Derby County 0 : Newcastle United 2 – 10th September 2016

Well, that was interesting. If you like that sort of thing. A game that started so positively ended in ignominy, as we conceded an ludicrous, calamitous, horrendous joke of a goal to confirm our defeat & the boos rained down from those Derby fans who could stomach staying until the end. 
There were a some positives, Anya’s performance  in particular, but we are clearly suffering from a few issues that have been hanging over us from the last 2 seasons – the balance in midfield, our ability to develop play from the back & our tendency to self destruct when under pressure. And, of course, we’re a team in transition. Gone is the idea that we have a great squad that Pearson just needed to tweak a little bit to win us promotion. This squad needed (& still needs) radical surgery & that doesn’t come without some pain. And boy, this was painful. 
To top it all, the woman next to me on my train home back to London changed into a panda suit half way through the journey. That was nearly as bizarre an experience as watching that 2nd goal going in.
The team news was pretty positive, I thought. New signings Vydra, Anya (great to see them in Derby colours after all these years) & Wilson were all there. Hughes had recovered from whatever strange injury he’d suffered on international duty & was lined up with Bryson in what appeared to be a pretty lightweight central midfield. I was slightly concerned to see Russell in the side after his performances so far & our obvious desire to dispense with his services in the transfer window. And he’s not a winger/wide midfielder in Pearson’s 4-4-2 formation is he? Let’s hope Weimann gets fit quickly.
I didn’t get a programme so I couldn’t really work out who was playing for Newcastle but I could recognise Lascelles, Gayle, Shelvey & that winger chap who used to play for Bournemouth. I thought Sissoko was still playing for them but it turned out to be Diame. 
We started off with a bit of energy and tempo. Anya was prominent, delivering at least 2 decent clipped crosses into the box from the left. The atmosphere was loud & raucous too, even if we were missing 3,000 fans who preferred watching football from their armchairs.
We weren’t creating chances though & Newcastle looked more fluent in midfield. Hughes & Bryson had their hands full, as you’d expect. 
Our link up play from the back look a bit disjointed. Keogh was often our only outlet from defence. With Fozzy out again, we have no one to win any long balls from Carson’s long punts upfield. Anything played out short to the defence ends up, eventually, in the creative vacuum that exists at Shackell’s feet. Christie tried bombing forward in his usual style but had no support from Russell (or anyone else for that matter). Olsson was simply awful defensively, although to be fair he did have a couple of chances on goal.
Despite all this I think we would have secured the usual standard nil nil home draw if we hadn’t conceded from a set piece via an outstanding goal from Gouffran. A hopeful lofted pump from Shelvey missed all of our players & he volleyed it in from a sharp angle. An excellent strike but you tended to think Russell should have done better on the goal line and someone should have got his head to the corner. Oh well.
That second goal was just bonkers. Newcastle one player in the box for that corner and Shelvey just sort of aimlessly lobbed it in. Carson didn’t seem particularly interested in going for it.. By this time, Shackell had been subbed with a few minutes left and Keogh appeared to be carrying a knock. Everyone was asleep and Yedlin ran forward & poked it in. I haven’t seen the iPro empty so fast since McClaren’s last game against Reading in the 2014/15 season. 
What to make of all this then? Well, I think we did some sterling work in the transfer market in adding pace, directness & skill to our forward line. A lot of fans were calling for midfield additions in the transfer window but clearly we’re going to need a few more windows before this dysfunctional side are sorted out. The return of Thorne might change things & if he’s not the answer I’d imagine Pearson would need to spend a bit in January. We need someone who can tackle in there. Diame was running through our midfield at will at times – thank god he couldn’t shoot. If only Johnson had remained the player we saw when he first joined us. We needed a bit of robustness in the middle for sure.
Anya did really well I thought, several great crosses & enough skill to beat a full back. Vydra worked hard & looked strong in possession, I’m sure he’ll score regularly once he gets better service than he received in this game. Wilson had a few good touches but seemed a bit off the pace.
Pearson again mentioned in his post match interview that certain players are lacking in confidence. I suppose he could mean traumatised by the failure of the last three seasons. How do we get round that? 
Onwards to Tuesday night against Ipswich then. 4-4 draw anyone?

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