Another great win at home (4th in a row), a different, resilient but thoroughly professional victory, 10 games unbeaten (8 of those wins), our mascot sent off for pretending to be a linesman, another great goal from Weimann, fireworks, another pulsating atmosphere, still 5th but only 1 point off the top now – what’s not to like? To be honest, the obviously serious injury to Fozzy, was a bit of a downer. It looked a bad one.
I had high expectations of this game. Not in the sense that we were going to pulverise QPR but I knew we were capable of winning & I knew the win would be significant. Despite their inconsistent start, they’re promotion rivals after all & still had a lot of quality in their side. Tozser, Austin, Phillips, Hoilett are all fine players. Oh & I wasn’t thinking of that play off defeat either. But I was thinking of that victory over QPR the last time they came to our ground during that first, brilliant McClaren season. Eustace’s goal, his celebration & the way we ground out the win were a demonstration we were real promotion candidates. In a similar way, this turned out to be one of our most difficult but important wins of the season so far.
The teams was as expected really. Hendrick in for the suspended Thorne, with Man at Brigdens moving to the holding role, the position he did well in against Rotherham. Everyone’s favourite academy graduate, Jamie Hanson, was on the bench. I was having a chat with the guy who sits next to me (the coach of a local under tens team) before the game. It seemed to us that Clement’s team selections are settling down after that tinkering with formations & personnel in the early games of the season. That can only be a good thing.
It was pretty even stuff in that 1st half, although we probably had more impact in the box that QPR. Russell, Butterfield & Martin all had reasonable chances. Austin looked like a player who’d just returned from injury. Phillips looked dangerous every time he got on the ball. QPR had a plan obviously & did a reasonably good job of stifling Johnson. Cyrus was probably our best player, he had some fantastic barnstorming runs. His physicality, skill & pace is now consistently giving our opponents problems. Long may it continue.
The one concerning moment for us came after 20 minutes when Fozzy fell awkwardly after a tussle on the goal line. It looked bad &, like the Hughes injury, it’s never good when you see a player desperately beckoning for treatment as soon as he hits the turf. Let’s hope that whatever the injury is, Fozzy recovers quickly. He’s an important player for us.
Apart from the consumption of handfuls of wine gums, half time involved a bit of discussion about potential substitutions & ways to win the game. It would appear Clement had found the answer during his half time team talk, as we stepped up in the 2nd half. Butterfield hit the post in the 50th minute & a minute later were in the lead courtesy of another classy goal from Weimann, following a nice set up from Keogh. The crowd erupted with joy & relief. And free scarves. And flags.
All I wanted after that was for us to see the game out. And that’s basically what we did, although Butterfield did have a chance with another sharp strike on goal late in the game. A cautious approach & a bit of game management is not to be sniffed at. The perfect example of this was a free kick we had on the edge of box, with no Derby players actually in the box. Perhaps that was taking it a bit too far.
I’ve tried without success to find out how tall Keith Stroud is but there seems to be limit on what Google can tell you about diminutive referees. He was suffering from classic “small man syndrome” though, waving his cards around erratically though. And how could he have sent Rammie off for some innocent high jinks on the touchline. How ridiculous.
Anyway, despite 6 minutes of injury time, a ludicrous claim for a QPR penalty & plenty of nail chewing, we did actually see the the game out with spirit & resilience. The roar that greeted the final whistle gave me goosebumps. Cracking stuff. Time for a few more wine gums to celebrate.
What are we going to do at left back then? Warnock did really well when he came on, including a Fozzy-esque burst down the left. Credit to Baird for what he did when he came on. Utility players obviously have their uses after all. Given that Warnock only had a superficial knock on the head (it would appear), I’d stump for him for the next few games. Max Lowe is injured, so he’s not an option yet but he will be. Do we need to dip into the loan market? No.
Right. On to the next game. Just another game. I’d be happy with a point.