There were two things that mattered in this game, seeing as (thankfully) our position in the play offs had already been secured.
Firstly, we had to win & try to secure that third place. Finishing third gives us an advantage in the semi-final, playing whoever finishes in sixth & ensuring we play the second leg at home. I know the play offs are a bit of a lottery but I think these things matter. Secondly, we needed to retain our focus & keep our momentum going (or not “ease of”, as McClaren said in the DT on Sunday). A dominant, focussed performance, with a clean sheet, clinical finishing and plenty of goals would have done me just fine. We succeeded with the first objective but stuttered badly with the second, in my view.
We played well and did win, of course, but we also eased off and were much too casual at times. Barnsley were clearly a limited side but had some spirit, as you’d expect from a team fighting for their lives at the wrong end of the table. However, if we’d taken a reasonable proportion of our chances (Radio Derby said we had about 15) we would have won by a country mile. As McClaren has already said, we need to learn some lessons from that. We’ll get turned over in the play offs if we don’t take our chances.
The team selection was sensible. Wardy had done well in the Doncaster game, while Bamford had struggled to make an impact (he also looked a bit p*ssed off at being substituted but maybe I imagined that). Given that this was the second game in four days, I think it was also sensible to rotate in midfield, so Hughes was rested, with Hendrick replacing him.
We started off at a good tempo, passed the ball around well and started to create a few chances. The best of these went to Russell but he shot wide when clean through on goal. Thorne was spraying the ball around well from his deep lying midfield position. He didn’t have a great game though, mistiming a few tackles and playing a few loose passes. The Master replaced him after 63 mins. Thorne looked knackered when he came off, so perhaps it was a sensible move.
Hendrick had a great game, I thought, making a number of powerful, direct runs into the final third. His goal was a fantastic strike, from 30 yards was it? God knows was Steele was doing in Barnsley’s goal – he didn’t make an attempt at a save, so presumably he thought it was going wide. Russell’s goal was slightly different, seemingly going in after connecting with Bryson’s backside. Still, they all count and it’s nice to see that we’re trying a few shots from outside the area rather than trying to pass the ball into the goal.
You would have thought we could have pushed on from two nil up and scored five or six but the second half was a bit of a disappointment. We had a few chances – the free kick from Bryson and the run into the box from Forsyth stick out but we were much too casual in our play. Proschwitz pulled a goal back after 80 minutes (Wisdom was easily and surprisingly knocked off the ball for that) and the last stretch of the game was a tad frenetic for my liking. Sammon went sprawling in the box and Steele pulled off a great save from Russell from the resultant penalty. Not a bad penalty but I reckon Martin would’ve scored it if he’d been on the pitch. Let’s hope we don’t have a penalty shootout in the play offs..
I thought Dawkins did well when he came on. His ability to hold onto the ball and dribble with it, alongside his pace, make him a useful option to bring on. He’s another one who could do with a bit more game time get himself fully match fit.
Anyways, we got the three points and one more next week against Watford should see us safely in that third place and wondering who we’re going to meet in the semi final.