Derby County 3 : Charlton Athletic 0 – 29th March 2014

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Result wise this was a rather splendid day for the Rams. I personally think the result flattered us a bit, especially as we stuttered badly in the 2nd half, but a win is a win & every single other relevent result went well for us. Ipswich v Fawaz Utd was a draw, stretching our lead over 7th place to 11 points. QPR, Wigan & Reading also drew, improving our position in the top 6. Can’t complain about that.

The performance in the 1st half was excellent, aside from a few periods when our tempo dropped. Thorne, Grant, Russell & Bamford all playing well. Charlton, to their credit, had a real go at us second half & were unlucky not to come away with at least a goal. We definitely struggled a bit in that 2nd period until McClaren made some sensible substitutions but, taking everything into consideration, it was a comfortable win. And, let’s face it, any performance from now on is going to pale into into insignificance compared to that one last week.

Derby started with an unchanged side. This was a bit of a surprise for me, as I had been predicting Mr Eustace’s return to the team after the end of his two game suspension. McClaren appeared to me to have guaranteed this by saying in the DT on Friday, “George has done very well but Eusty has been there and got the experience. We will definitely need him from now until the end of the season.” I was wrong in my team prediction, not for the first time this season. Thorne (or neo-Eustace, as I like to think of him) started. And had an absolutely brilliant 1st half.

Thorne was so composed & calm in that 1st half, you can see why West Brom rate him so highly. His short passing is simply on a different level to The Eust. He went forward confidently too & even had a crack at goal which fizzed narrowly wide. He wasn’t the only one. Bryso, Hendrick also had a go with long range shots.

We started off at a good tempo & Charlton, nominally playing a 4-3-3 (which was in effect a 10-1), sat back & defended. Thankfully, that didn’t stop us from getting into the lead, with Russell scoring from a sharp strike just inside the area. I’m so glad he’s getting a run in the side now & a chance to show what a natural goalscorer he is. Bamford also scored again, poking in from close range after some very sloppy defending from Charlton. He deserved that too, he went on some good attacking runs in his usual languid style.

The 2nd half was set up pretty much for a thrashing but Charlton, to their credit, hadn’t read the script. They gave it a real go. Grant was forced into making two excellent saves & we struggled to keep possession & achieve the fluidity we had earlier in the game. Thorne was more subdued & began to looked tired. Not surprising after three games in a week for a player lacking in regular 1st team football for the last year or so.

McClaren had limited options on the bench. With Dawkins & Ward out due to injury & young Mason getting valuable game time on loan at Chesterfield, we had three defenders & a defensive midfielder available to change things around. McClaren made the right decisions though, Eustace replaced neo-Eustace, Sammon replaced Bamford. That certainly steadied the ship & we began to get back into the game.

Martin’s astute flicked header from a Bryson corner put a gloss in the scoreline & he certainly seemed relieved to get back on the score sheet. It was a mixed bag of a game for him – the usual skilful hold up play, combined with some lethargic running & demonstrations of frustrated petulance whenever a team mate failed to pick him out. Hopefully that goal will put him on track for a few more by the end of the season.

So, all that was left was a quick dash over to the Brunswick for a pint of stout, a quick review of the other results & chance to gain a bit of perspective. We ended the day in a much better position than when we started it & a confirmed spot in the play offs is edging closer & closer.

Onwards & upwards.

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