Derby County 4 : Bolton Wanderers 1 – 9th April 2016

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Well, would you believe it. I’ve watched a Derby County football match & actually enjoyed it from start to finish. Never thought that would happen again. But there it was – a high tempo, positive performance, several great goals, a formation & tactics which seem to work and the return of the prodigal son for a brief run out at the end. What’s not to like?

I’d not seen the apparently brilliant thrashing of Hull in midweek, as I’d had an equally brilliant liaison meeting with Network Rail in Milton Keynes to go to. I suppose you sometimes have to prioritise work over football. And the meeting was about trains after all. Trains are great. Therefore, I was a bit unsighted about our new, positive, effective football.

The team news contained a couple of nuggets of interest. The resurrected Bradley Johnson was injured, meaning Butterfield was returned to the midfield. As predicted by a few, Will Hughes was given a spot on the bench after his rehabilitation from serious injury. Was it too soon? We’ve been here before when Thorne came back too quickly last season. A quick ten minute morale boosting appearance at the end (if we were winning comfortably) would do Will (& us) fine.

Bolton were without doubt the worst team to visit the iPro this season but we’ve struggled at times against poor teams & needed to do a professional job here. And that’s exactly what we got.

There was a confidence, a tempo & style about the performance right from the start. Bolton were completely ineffectual, of course, which always helps. It was only a matter of time before we scored  (can’t remember last time I wrote that in a blog..) & up popped Super Johnny Russell with a brilliant long range shot after 13 minutes. Space just opened up in front of him as the ball broke loose in midfield & he obviously just had a whack at it. There disappeared any chance Bolton had of  frustrating us & grinding out a result.

It was all one way traffic from there. Bryson in particular & Thorne dominated in midfield & linked up well with a trim looking Martin & Russell & Ince up front. Ince, again in his proper position on the left, had a great game in my view (probably not shared by others). He was mobile, skilful & dangerous all half & thoroughly deserved his goal in the 38th minute, when he volleyed in a lofted cross from Russell.

2-0 up at half time. Not bad going but we could really have had 5. Ince & Bryson both had good chances to extend the lead. Still, we had a chance to do more damage to Bolton in the 2nd half.

We were still good in that 2nd half but not as fluid as in the 1st. Talking about fluid, me & Scotty were fascinated by Wassall’s water consumption during the game. He’d drank 2 bottles within 15 minutes & we counted 5 bottles overall (later confirmed by a photo from top investigative reporter, Owen Bradley). This raised important questions – has he got some sort of water addiction? Why didn’t he need to go to the loo every 5 mins? Can you drown of you drink too much water?

Anyway…. It was 69 minutes until we added to our lead via a trademark long distance hoof from Butterfield. It took a slight deflection on the way, which I initially thought was the reason why Butterfield didn’t celebrate. Perhaps he’s a perfectionist?  However, it later transpired that he’d played a few games for Bolton on loan a while back. Very respectful, Jacob.

Before we had a chance to think, “Crikey, that’s 5 home wins in a row without conceding a goal”, we conceded a goal, via a penalty from the only decent Bolton player on the pitch, Zack Clough. It was a pretty innocuous challenge from Thorne & provoked a bout of protesting histrionics from Keogh. However, we were soon 3 goals to the good again after Russell drifted into the Bolton box, didn’t come across anyone bothered enough to challenge him, scuffed a shot, collected the rebound & prodded the ball into the net. He deserved his 2 goals, he was energetic & dangerous throughout & was most people’s man of the match.

4-1. Surely it was time to stick Will Hughes on for a bit of a run out? Wassall appeared to be reluctant to do it but eventually the prodigal son came on to a rapturous reception. It took him a while to get a touch of the ball but that was greeted with cheers too. Obviously, it’s early days but even in the few minutes he had he showed touches of his creative genius & what we’d been missing for most of this season. Fingers crossed he remains injury free & gets fully match fit soon.
So there you go. A few weeks ago I felt so disengaged with Wassall & Mel, I’d given up on the play offs & was pondering not renewing my season ticket. Now it feels completely different, we look like we’re hitting some form & will comfortably make the play offs. I’ve even put the semi-final & final dates in my work calendar. How quickly things change..

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