An excellent result & performance against a limited team, an indication that Butterfield & Weimann can be important players for us, 7 wins & 2 draws in an unbeaten 9 games since that nonsense against Leeds, 1 point off automatic & 3 points off top. And a leisurely pint of Titanic Stout in the Brunswick before my train home. That’ll do me.
According to Clement this was his most difficult team selection of the season. I suppose that he meant he faced tricky decisions about how to mitigate the absence of Ince & whether or not to replace the improving Butterfield with the fit again Hendrick. Bryson was also back in the picture too. And Thorne was one booking away from a suspension.
There was also two potential problems which Clement had talked about intelligently before the game. Firstly, this was the first of 3 games in 6 days & the stuttering performance in the recent away draw at Blackburn had demonstrated the team might struggle to keep up the tempo of their performance when facing games in quick succession. Some fans had already identified the solution to this – we’re playing a rubbish team, so let’s rest or rotate key players. Rather naive thinking like that was inextricably linked with the 2nd potential banana skin Clement had referred to – complacency. We’d be in trouble if we thought Rotherham were a soft touch. Thankfully, Clement made sound selection decisions & the players were anything but complacent. Nice to see they’re listening to their Head Coach.
The team selection made perfect sense. Weimann has been busting a gut for a proper chance all season. In he came for Ince, nominally on the wide left but it was clear he had a licence to drift into more central positions. It was a refreshing change from Ince to be brutally honest. Butterfield kept his place, with Jeff & Bryson on the bench. A chance for him to continue working his way into the type of creative form we’d all assumed he was going to give us immediately.
We went at Rotherham from the off. No complacency there. Within 7 minutes we were in the lead. Butterfield spotted a Fozzy run & slotted a magnificent pass through to him, he managed to clip a great cross in & the onrushing Weimann volleyed the ball into the roof of the net. Brilliant champagne supernova football & redemption for Butterfield & Weimann after difficult starts to their Derby careers. Credit to Fozzy too, Warnock wouldn’t have been anywhere near that move. Just thought I’d mention that.
The chances came thick & fast after that. Cyrus Christie, who had another fantastic game, was rampaging down the right wing to great effect again. Russell, Martin, Johnson, Weimann & Butterfield all had good chances.
Just as we were beginning to wonder if we were going to end up ruing all these missed chances, up popped another amazing goal, just at the right time on 45 minutes. After an 18 pass move, Butterfield whacked in a precise 25 yard strike. Cracking stuff. This game was a massive step up for Butterfield, who’d struggled to justify his hefty transfer fee in his earlier games. He was a lot more confident here, more mobile, more creative & more direct. And he’s clearly found his shooting range at last. Long may it continue.
2-0 up at half time & another standing ovation from our biggest Saturday home crowd of the season. The only downer in that 1st half had been Thorne’s 5th booking of the season, meaning he would be suspended for the QPR game. There’s been a lot of frankly ludicrous chatter amongst some fans suggesting Thorne should have deliberately took a booking in previous games so he could have been suspended for less crucial ones. Rubbish. This is way too early in the season to pick up a suspension & something that Thorne needs to work on, methinks. Tackling is obviously central to his role but this booking came from him trying to recover from needlessly losing possession.
The 2nd half was not as good as what had come before but we still managed to carve out a few chances. Weimann had a lob cleared off the line & both Martin & Shackell hit the post. We were playing within ourselves too, which was not a bad thing. Thorne, Martin & Butterfield all came off. Johnson moved to the holding role & I’d be gobsmacked if he didn’t play there against QPR. He’s got the physicality, passing range & sheer nous to pull it off.
The highlight of the 2nd half was a redemptive goal from Mr Keogh, who had another very sound game. His ecstatic celebration was a joy to behold. The passionate performances & the way the crowd have chanted his name have been the highlight of the season so far for me. I do love a bit of redemption, like you say.
Rotherham were pretty poor throughout, with Clarke-Harris providing their only effective threat, but we were rarely troubled, even when we started to step off the gas in the 2nd half. However, this is the type of game we might have struggled in last season (or indeed the first few home games of this season). We’re progressing quickly though & this was a professional, resilient performance. Weimann’s pace added something to our forward play & Butterfield’s increased confidence & creativity was another bonus. It was nice to see that we can now play well when the 2 players who are normally central to the success of 4-3-3 (Thorne & Martin) have a bit of an off day.
So there we go. I expect Hendrick to come in for Thorne on Tuesday & Johnson to play in the holding role. Let’s see if we can keep the tempo up for this game. And the next one afterwards against that struggling, chaotic club from down the road.