Derby County 0 : Ipswich Town 1 – 7th May 2016

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Not a good day really. What appears to be an awful injury to George Thorne, a casual, ineffective performance against a mediocre (if well organised) side & our play off semi-final opponents finding some form by thrashing Rotherham. As a small crumb of comfort, at least I’ll now be able to get to the home leg ( I’m off to the Royal Albert Hall on the Tuesday). And someone shouted,  “Nice shirt, lad!” in response to me wearing my Belper shirt in The Brunswick after the match. Not been called “lad” in 20 years. Result.

Can’t complain about the team selection, really. We fielded our “strongest” side. I suppose it’s best to get some momentum going rather than resting players. The only problem I have with this is we’re stuck with an ambivalent, lethargic Martin (& the 433 system that only works well when he’s on form) rather than using Weimann and/or Bent. What do those 2 players have to do to get in the starting line up? Score decisive goals in crucial games? That’s obviously not enough.

We started off pretty brightly. Bryson & Hughes were prominent in the centre & Christie was raiding robustly down the right again. It was a bit too casual though & we were taking too long on the ball rather than being direct & incisive. Martin was doing some reasonable link up play from deep positions but was nowhere near posing a threat in the box. Ipswich were organised & neat and were getting a decent amount of ball.

Keogh had a strange day, let’s be honest. He picked up the final part of his clean sweep of the Player of the Year awards before kick off. I think the excitement must have got to him, as the normal trademark forays upfield were a little bit more dramatic & his defensive work was a little bit variable to say the least. I didn’t have a particularly good view of the penalty incident but it looked an ok tackle. The ref seemed to let it go so I thought we were fine. And then, presumably on the advice of a linesman, he called a penalty. Even despite a bout of histrionics from Keogh, there was no booking. Why not? Anyway, Keogh made up for it before long with another reckless tackle & a proper yellow card. Darren was obviously a bit worried he’d be sent off, so replaced him with Bucko at half time. Sensible of course but it did rob us of any impetus coming from the back in the 2nd half.

And that was it as far as the football went really. Mccarthy has nous, we all know that, so he just shut up shop & put 10, sometimes 11 men behind the ball. We didn’t have the guile to get through them, especially as Hughes was struggling.

Thorne. We didn’t see what happened but by the reactions of the players it didn’t look good. The subsequent photos of the tackle make it look even worse. What awful luck. Let’s hope he can recover quickly from this.

So where does that leave us?

I don’t know about the players but that performance & the injury to Thorne has knocked the stuffing out of me. All the confidence & calmness I had at Brighton has gone. We’ve lost our momentum. Our captain & player of the year was taken off. Our linchpin in midfield has gone. The striker who our attacking play revolves around is badly off form. And our play off opponents have found form just at the right time. No doubt Steve Bruce will be working out how to shut up shop next Saturday, frustrate us & grind out a result. Does Wassall have the tactical nous & experience to cope next week? Will he be able to motivate players who were clearly distraught at full time? We’ll see.

If we’re sticking with 433, I’d go with Hughes in the holding role & stick Johnson in next to Bryson. If not, I’d go with a 442 & try Bent & Blackman up front. Worth a try I think..

Anyway. A dramatic, bizarre, illogical, sometimes depressing, sometimes exhilarating season is nearly at an end. We’re in the same position in the table but further away from automatic promotion than we were when we sacked Clement. But we’re 2 games away from Wembley & a shot at the Premier League. Dilly Ding, Dilly Dong..

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