Derby County 1 : Rotherham United 0 – 9 August 2014

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Relief. That is the overwhelming feeling I had at the final whistle (as well as the usual “must get a pint in at the Brunswick before my train home” feeling). To be honest, I’d sort of settled on a 0-0 draw & was compiling my list of things to moan about on Twitter on the way home. But, thankfully, we’ve not lost the ability to snatch a victory, with one moment of sheer quality, while not playing particularly well. Hopefully, that will stand us in good stead this season.  

As McClaren warned in his programme notes, Rotherham proved to be difficult opponents. They worked hard, showed plenty skill & endeavour and could have quite easily scored twice at the death. If they carry on like this, they won’t struggle in this division. Steve Evans may be a convicted tax evader & everyone’s favourite hate figure but he’s achieved promotions in four successive seasons with two different clubs. Not a bad record. Rotherham’s fans deserve a mention too. They were loud & boisterous throughout, although the Bobby Zamora chants were pretty ludicrous. We’re over that.

Anyway. An outstanding save from Granty & a great clearance off the line from Fozzy ensured we came away with all three points (which I think we just about deserved). However, there were quite a few players who looked a bit rusty & apart from a barnstorming first 20 minutes, the performance was a bit flat. Plenty of things to work on for McClaren, Simmo & Steele. Some thoughts on the player performances then…

Grant – looked reliable throughout and, obviously, made an exceptional save at the end. He’s going to be vitally important for us again this season.

Christie – a promising debut & many fans’ choice for man of the match. Looked pretty good going forward (especially for the goal) & solid defensively. Will only get better as the season progresses.

Forsyth – Aside from the brilliant goal line clearance & a few good attacking forays he was a bit off his game. His distribution (unusually) was pretty lax at times.  

Buxton – thankfully recovered from the obviously contagious “hip flexor virus” & a very solid, robust, wholehearted performance. As you’d expect.

Keogh – was my man of the match, to be honest. Didn’t put a foot (or head) wrong. Looked very calm throughout & certainly no sign of the pre-season jitters that have got a few of the wrist slashers on his back. Pretty inspirational, intelligently written programme notes too.  

Hughes – a fine performance in the holding role until being subbed due to a nasty whack on his side. Obviously, very confident in possession, some astute passing & a rather Eustace like tackle just before he was taken off. 

Hendrick – a fantastic goal, of course, from a typical forward run but one of the players who looked a little off the pace. 

Bryson – also a little off the pace, I thought. Perhaps still feeling his way back from injury?

Russell – unlucky not to have scored with a great header in that barnstorming first period & also had a few excellent forward runs. After that, pretty anonymous. 

Dawkins – I’m really not sure what to think about him at the moment. Clearly has a lot of skill on the ball but a lot of it seemed to come to nothing. I wish he’d try to get to the byline rather than cutting in all the time too. 

Martin – another good game & had some great touches throughout. Even had a great run down the left late on where he showed a bit of pace. 

Mascarell – thrown on because of the Hughes injury, it was an interesting game for the Real Madrid loanee. Immediately enthusiastic about getting on the ball, he didn’t lack confidence, for sure. Clearly has talent but some of his long passes were either a bit wayward or beyond the ability of the intended recipient. It also remains to be seen what his defensive attributes are too. I’m not moaning, I reckon his progress this season is going to be fascinating. 

Ward – quickly added impetus on the right & linked up well with Christie, particularly for the goal. 

Best – wasn’t really on the pitch for long enough to form a view but looked pretty solid.  

So there we go. Three points on the board after a tricky opening game. Onwards & upwards.

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