QPR 0 : Derby County 1 – 14th December 2016

Well, there you go. A magnificent seven wins in a row. Five successive clean sheets. Only three goals conceded since McClaren returned. Great stats. Some crucial substitutions, perhaps a reversion to those risk taking ones of his first season. And an away win against a team that were up for it on a cold night in West London, when we didn’t play particularly well. We’ve certainly found different ways to win games (as Nigel Pearson used to say).
There was one change from the side that beat Forest. Weimann in for Russell. I hope that’s a sign McClaren’s willing to freshen the side up a bit. Weimann deserves a bit of a run in my view, despite not pulling up any trees in this game. 
Me and The Witch arrived at the corrugated iron and concrete monstrosity that is Loftus Road just in time to squeeze into our luxurious £33 seats before kick off. I was hoping for a decent result after the awful 0-2 defeat myself, The Witch and Spicy Kev had to sit through last season. But, to be fair, my main focus was trying to obtain a couple of hot meat & puff pastry products before the half time rush.
It was a very scrappy first half to be honest and we were lucky not to end it trailing by two goals. QPR were pretty poor but passed the ball around neatly at times and carved out a couple of good chances. Chery whacked in a great strike that was extremely well saved by Carson. Another more basic save followed from a mediocre shot from Washington. He’s been crucial to us this season.
We struggled to get our passing game together for most of that first half and Ince was our most dangerous player. Johnson was looking pretty solid in midfield and Baird (newly dubbed “Bairdinho” by some wags in the Derby end) looked very composed. Not sure we need to prioritise signing a right back in January with him around. Bent, Weimann, Butterfield & Hughes all struggled to get going. The ref didn’t help, the bookings for Butterfield and Bairdinho for minor fouls were a tad over the top, especially as he failed to apply the same approach to QPR for the rest of the game. 
Nevertheless, as Steve Nicholson said on The Twitter, we were still in the game at half time. And we knew we had players who could steal it for us. 
Things were much better in the second half and not just because of the giant sausage rolls me and the Witch had consumed. We were in the game much more, Hughes was prominent and Ince was looking dangerous every time he got on the ball. 
After the hour mark, the substitutions began to come. Vydra replaced Bent and immediately caused the QPR defence a few problems. Then on came Bryson & Camara and within ten minutes we’d stolen a winner. The QPR couldn’t cope with Camara’s trickery on the left and he knocked in a great cross for Ince to finish with aplomb. It was all over bar the shouting. 
We were bouncing in the Derby end when the final whistle blew and it was great to see the players celebrate right in front of us. McClaren has made a real difference to the team’s togetherness, make no mistake. 
On to Craven Cottage on Saturday then. As noted on Twitter and elsewhere by certain aficionados of the game, it’s been quite a significant venue for us in the last few seasons. Clement dropped all his big name players there last season and was promptly sacked the following Monday. And it was also the scene of our hapless defeat in McClaren’s second season, the game that signalled the start of a run that would see us drop like a stone out of the play offs and would cost Steve his job. 
Can we put an end to this hoodoo then and make it eight straight wins? And, more importantly, do they still make those posh, artisanal hot dogs at the back of the away stand?
Time will tell.


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