|RamsWeek 47 - How Many More Times?|
Sun 22nd Nov 2009 21:02 by Paul Mortimer
The Rams had regrouped during the international break and looked to improve their away showing on their visit to Swansea City.
The week’s football headlines were dominated by the Thierry Henry handball scandal that enabled France to eliminate the Republic of Ireland from the World Cup in their play-off 2nd leg in Paris. It was a calculated, deliberate handball that prevented the ball going out, he steered it onto his right foot and then shovelled it across the six-yard box for Gallas to bundle home.
Henry has joined the ranks alongside Maradona of the disgraced genius, for unpunished cheating. Debate rages about video technology, disbelief at refereeing incompetence, the preference that FIFA harbour for the biggest teams to feature in the 2010 final stages, the injustice to the R of I and how the game has been tarnished - but the result stands. The French will not be cheered on by anyone outside their own nation come summertime next year.
The usual bullish player comments appeared in interviews leading up to the away game at Swansea. Miles Addison said that Derby’s away fans deserved something and that the three points against Coventry had been vital, “…especially with the chairman (Adam Pearson) leaving recently” he said. “We knew that, the manager knew that and the fans knew that.”
“Hopefully, everyone can now forget about that bad stuff that has gone on at the club and we can push on." What was “that bad stuff” that Miles mentioned? Pearson’s departure was portrayed officially as a non-conflict situation that would not disturb the club unduly. Odd!
Other news from Pride Park Stadium was notably sparse; young striker Gregg Mills has resumed his loan spell with Blue Square side Solihull Moors and defender Jermaine Johnson is set fo another loan spell at Stafford Rangers.
Derby went into the away game at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium in urgent need of away points. The game was played on Friday evening because of a major rugby fixture on the Saturday. The return of two points this season to date was relegation form. Clough had a bigger squad to select from and named 7 players on the bench but left the impressive Paul Dickov out of the starting line-up and opted for his preferred 4-5-1 away formation.
Under new manager Paulo Sousa - who replaced Wigan-bound Roberto Martinez last summer - Swansea have carried on as if nothing changed and play good football; they win games albeit in a low-scoring vein. They were 10 games unbeaten and hoped to go into third place in the Championship table; last time Derby visited Wales, they were routed 6-1 at Cardiff City.
Stephen Pearson’s latest groin injury in his never-ending succession of absences prevented him from sustaining his recent comeback to first team action. How many more times? He doesn’t seem like the answer to Derby or Scotland’s current torpor!
Another joke injury was added to Derby’s woeful catalogue, as Saul Deeney had to be replaced by junior goalie Ross Atkins. Deeney twisted an ankle as the team was bailed out of their hotel the night before the game; an emergency fire alarm had seen the hotel evacuated temporarily. He’s now sidelined for 4-6 weeks. How many more times are we going to get a report of a freak injury, an unusual illness or other affliction before we get a settled squad available?
The match proceeded like many of Derby’s recent away fixtures, with the home side pressing and dominating possession. Derby didn’t figure at all up front in the opening half, with Hulse isolated as usual, with only rare and fitful Rams’ possession anywhere near Swansea’s goalmouth. At no time did Derby string any meaningful passes together and again, one wondered how Rob Hulse felt, having to soldier on all alone, so fruitlessly.
The Rams survived to take a 0-0 into the half time break however so Nigel Clough would have been the happier manager. It seemed that if the first half pattern were repeated, it was almost inevitable that a chance to win the game would fall to Swansea as their momentum grew.
Whilst not making much penetration against Derby’s last-ditch covering as the game wore on, the Swans’ overwhelming possession suggested that it would only be a matter of time before the home side’s territorial advantage would lead to a fateful chance. A poor clearance, a slip or an error, or a set piece might enable the Swans to turn their dominance into a lead.
Bywater, as Derby’s enforced Man of the Match was busy and efficient in goal and the defenders had held out against all odds. The hurry-scurry endeavour of Derby’s defensive mentality highlighted the lack of confidence and quality of Derby’s play but they clung on in hope of their reward. Clough introduced two full backs as substitutes, Paul Connolly replacing his defensive colleague Stoor and Jay McEveley taking over from the ineffectual Gary Teale.
Inevitably, Derby made their defensive mistake and conceded a goal; defender Frederico Bessone’s fierce 81st minute strike resulted from a poor clearance from Dean Moxey, which was collected and switched by the slick-passing Swansea side and then delivered into the path of the onrushing Argentinian full-back. Well, would you Adam & Eve it - striker Paul Dickov then came on as a late substitute, with all of 6 minutes to go. Hello, Rob, how are you doing, mate? I regret to say - I just can’t see Hulse sticking this out all season.
Swansea easily saw out the game for their deserved 1-0 victory - a scoreline that certainly flattered Derby County. Derby’s defence had done well overall but came under severe pressure from the ball returning so frequently into the danger areas. Given the lack of midfield pace, power and authority or a forward thrust, and embarrassingly low possession (33%), once a defensive crack appeared, the opposition exploited it and that was that.
It had again been a negative, unrewarding away display and you wonder how many more times supporters will travel such distances to witness such non-entertainment from their team. My own answer is precisely NIL. I have better things to do and other demands on my expenditure. One fan emerging from the stadium called into Radio Derby’s post-match post-mortem and was ‘disgusted’ - clearly emotional in his deep disappointment and condemnatory of board, manager, team and tactics. It wasn’t a Cardiff-style disaster but was almost as dispiriting.
There was no post-match interview with Nigel Clough. We collected 4 yellow cards (one to Connolly that now incurs a one-match suspension), gave away 19 fouls and 15 corners; we won 2 corners and had one effort on target in 90 minutes. Yet the official site declared, “defeat is exceptionally harsh on the Rams”. That’s a ‘spinned’ way of looking at it - however; such a negative, toothless display usually has but one outcome. No way were Derby unlucky to lose; they were fortunate not to be buried!
The Rams played 10 Championship away games with Nigel Clough in charge last season - three wins and a draw in that time made the difference between being deep in the relegation mire and making it to safety with a bit to spare. We’ve played 9 away games so far this campaign without a single victory, achieving just two draws. How many more times, I ask again? The squad has been depleted but 12 points from 57 available demonstrates that we are made of brittle stuff overall on our travels.
Clough lamented the lack of pace and cited the loss of Stephen Pearson and James Vaughan as factors in the attacking weakness. He’s busy searching for a pacy striker. For the moment, Dickov has demonstrated (when selected) that he can fulfil the role of Rob Hulse’s foil but is not a long-term answer.
Pearson can be effective as a midfield runner but is never fit and shows little end product; Vaughan is a loanee rookie who has not been match-fit this season. Personally, I’ll look to such as Porter and Davies to improve things as they have shown some ability, determination and product for their efforts on the few occasions they’ve featured in the team.
I hesitate to mention Giles Barnes and Kris Commons…who knows where those two feature now in Derby’s plans? That’s what Clough would have banked upon before injuries robbed him of those options.
A fully fit Paul Green and Miles Addison would make a difference and for all the talk of wide play with an attacking emphasis, the accuracy and consistency on show from Teale & Croft has been dire and there hasn’t been enough power and energy in midfield to match the opposition.
Midfielder Bryan Hughes is set to return to Hull City after his one-month loan spell, as Clough has more midfield options now that some players are returning from injury. One hopes that Derby can still attract players to the club that can improve the quality of the squad - but that becomes more difficult if you are near the foot of the table.
It’s turning into another season of struggle. In my opinion, the club should make a gesture to supporters to pay an away day for full matchday travel, ticket and nosh, as some kind of recompense for the dross fans endure in the line of duty supporting such a poor team. Or maybe the players would stump up? After all, they’re responsible for ‘entertaining’ us. They are used to subsidising the club on trips - so why not treat their long-suffering fans?
How about a Christmas treat, Mr Glick, let’s suggest that gesture for those willing to Newcastle on 28th December? Lay on some coaches and hampers! Whilst you’re putting your hand in the kitty, make sure there’s also money for some substantial investment in the playing squad in the January transfer window - some of these players just aren’t up to it.
Is Clough under any pressure or is he simply bombproof because of the managerial instability at Pride Park Stadium in the last few years? He’s not under pressure from internal (club) sources but hopefully the investors might conceivably deem (dream?) that money does buy quality and that Clough will not succeed on a shoestring. With so many of the retained players being found out, he will not succeed per se.
For now, we fans can only lick our wounds after another bad weekend. How many more times? At least we are not Wigan Athletic fans…ohhh wait a minute - we’ve spent a whole season recently getting pastings close to the 9-1 humiliation that Wigan just suffered at Spurs!
We can but hope for better things in the forthcoming home games, as the players take a look at themselves…. again. The inevitable outcome of such inadequate performances only reinforces the pressure and urgency upon the team to win the points at home, with Reading and WBA visiting Pride Park Stadium in the next fortnight for back-to-back home games.
In RamsWeek 47 last season, Derby had ‘no particular place to go’ as they undid their recent good work to succumb to a disappointing 2-0 defeat at Ipswich Town. First, ‘Calamity’ Claude Davis gifted the opposition one goal with a feeble challenge before limping off (mercifully) injured shortly afterwards.
Then, to obligingly seal the Tractor Boy’s victory, loanee defender Darren Powell (yes, yet another anonymous Jewell recruit) later air-kicked in front of his own goal to allow Walters to happily stuff in the 2nd Ipswich goal. Derby were toothless and took exactly what they deserved from the away game: nothing. Sound familiar?
The accused ex-directors from the Sleightholme regime, Keith, Mackenzie, Mackay and associate Walters – all pleaded not guilty to the various fraud, false accounting and money laundering charges laid against them at Northampton Crown Court. Your pleas proved futile, gentlemen - rather like your time in charge at Derby County.
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