Awful. Not my words but those of our (thankfully honest & plain speaking) Head Coach when describing our 1st half performance. He was absolutely right though, I thought it was as bad as we’d played since the dog days at the end of last season. Static, lethargic, uninterested, error-ridden – all of those words were accurate in describing our multi-million pound team for most of this game. And we were playing a team that had lost their last 5 games, contained only 1 player I had heard of & apparently only cost £150,000 to put together. Yet, the gloss of a 1-3 away victory (our 3rd in a row, of course) might lead fans to think we’re fine/it’s a results game/if we pick up points when we play poorly that’s really positive etc, etc… Not as far as I’m concerned. There are problems that need to be resolved in this side for sure. The major question Clement needs to ask himself is, given we had everything going for us, why did we play so badly? Where was the tempo everyone had been talking about? Hopefully, he may already found the potential solution. Ditch 4-3-3, drop Martin for Bent, Butterfield for Hendrick, use the pace of Weimann & play Ince in a central position.
There were the usual Clement surprises in the starting line up. Thorne out, nursing another injury, so everyone’s favourite Captain & utility player returned to that central defensive midfield position he’s not in the least bit suited too. Christie managed to survive the Clement Full Back Rotation of the Week. Unfortunately, that meant Fozzy lost out to Warnock on the other side. At least Carson seems to have nailed down the goalkeeping spot.
Carson was the only player who merits a mention for his 1st half performance. He saved us more than once, as MK Dons dominated us & played us off the park. The 3,900 Derby fans, studiously avoiding sitting down in those comfy, modern, padded seats, started to grumble. Quite a few of the fans around me were actively considering departing & doing a bit of shopping in the retail park surrounding the stadium.
We did resist that temptation but things didn’t really improve in the 2nd half, even when we went into the lead courtesy of a fine finish from Johnson on the edge of the area. Nice pullback from Warnock too. I still prefer Fozzy at left back though.. It didn’t take MK long to equalise though, seeing as they were still outplaying us. Time for Clement to get lucky or pull off his masterstroke (depending on your point of view). The completely ineffective trio of Baird, Butterfield & Martin were taken off & Weimann, Hendrick & Bent came on to change the game, helped significantly by a combination of MK tiring & commendably going for a win. Hendrick in particular stood out for me, he quickly added a directness to the midfield. I’ll refrain from having another dig at Ince’s inability to use his right foot but he looked a lot more dangerous in a central role. Before you knew it we were 1-3 up & a thoroughly undeserved victory was in the bag.
Right. On to the next game then & time for that 1st home win. Or maybe another struggling team that cost virtually nothing playing us off the pitch.