone..?

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