Derby County 1 : Brentford 1 – 11th April 2015

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Awful. Unremittingly awful. As everyone knows, we didn’t deserve owt from this game. But, we luckily & unfairly snatched an equaliser at the death & are still desperately hanging on to a play off position. We’d all hoped that the victory against Wigan, the rejigged defence, the new formation & the return of the talismanic Martin would mean a revitalised team & a renewed play off push.

Nope.

The team selection seemed ok. The new look back four was unchanged. Bryson was back in for the recklessly suspended Hughes & Martin was back in from the start. McClaren, in a rather illuminating post match interview with Owen Bradley, said he wasn’t match fit but you couldn’t really tell. As my esteemed podcast colleague, Matt Bregazzi, said recently, his game’s not really based on mobility is it? He got us about 5 free kicks though. Talismanic. 

A fair few people (including Leroy Rosenior on the Football League Show) said that Brentford dominated this game from start to finish. I think that’s a tad harsh, we were definitely in the game for the first seven minutes or so. A couple of barnstorming runs from the new right back, some energetic midfield work by Hendrick & a couple of long shots by Ince made us all feel reasonably positive. It was all downhill from there, unfortunately.

Brentford quite simply started to knock the ball around, control the game & yes, dominate  us. We descended into a shambolic, disorganised mess, forgetting how to pass to each other, or cross a ball, or make a tackle. This was exemplified by Brentford’s goal after 27 minutes. They just ran through us in central midfield, with Hendrick & Bryson bypassed. Keogh retreated into the area when faced with the advancing, miniature Alex Pritchard, Bryson dashed back, unable to make a tackle & Grant could do nothing to stop Pritchard’s excellent curling shot. Brentford could’ve had a couple of goals before that too. They were basically slicing through our midfield & defence at will.

The rest of the first half meandered on in an ever more dispirited fashion. I think we changed from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 but to be honest, you couldn’t tell. The players certainly didn’t know what formation they were playing, where they should position themselves or who they should pass too. The only event worthy of note was the Colin Bloomfield tribute on 33 minutes. Time to forget about football & our frustrations for a moment & reflect on his courage & straightforward decency.

Half times are different at the iPro these days, no more hopeful discussions about what McClaren can do to turn things around, no more anticipation of glorious dramatic comebacks. Just more of the same. Oh & Russell was ill, so Dawkins came on.

If anything it got worse in that second half. We continued to deteriorate while Brentford ran pretty circles around us. According to McClaren we’d changed to a diamond in midfield. It was news to me but that might explain why Martin was lumped over on the left of midfield & Dawkins spent a lot of time meandering around on the right to no discernible effect. We didn’t create anything & Brentford just proceeded to scythe through us & create chance after chance. Andre Grey had at least three chances to score & Fozzy (in his only positive contribution of the game) cleared a  Jonathan Douglas shot of the line. The Brentford fans I shared the train back to London with said their main problem was the lack of a decent striker. God help us if they’d had someone the quality of Vydra or Deeney up front.

Brentford’s relentless advance gave us a chance to examine our shambles of a defence.  Warnock was leaden footed, error prone in defence, woeful in attack & quite simply the worse crosser of a ball I’ve seen in years. Forsyth looked completely devoid of confidence, which couldn’t have been helped by Keogh berating him as a corner was flying in. His distribution was woeful, but he wasn’t the only one. Award for worst passer of the day went to Albentosa. He was simply abysmal, more non-league than Primera Liga. Keogh was, well, exactly what you’d expect from a centre half playing at right back.

And then just as the iPro was leaking fans like a sieve & my pint of Titanic Stout in The Brunswick was beckoning me, along came a scuffed Hendrick shot & a trademark Darren Bent two yard screamer. There we go, a game we should have lost 5 nil turned into a thoroughly undeserved draw. Yippee. I could barely bring myself to celebrate that goal & just about managed to stand up. What a bizarre experience.

I could spend another hour ruminating on our failings this season but I won’t. Suffice to say, there is something badly wrong with this squad. Let’s see where the next few games take us.

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