|RamsWeek 45 - Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards|
Mon 10th Nov 2008 01:44 by Paul Mortimer
The aftermath of the 1-1 home draw with Nothingham F*rest on Sunday kicked off another busy week for Derby County, with fans, club and media discussing the refereeing controversy caused by rookie official Stuart Attwell’s inept performance.
Paul Jewell felt he received unsatisfactory justification for Attwell’s decisions in denying two late Derby County goals; Attwell met refereeing supremo Keith Hackett on Tuesday to review his performance. Hackett didn’t acknowledge that they failed the Rams and the game in general by allocating this inexperienced referee to one of the weekend’s biggest games.
On the contrary, Attwell is also being fast-tracked onto the international list and will soon officiate at a full international. Keith Hackett didn’t give us the benefit of explaining the selection decisions that put Attwell into situations for which he is not ready. Expect more crass decisions and ‘ghost goals’, then; more games will be ruined, results perverted with Attwell’s career blighted by ridicule.
The so-called ‘respect campaign’ works both ways - players must desist in abusing and questioning officials and improve respect for authority. Players, clubs and fans expect in return a competent standard of refereeing, sensible allocation of referees according to ability and experience, and proper explanation and accountability for abject performances that we are seeing from match officials all too often.
Jewell mentioned that refereeing would be on the agenda at the next meeting of the League Manager’s Association. Oh, to be a fly on the wall! I hope Attwell is not allocated to officiate a Rams game again this season - he should be gaining experience in the lower leagues and Hackett and his untouchable regime should ensure Attwell attends games in top divisions to enhance his training and understanding.
Despite the old adage that decisions level out over the season, there is no such immutable law of equilibrium in that the Rams will benefit correspondingly from other crass decisions given against opponents on other days. As it stands - despite an unexceptional performance against F*rest - Derby were denied two points and local ‘bragging rights’ by referee Attwell.
Jewell had the away Carling Cup tie at Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday evening to turn his thoughts to. Ironically, midfield deadweight Robbie Savage returned from his loan spell at opponents Brighton but was out of contention for selection in Jewell’s squad, with a shin injury.
Savage has undertaken a sortie abroad at the invitation of Lebanese football outfit Al Ansar and has certainly turned into a caricature of his already comic status so far in his time at Derby. Sadly, it’s not apparent that they will be recruiting him and paying up his contract. Full back Jay McEveley has also returned to Derby from a loan spell at Preston North End. Ho hum; who’s next in line to try that one out?
Martin Albrechtsen sat out the Brighton game through injury, Rob Hulse nursed injured ribs and Nacer Barazite was Cup-tied. Jewell selected Roy Carroll in goal; outfield, Kazmierczak replaced Barazite and Villa replaced Hulse. Brighton started briskly, their pace and movement setting Derby off on the defensive. A few close shaves, good saves and last-ditch blocks kept Derby afloat during an early barrage. The Rams edged into the game and started looking dangerous at the other end of the Withdean Stadium.
Emanuel Villa gave Derby the lead after the Brighton goalkeeper fluffed a cross for him to nudge it home…. minutes. In 32 minutes, Nathan Ellington extended Derby’s lead to 2-0. Tom Elphick headed home for Brighton within a couple of minutes with a free header 6 yards out; another dead-ball defensive shambles had seen the Rams concede a ridiculously simple goal.
Miles Addison picked up a caution and along with it a suspension. Derby’s superior ability and stamina proved telling in the end and Emanuel Villa went on to claim a fine hat trick, heading in a Teale cross and then streaking in on goal from a Carroll clearance to rap in his treble. The Rams ran out 4-1 winners to claim a 4th Round home tie against Leeds United next Tuesday.
Tito has worked very hard this season but there was a growing feeling of exasperation at his lack of goals. The treble will do him a power of good, and Jewell finally has three strikers finding the net.
Even better, centre forward Rob Hulse has been named Championship Player of the Month for October after rattling in four goals in five games. Manager Paul Jewell was short listed for Manager of the Month after Derby’s strong form but Cardiff City boss David Jones pipped him to the award.
Derby County announced that their main Charity partnership this year will be the Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, with the club’s charity appeal efforts aimed at benefiting teenage patients of the Children’s Hospital through assisting with the provision of a dedicated leisure room.
Paul Jewell scotched media stories asserting that young midfield giant Miles Addison was the subject of a £2m+ bid from Stoke City. The manager did say he was still seeking an extra striker. Other media chatter continues to link the Rams with a bid for Chesterfield striker Jamie Ward.
The Rams went into the Championship away game at Reading 9th in the table with one defeat in 12 games. The Royals were relegated with the Rams but four goals better than Derby in that disgraceful final-day Premier League showing at Pride Park Stadium in May.
Reading have started this season well and maintained their Top Three form whilst Derby recovered from their top-flight humiliation somewhat more steadily to claw back some pride and respect during September and October. Paul Jewell reinstated Stephen Bywater in goal, Martin Albrechtsen was fit to resume at centre half, and Gary Teale - an effective substitute at Brighton - and top scorer Rob Hulse returned to the starting line-up. Hat trick hero Tito Villa retained his place.
After a bright start with some open attacking play from the Rams, Reading asserted themselves. Noel Hunt scored at the near post from a set piece after 19 minutes to give them the lead, after Derby’s flank failed to prevent the cross being placed precisely where Hunt needed it. The Royals proceeded to dominate the game, Derby’s defence unsure and retreating. Reading finished the first half in control and had two other goals strangely ruled out for apparent infringements, one of them another Villa ‘own goal’.
Reading pressed again after the break, though Kris Commons blazed the chance of the game wide for Derby, after his quick skills gave him good sight of the net. An equaliser may have altered the game but the moment was lost, so Reading reasserted control. Derby fell further behind on 73 minutes; the flank was again poorly defended, this time by Barazite and Kevin Doyle steered home the cross with ease.
Doyle added a third only 5 minutes later, unleashing a fierce shot after turning and shooting crisply from the edge of the area, Claude Davis dumbfounded and Bywater rooted to the spot.
Miles Addison’s close-range downward header rebounded too fiercely and cleared the bar; Barazite went close. However, it was mostly one-way traffic - Reading are a good side and Derby’s ‘bogey team’ at present; their golden boy Kevin Doyle has scored every time the teams meet. Derby just weren’t at the races against such quality but perhaps a little jaded after 3 matches in 6 days. Martin Albrechtsen was withdrawn feeling a calf strain and Rob Hulse was perhaps not 100% fit as claimed after all.
It was only Derby’s 2nd defeat in 12 games but the reversal demonstrated Paul Jewell’s regular assertions that the Rams as yet lack a little quality - they do still have some way to go to be serious challengers in this league. The squad needs more strength in depth and more quality; hopefully January will see additions.
There’s no doubt that new stars are emerging with which Rams fans can identify, after the horrors of last season and the slow start to 2008-09. Players like Green, Addison, Commons and Hulse are becoming favourites and Connolly and Albrechtsen are steady performers.
Jewell’s rebuild is showing progress but Derby’s loyal fanbase may have to wait awhile yet for ‘the great leap forwards’ that will enable the Rams to comfortably see off mediocre teams like Nothingham F*rest and match the best, like Reading, who defeated us comprehensively, again.
Derby dropped to 13th in the table and Jewell will shuffle his pack for the Carling Cup game against Leeds United on Tuesday. Addison is suspended, other injuries are niggling key players and Leacock is still recovering from his injury.
The next week sees the Rams within reach of a Carling Cup quarterfinal; they need to eliminate third division Leeds United first of all. Derby have now accounted for Lincoln, Preston and Brighton.
Then, it’s Sheffield Wednesday at home in the League on Saturday - and hopefully the start of another unbeaten run!
RamsWeek 45 in 2007 saw Adam Pearson and Billy Davies reaching for ‘the end of the rainbow’ by pledging to ‘give it a go’ regarding Premier League survival, with squad strengthening promised in the January transfer window via impending new inward financial investment.
Former DCFC Finance director Andrew McKenzie was the first person to be charged by the CPS Fraud Unit in ongoing investigations into the finances of Derby County under the chairmanship of John Sleightholme. McKenzie was charged with conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to conceal criminal property; four other persons involved remained on police bail.
The Rams launched another replica kit, the yellow Adidas strip (hello, it’s Christmas!) and outline planning permission was granted by the council for the £20m Pride Plaza project, featuring a 165-bed hotel, bars, cafes and other amenities.
Striker Steve Howard was selected for the Scotland ‘B’ squad due to his birth lines although he hadn’t yet netted for Derby in the Premier League. In fact, Derby hadn’t now scored for five consecutive Premier League games in losing miserably 5-0 at home to West Ham United in a performance that plumbed the depths - and paralleled an ancient Rams’ scoreless run, way back in 1920.
Unfortunately, it was part of a grotesque trend that the squad set for negative records as the season wore on, and also wore out the fanbase, fast becoming humiliated and disenchanted.
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