Derby County 4 : Watford 2 – 26th April 2014

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What a weird game. Derby dominated proceedings, played some sublime football & had even more chances to score than in the Barnsley game (20ish perhaps?) Despite that, there were certainly times where I thought we were going to lose or, at least, end up with a frustrating draw.

I had some mixed emotions about this game. I wanted a big win but kind of suspected Watford wouldn’t just roll over. Dad, brother & sister in law were about ten rows behind me in the South West Corner & I also had a good view of The Witch & The Not So Big Man, emblazoned in purest yellow, sitting in the Watford end. I normally sit with them when I watch Watford play. It was pretty obvious they were going through a mixture of emotions too as the game went on.

Still. Another three points in the bag, a good win (eventually), third place secured, momentum maintained & the reassurance (for me anyway) that we weren’t going to face Forest in the play offs. One shouldn’t complain.

Derby started with an unchanged side, probably the team that will face Wigan, Brighton or Reading in the play off semi final. Hendrick, Thorne & newly crowned Player of the Year Bryson are clearly nailed on for our midfield trio. Wardy, with his energy & passion is surely going to keep his place, unless McClaren drops him for not taking the many chances he had to score in this game. Russell? Perhaps in danger of being replaced by Dawkins, who gives a different dimension to the forward line.

Watford were missing two of their most important players, Angella & Abdi. They still had their best player, the awesome Troy Deeney, playing up front though. If he’s not playing in the Premier League next season, I’m a Dutchman. It was Deeney who put Watford ahead after five minutes, with a typically powerful finish from an exquisite through ball by Battocchio. Bit of a shock that. Never mind, we quickly got back to the job at hand. Missing loads of chances, that is. After 28 minutes, Hendrick scored the equaliser with a sharp strike from inside the box following some hapless Watford defending. On a bit of a scoring streak is our Jeff.

Things proceeded in the same fashion for the rest of the first half. Martin and Ward were particular culprits in the missed chances department. Watford lost possession whenever they got it & their defending left a lot to be desired. They were showing a bit of indiscipline too. The classy, ageing Cassetti had been booked after four minutes & Riera followed him into the referee’s notebook after swinging an arm at Forsyth after 22 minutes.

I couldn’t believe it when it was still 1-1 at half-time, it should have been at least 3-1. Still, the second half could only go one way, surely? 

Er… No…. Watford started the second half brightly & carved out a few chances. Great. We only appeared to get back into the game after Watford suffered a few injuries, first Ekstrand & then the anonymous McGugan departing the field, replaced by Hoban & Anya respectively. We took the lead with style too, with Martin, Bryso & Russell all combining well to set up Forsyth, who crashed a rising drive into the roof of the net from just inside the area. He deserved that goal, some of his attacking play was outstanding (something Wisdom could probably learn from, to be honest).

We continued to press forward in order to extend the lead & it looked like the advantage was tipped even more in our favour after 68 minutes when Cassetti was sent of after another reckless booking. Well, I’m assuming it was reckless, as I didn’t really see what happened, I just saw him sprint off the pitch. If that’s his last game for Watford, it’ll be a shame. Absolute class, I would have loved to have seen him play in his prime.

Right, time for Derby to to knock in a few more goals & make the scoreline reflect the possession & chances we’d had… Er.. No…. Watford equalised within a couple of minutes, via an unchallenged header from Ranegie. More sloppy defending from us.

I felt, at that stage, that the score was going to stay like that & despite a great strike by Wardy, well saved by Bond & a few incursions into the box by Martin, there was little indication that we were going to get a winner. Dawkins & Bamford then came on for Wardy & Russell. For Watford, Faoroni, a right wing back, came on for Ranegie, leaving Deeney isolated up front. That sort of ceded the initiative to Derby I think. 

Despite that, the decisive third Rams goal felt like it came out of the blue. Hendrick just picked the ball up well outside the Watford area & wellied it. It flew in, Bond had no chance. Watford went to pieces after that & were subject to wave after wave of Derby attacks. With a few minutes remaining, the ball found it’s way to Martin in the six yard box & he slotted in his 20th league goal of the season (& 23rd in all).

And that was it. 4-2. I don’t think I was the only person who thought the margin of victory could have been significantly more in our favour. The lack of ruthlessness in the final third & the sloppiness in defence remain a causes for concern but, at the end of the day, there were plenty of positives. Martin’s clearly got more goals in him, Hendrick is in the form of his life & we again demonstrated some resilience after getting ourselves out of trouble for the umpteenth time this season.

On to the play offs then. Anything can happen, of course, but if we maintain our momentum with a result against Dirty Leeds & work on our failings from the last few games, we’ll have a fighting chance.

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