An exhilarating season comes to an end in the cruellest of ways. Defeat to that buffoon of a manager & his randomly assembled menagerie of overpaid mercenaries. Triffic.
To be honest, I’m not that distraught. I was inconsolable when we got beaten by Leicester at the old Wembley 20 years ago but not now. Of course, it hurt to lose after playing so well but, if we react in the right way to this defeat, and learn from it, we’ll have a great chance of automatic promotion next season. Having said that, a Watford fan has already pointed out to me that he said the same thing after their play off final defeat last year. And look how their sodding season turned out.
Being around so many great people on Saturday took the edge off the heartbreak for me. Of course, I couldn’t imagine being at Wembley without The Witch & the Not So Big Man (& I was there for them last season for Watford’s depressing defeat to Palace). But this was a opportunity to meet some folks from Twitter & spend some time with the guys I sit with at the iPro. At the end of the day, the camaraderie with other fans is what makes football such a special thing.
A couple of pints of Tetley & a £6 cheeseburger & we were ready to enter the fray. Team news was as I wanted it. Hughes kept his place, with Bryso on the bench. How could McClaren drop Will after such a brilliant game against Brighton? The selection was justified in my view & I thought he was up there with Thorne as our best player of the day.
A scruffy first half went pretty quickly. We had a bit of a hokey first ten minutes but settled down & started knocking the ball around in our usual way. George Thorne was immense, always looking for the ball & spraying it around with confidence. He made a brilliant last ditch tackle on Kevin Doyle too.
We didn’t really carve out many chances though, a free kick from Wardy being our only shot on goal. Fozzy had a decent header from a Wardy cross. That was it. Dunne was a rock in central defence for QPR & certainly kept Martin quiet. Kranjcar & Traore were fleeting threats. I thought we had a good penalty shout when Hughes’ legs were taken away by Dunne but apparently there was little or no contact. What was I to know? I was 16 miles away in the upper tier.
The 31st minute ovation for Colin Bloomfield was emotional, what a tribute to an inspirational bloke. And well done for my fellow “Guthrie” ST holder, Scott Gillett, & others for organising the campaign. That’s done a lot to raise awareness of melanoma and raised a fair bit of cash too. Well done, Scotty.
The second half was all Derby but the QPR defence was holding firm. When self confessed cheat Gary O’Neil was sent off in the 60th minute, I thought that was the watershed moment. What a cynical, dishonest foul that was. Despite what any QPR fans have said, I can’t see a Derby player doing that. Down to ten men & already outplayed, QPR only had one option left – play for penalties. And hope for a mistake.
Playing against ten men, it was just going to be a matter of time, wasn’t it? Just keep knocking the ball around prettily & eventually, like most times this season, we’ll score, won’t we? No, not this time. We dominated possession & QPR gave up trying to get forward but it just wouldn’t work for us. Shots from Bryson & Martin were saved easily by Green. We weren’t direct enough to get through the massed ranks of the QPR defence. Corners came & went without any real goal threat.
Times passed. Bryson on for Hughes (when perhaps Hendrick merited going off) and Dawkins replaced Russell. More intricate passing moves around the box. And then it happened. Hoilett made some progress down the right, his cross went to Keogh and the rest his history. One shot on goal all game & QPR scored from it. Within minutes it was over. Like most of the 38, 000 Rams fans, I was in shock. We all solemnly trudged back to Watford in a semi-catatonic state.
So, what next for us? A summer of clearing the decks – Bamford, Wisdom, Bailey & Legzdins have already said their goodbyes. Who next? I can’t imagine Neo-Eustace staying, given his Premiership level performances in the last few months. If he is available, he’ll cost a bomb, surely? If Thorne goes, who do we stick in the Eustace role? Do we need a plan B when 4-3-3 doesn’t work? Do we need to be more direct &, if so, who’s the striker to help us do that? What players can our much vaunted recruitment team pick out?
Lots of questions for the summer then. I for one can’t wait for us to start again. And I know we can come back stronger.
Come on you Rams.