|RamsWeek 38 - One of These Days! |
Sun 21st Sep 2008 20:35 by Paul Mortimer
There was relief for everyone at the club after the victory over Sheffield United but there was no time for the Rams to rest on their laurels.
The Tuesday evening Championship fixture at Swansea was keenly anticipated to see if Derby could build upon Saturday’s impressive display. The Rams had a chance to put back-to-back wins together for the first time in 18 months.
As Paul Jewell noted beforehand, Derby faced a ‘banana-skin’ type fixture against a settled and successful team at the Liberty Stadium, as the Swans are not unlike promoted Doncaster Rovers in their togetherness and optimism after promotion and a reasonable start to the season.
The on-off Ferrie Bodde transfer saga caused a rift between the clubs and Bodde recently said he made the right decision to stay at Swansea because Derby were at the bottom of the table. The Rams have instead found other midfield stars in Miles Addison and Nacer Barazite, with a much lower monetary outlay!
Jewell had injury problems as Rob Hulse and Kris Commons were not fit to start and so Villa was up front with Nacer Barazite tucked in behind him. Stephen Pearson got a recall and Kaz was restored to midfield after his withdrawal on Saturday with a stomach problem.
The Rams started in hesitant and wayward fashion, unforced errors and poor passing enabling Swansea to gain the upper hand with very little seen of Derby going forward. The absence of Hulse and Commons left Derby punchless and disjointed even though the Swans’ huff and puff ultimately created little danger.
The Rams improved, adopting a more conventional 4-4-2 with Barazite moving forward alongside Villa, which gave the Rams more positivity, retaining a comfortable 0-0 at the break.
Kazmierczak was withdrawn again within minutes of the restart, just before Miles Addison had a great 20-yarder clawed away by the Swans’ keeper. Gower then hit the post for Swansea and Carroll gratefully gathered a weak follow-up - but straight away on the break, Derby snatched a lead as Stephen Pearson cruised in to notch a rare but precious goal!
Bad marking from a Swansea corner allowed the home side to equalise through Williams’ header with 14 minutes to go. It was another poor goal to concede with an elementary defensive mistake allowing the Swans back into the game. There wasn’t much further threat from either side and Derby took a deserved draw from the game. It was a resilient and workmanlike point with Martin Albrechtsen outstanding at the back.
It was another small step on the highway back to respectability, as the manager repeated the message that Derby must build on what they achieved in recent games. Cardiff City at home on Saturday was a good opportunity to take it further.
Another committed and consistent display in midfield from Miles Addison at Swansea earned further praise from Paul Jewell and his gamble to throw the youngster into the team gave Jewell some reward after the loss of Alan Stubbs and the utter mediocrity of Robbie Savage had depleted his resources.
There were signs of spirit and tenacity returning to the Rams’ ranks in the way they battled against the Blades and the Swans; Derby’s players now need to relish fixtures at home or away as they build greater belief. They have to maintain the effort and teamwork shown recently and reap the benefits of Derby’s huge home support, far and away the biggest gates in the Championship, already at a 29,000 average.
Disgraced full back Tyrone Mears, almost on the fringes of the action at his preferred location of Olympic Marseille might be a little less comfy in his exile. He’s been fined 6 weeks’ salary by Derby County. Perhaps he will appeal and try his ‘what me, Guv?’ innocence routine and hope to escape punishment for his dereliction. Both Marseille and Derby have much better full backs in their teams, anyway!
Unbeaten Cardiff City, strong pacemakers who faded badly in Derby’s 2006-07 promotion season, were the Rams opponents at Pride Park Stadium last Saturday. Manager David Jones is building a tidy squad and the club is ambitious, coming close to FA Cup glory after progressing right through to the Final last season before succumbing to Pompey’s greater experience and quality.
Derby centre forward Rob Hulse returned from injury but Kris Commons’ hamstring problem ruled him out, so Nacer Barazite started his first League home game with Emanuel Villa partnering Hulse in attack.
The game unfolded in bright midsummer sunshine which had arrived a couple of months late, as a shirt-sleeved crowd hoped that Derby could build on the defeat of the Blades last week and the solid point earned at Swansea.
Saturday’s game wasn’t much of a spectacle, however, Derby lacked quality in the final third, lacking the strike thrust to trouble a resolute and tidy Cardiff side. However, Martin Albrechtsen’s cool volley from a Barazite corner in the 29th minute gave the Rams a somewhat surprise lead.
City posed only a moderate threat to Carroll’s goal but there was a feeling of disappointment, with the Rams short of the presence and power to catch fire and add to their lead, or to bite back and win the game after Miles Addison had conceded the second-half penalty from which City levelled the score.
Derby didn’t do too much wrong but they were just rather unexciting and laboured. “It was not a great game”, manager Paul Jewell observed, and we all agreed. The humid weather didn’t encourage a hell-for leather battle but there’s a missing ingredient or two in midfield and attack that suggests the Rams will struggle to make a spectacular impact on the Championship this season.
Kris Commons, when fit, can unlock the door of opposing defences more often than not and perhaps there is a further boost to come shortly with the anticipated return of attacking midfielder Giles Barnes, who is expected to be back in the first team picture in October. We haven’t yet forged a cutting attacking partnership and Giles could yet provide an effective option with his pace and skill.
The recent improvement needs to be accelerated a tad. We are already a long way off the pace of the Championship leaders although more wins will change the horizon to a much brighter one. Unless most of the players can raise the pace, power and end product of their performances, an ordinary season beckons. We do need more goals and a quicker haul of points, along with a few convincing wins.
One of these days, when the forwards click and the service to them in the ‘final third’ is of higher quality, the Rams might stride to an emphatic victory or two, as more of our players unlock their potential!
Derby did however take 5 points from 3 games last week, which if repeated over the season would more than guarantee Derby’s first target. As for any club, that’s 50+ points for Championship survival.
The team’s resilience and concentration is improving, save for the so-costly defensive errors still evident. Crucially, the team has left the losing streak behind it and our pride is being restored.
So, it’s off to get-richer-quicker Queens Park Rangers, whose new, moneyed board want stupid ticket prices for Championship fayre, as the Rams’ next test.
If Rams fans are faced with exorbitant Loftus Road prices despite strong protests from Derby County and the supporters’ groups from both clubs, let’s hope Derby keep it going and give full value for money!
We could hardly forget that in RamsWeek 38 last year, Kenny Miller’s spectacular volley defeated Newcastle United and it was ‘welcome to the Premier League’ for the Scottish striker, on whose abilities much of Derby’s hopes rested.
Luckily, some of the GSE contingent also saw Pride Park Stadium light up at the exciting victory that night and at least moves were soon afoot to put the Rams on a more substantial financial footing, with the American consortium poised to progress takeover talks.
The media were reporting that ex-Hull director Adam Pearson was set to stake a bid for the Rams, who were trying to run before they could walk in today’s Premier League. Chairman Peter Gadsby sought to reinforce Derby’s stretched finances.
The thoughts of club and fans seemed already to be moving toward a resignation to relegation and a rebuild in the Championship for 2008-09.
Newcastle United are still crap and of course Rams fans have gone through purgatory ever since that solitary 2007-08 Premier League victory.
Derby never put in such a battling, productive performance again until relegated, with Miller showing wanderlust within a few short weeks, as managerial and boardroom upheaval and abject disappointment soon took residence side by side at Derby County.
It was back down to earth immediately for the Rams, embarrassingly dismantled the next weekend when Arsenal thrashed them 5-0. Of course, the Gunners are super powers among the elite of English and European football but the nature of the Rams’ surrender raised fears of a truly torrid season. Correct!
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