Derby County 2 : Charlton Athletic 0 – 24th February 2015

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This was a bit of a strange one, if truth be told. Like the Brighton game in December, we stormed into a decent lead against a limited side & then let our foot off the gas. To be fair, we well & truly lost control of that game but this one, in hindsight, was more about coasting to a victory, keeping a clean sheet for once, putting in a mature performance, controlling the game etc etc (Ed. That’s enough clichés for now, mate..).

I was a bit frustrated at the end (like, it would appear, a few other Rams fans) but a good night’s sleep plus a viewing of Steve Nicholson’s video summary of the game tends to give you a sense of perspective. Job done. We got the 3 points & results are what counts at the business end of the season (Ed. That’s enough, I tell you!).

I had a reasonably successful stab at predicting the team for once. Lingard deserved a start instead of Dancer. I got Shotton’s return right as well but no one expected him to replacing Bucko in central defence. The line was that he needed a rest, so that’s fair enough. Clearly, Albentosa needed a rest too as, despite training all week, he didn’t even make the bench. He’s playing for the U21s tonight with Super Johnny Russell, so I reckon they’ll both be in the squad for the Fulham game.

Anyway. After an uneven start we were soon in full flow. Returning messiah, George Thorne, was at the centre of everything. Demanding the ball from those around him, passing it accurately short & long, moving into space, breaking up play, it was just like watching him at the end of last season. He was brilliant.

We were in the lead after 9 minutes, Bent running on to a fine pass from Hughes, before crossing for Hendrick to bundle in. Charlton visibly wilted for a while after that. It wasn’t long before we were 2 up. An absolutely stunning long pass from Thorne to Hughes, then to Hendrick who slid the ball to Lingard who finished astutely. I think we’ll see a few more goals from him before the season’s over.

We’d played some superlative football in that 1st 20 minutes. In the stands we were all thinking how many more we were going to score. Simmo had been saying before the game that we needed to be ruthless. Surely this was an opportunity to do just that & boost our goal difference. Nope. The fact that we took our foot off the gas & began to coast was, perhaps, understandable but you would’ve thought Charlton might have tried to get back in the game & taken some risks. Nope. They shut up shop & concentrated on not conceding any more goals. I still can’t get my head round the fact that they played that way. Have you ever seen a team trying to defend a 2 nil defeat before? Bizarre.

We could have scored more goals in that 1st half. Hendrick hit the bar & Hughes volleyed narrowly wide after flicking the ball up in a Le Tissier-esque manner. Splendid.

I don’t recall us having a shot on goal in the 2nd half. There’s not really much more I can say about it, to be honest. If Charlton had nicked a goal back we would have been in a panic I think. But there you go, we did look more or less in control. And we got that clean sheet.

Any other talking points from the game then? Well… Hughes gave another all action performance & some of his creative play was sublime. He does look increasingly tired though & is it just me or is he getting a bit nippy with referees, if he thinks he’s been fouled? I thought that was Martin’s job?

Although we all can agree that he’s come on well since he first joined us, Mascarell was a little bit nervous & panicky when he replaced Thorne. The contrast with Thorne’s composed performance was obvious.

Hendrick had an up & down performance, combining brilliant attacking play on the edge of the box with a few awkward moments when he lost possession in dangerous positions in the centre of the park. Might it be a good idea to rest him on Saturday & give Bryson some game time?

Grant made at least 2 brilliant saves & looked calm under the limited pressure that was placed on him. Let’s hope he’s now got over his wobble of the previous few games.

Shotton was solid apart from one slip near the end but the Charlton forward weren’t really stretching us.

One final word on the crowd. Another big one, nearly 28,000 Rams fans on a cold night in February. Not bad at all & significantly better than the crowds at the stadiums our rivals play in. Not sure what the phone torch display was all about though. It’s a football match, not a Take That concert.

I can’t wait for our little trip to Fulham on Saturday. They’re struggling, so maybe we should try & replicate that 2-5 win we had there in the cup earlier in the season.

Onwards & upwards.

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