Derby County 1 : Sheffield Wednesday 1 – 23rd April 2016

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The pressure was off for this one. A play off place  was already secured, so this was a good opportunity to keep some momentum going with a decent performance & a good result. It was also an opportunity to test ourselves against a potential play off opponent.

By the end of the day, we’d played well &, while the point was definitely a fair result, it was a bit of a reality check (for me at least) about Sheffield Wednesday. I knew they played some decent footy but had sort of assumed there would be a bit of a gulf between us. Nope. They were excellent, could have beaten us & played some great, exhilarating football. Having said that, we were pretty good ourselves & at times played some brilliant stuff, particularly in a purple patch 10 minutes or so into the first half.

We were introduced to what appeared to be a new St George’s Day tradition before kick off. A half hearted rendition of the national anthem, while several of the squaddies surrounding the giant flag draped over the centre circle were soaked by the sprinkler system. What a shambles. Did someone not consider switching the system off? Fair play to the squaddies though, they just stood there & got drenched. Makes you proud to be English…

The team news contained a surprise. Will Hughes starting. Thorne had succumbed to the mystery illness that’s occasionally been affecting players that need dropping or resting on matchday. We all thought that meant Will would be in the holding role and so it transpired. Didn’t stop him getting forward to good affect though. There’s no one in the squad who can compete with him in terms of guile & passing ability. And, to be fair, he’s probably our most flexible, all round midfielder, capable of filling all of those middle 3 positions.

Not sure we can catch Hull in fourth, so the main objective from this game would be to try to win again and keep the momentum going until the play offs. We perhaps should have won this but in the end, the 1-1 was a fair result. We proved our resilience again by clawing back the game to get a draw & playing well against an organised and skilful opposition. Coming back from behind 2 games in a row is nothing to be sniffed at, we’re going to need that kind of resilience in the play offs.

Kieren Lee & Forestieri were extremely effective for Wednesday. Fessi was one of my favourite players in the early Pozzo period at Watford. Skilful, irrepressible, unplayable at times & also with the ability to fall over without any encouragement. He had a couple of cracking strikes on goal too but Carson was a match for him.

In fact, Carson pulled off some outstanding saves in this game. What a signing he’s been (perhaps our now defunct “standalone” recruitment department’s only success?)  A fair few fans thought he could have done better with the goal. I doubt it. Little Barry Bannan’s shot came out of the blue & was hit with such power, I doubt any goalie could have stopped it. 

The atmosphere during the game had been great, helped of course by the large number of loud Wednesdayites in the South East corner. Midway through the 2nd half, as the game became increasingly open & both sides had good chances, it really rose to a crescendo. Perhaps the best since the Brighton play off?

The Bannan goal hardly affected the atmosphere to be honest, but some frustration did creep in. The Hughes substitution, given his lack of match fitness, was inevitable but it hardly gave the impression of an attempt to get back in the game.

Then, thankfully… On came Bent & Blackman. Was it too late? Thankfully,  no. Russell charged past at least 3 players on the left & clipped in a cross to the far post. Thank god we had a decent finisher on the end of it. Martin, a study in lethargy, had been ineffective in the box all afternoon. Bent rose up & scored easily with his 1st touch for 3 months. Bless him. Time to rotate Martin out for the Brighton game perhaps? That’s what I’d do, Martin’s the only weak link in the side at then moment.

Who else stood out then? Bryson of course, clearly back to his best. The centre halfs were solid, Keogh was again a force going forward. Butterfield was neat & tidy as usual but will probably be the fall guy if Thorne is ready to return on Monday. Ince & Russell were dangerous all game.

On to Brighton then. It’s looking good. They’ll need a win. Can we take advantage of that? We’ll see…

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