Derby County 2 : Brentford 0 – 3rd October 2015

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Well, that was a lot better, particularly in the 1st half. A decent win against a team who were neat & effective but clearly had a few issues. Steady progression up the table, 13 points from 15, certain players putting in excellent performances & our inexperienced head coach growing in confidence & authority. Jobs a good ‘un.

Team news threw up just the one surprise. Carson is still sticking in there after Clement’s rotational goalkeeping experiment, Fozzy was back in at left back, Jeff was deservedly back in for Butterfield. The urge to rest Thorne & stick Baird in was thankfully resisted. However, still a 4-3-3 & no sign of Darren Bent, our sort of matchwinner from last week. As it transpired, he turned up late & was turfed out of the matchday squad. Clement’s explanation for how this transpired was refreshingly honest & perfectly sensible. As I said, he’s gaining a bit in authority, it would seem.

Unlike other games, the message about starting off playing at a high tempo & pressing the opposition appears to have got through. For the 1st ten minutes we took the game to Brentford & never gave them a kick. The midfield trio of Thorne, Johnson & Jeff looked very mobile & strong & they linked up well with Martin. Christie was having a great time raiding down the right hand side, getting past his full back & getting some decent crosses in.

After the 1st ten minutes or so, Brentford began to give us a few problems, with their band of nippy, skilful, diminutive midfielders knocking the ball around with aplomb & making some worrying incursions into our box. We weathered the storm though & on the twenty minute mark we were in the lead, courtesy of a sublime cross from our redeemed right back & the knee of our captain. We were pretty much in control for the rest of that half. Fozzy managed a few raids down the left. Johnson was an absolute beast in midfield. Thorne demonstrated exactly why 4-3-3 will never work without him – shielding the defence with some mightily robust challenges & providing some sublime passes forward. None better than the  pass that set up the 2nd goal. Thorne to Jeff, Jeff to Ince & quick as a flash, we were 2 nil up. Not seen attacking play that direct & incisive for a long, long time..

Half time. The team applauded off the pitch & feeling of contentment & anticipation in the air. And there she was. Ewie… Or is it Mrs Rammie? God help us. Perhaps the most pointless addition to the club since Chris Evans.

The 2nd half wasn’t really as good as what had come before but apart from the Ryan Shotton inspired last 5 minutes or so we never looked in trouble. You could begin to see why Brentford are having a few issues. Their neat passing began to disappear, they needlessly lost possession all over the pitch & they got a bit niggly & well.. dirty. I suppose that’s what you get if you sack the manager who got you into the play offs, then sack his replacement after a few weeks of the season & then appoint a bloke as manager who doesn’t want to be a manager.

Anyway. The 2nd half was notable, in my view, only for the 3 substitutions. Shackell looked uncomfortable (physically) for most of the game. I don’t know whether he went into the game carrying some sort of back injury but he was certainly struggling badly in the 2nd half. Off he went. We had a ready made replacement in the squad – a battler, a captain, someone who could win those headers & provide some solidity & reliability next to Keogh. Sadly Alex Pearce is nowhere near the 1st team squad at the moment & perhaps never will be. Instead, on trotted Shotton. God help us. Hopefully, Clement will have learnt enough from this awful cameo to give Pearce another go. As it stands, his preference for Shotton as Mr Utility on the bench is one of the few poor decisions he’s made this season.

Thorne had a great game but he’s clearly not ready for playing 90 mins on a consistent basis yet. Nice to see Hanson came on for him rather than the other guy.

Johnson is steadily getting better & better with each game. He brings so much commitment to the cause & reckon he’ll prove to be a crucial purchase by the end of the season (well done Chris Evans & his stand alone recruitment department for spotting this hidden gem..) Let’s hope Johnson’s departure resulted from either a dead leg or cramp rather than anything significant. Bit bizarre to see him replaced by Weimann rather than Baird but it was too late to make much of a difference.

One more thought on the game. If Brentford had bought more than a handful of fans, the attendance would have approached capacity. I think that goes to show what we can achieve on the rare occasion we play a game on a Saturday at 3pm. The atmosphere was great too. No booing, no whinging, standing ovations for those that went off & chanting from all sides of the ground. Great stuff.

Right. Time for a break for some sort of irrelevant international thing. Let’s kick on when we play Wolves on 18 October & let’s wave those free scarves around!

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