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The Weston Report: Hughes Must Be Worth £571 Million By Now
Monday, 23rd Feb 2015 12:27 by Ryan Weston

How pivotal a day could this turn out to be in the final reckoning? Yes, there is still a long, long way to go before we can all look forwards to a cold midweek at the Britannia Stadium, but this was a fantastic day for the Rams.

Four of the top five sides at the start of the day picked up as many points as we normally get from countries in the Eurovision Song Contest, meaning that we moved backed to the summit.

But my word, we made hard work of it. Buoyed by a superb defensive display from our good friends in Leeds against Boro, mixed with feeling slightly dirty cheering for them, we knew the chance was there at 2:15pm.

What pleased us more though was the news that George Thorne started for the first time since that day in May… the one that we still don’t talk about. Dawkins too returned, after impressing late on during the midweek goal-fest at Rotherham.

What was less than impressive was the start of the game. Wednesday, always strong and physical, looked just that as we struggled to break them down - McClaren‘s plea for patience looking spot-on as it looked like a slow burner. Wednesday looked content to sit deep and play off the imposing, yeti-like figure of Nuhui.

Despite not actually entering our box, it was the Owls who disappointingly swooped to score first. Hughes pulled back Forest-reject McGugan around twenty-five yards out from goal.

Underlining his reputation of set-piece specialist, McGugan curled a delicious effort over the wall and in past a flat-footed Grant. Closer inspection showed that not one of our wall jumped. If they had, it would have resulted in Thorne taking one on the snout. Still, that would have been better than his knee…

Going a goal down did, as it has many times this year, brought us to life and we really should have been level soon after. Hendricks’ through ball towards Hughes caused confusion in the Wednesday back-line, with Lees clearing straight to Ince and the goal gaping, Ince took a heavy first touch before slotting against the post from a tight angle.

With half an hour gone, the script was almost followed and the house nearly came down. Thorne, picking up the ball thirty yards out, crashed a speculative effort, via a small deflection, whistling just wide of Westwood’s far post. It was probably a good thing that the net didn’t bulge, it wouldn’t have been pretty seeing thousands of Rams fans mess their trousers…

After the Owls had fleetingly been in our box, we went close again. This time it was Ince with the free-kick. From all of thirty yards, his shot looked to be nestling in the top-corner before Westwood expertly tipped over.

By now though, our passes looked sharper, our build-up had more tempo. A cross from Forsyth found Bent at the back-stick, with his knock-back tailor made for Bent himself to head in from close range. Sadly, despite his qualities, he is not the messiah, and the ball was headed away.

As the interval loomed, Hughes cut in from the right to drive at Westwood’s near post. Safe handling however, followed soon after by the referee (another picky so and so) blowing his whistle signalled fifteen minutes of head-scratching to how we were behind.

A look at the scores (and unwittingly, the God awful ‘fan cam’ - which should have been sold in the transfer window) suggested that top was ours for the taking. Could we rise to the challenge? Within 2 minutes, we seemingly had our answer, from an un-Derby-like source.

Thorne’s corner from the left was whipped in, right onto the head of Buxton, who flicked nonchalantly into the far corner. Normally, this would lead me to rant on the lack of person on the post, who could have just flicked it away to safety. But on this occasion, I couldn’t give a monkey’s toss. One each.

The next five minutes looked as if it would lead to Derby completing the turnaround and adding more for good measure. Hendrick screwed wide in the box, with Bent lurking to his left and arguably better placed. Then came our Achilles heel.

Somehow, having been facing the Wednesday goal, Hendrick conspired to lose the ball, turn around and toe it past Buxton, into the path of Keane. Nipping outside Buxton, who if rash, could have tripped him and faced keeping the bath warm for his colleagues.

On the right hand side of the box, Keane let fly before Keogh could challenge. A firm shot yes, but one that Lee Grant will not have been pleased with, the ball squirming past his curious dive at the near post. Another highly avoidable goal, which of late have been coming far too-thick and fast.

For the next five minutes, we were the ones with ours backs on the wall. Poor defensive play down the right saw Lee cut a fine ball across towards Nuhui, with Keogh’s diving block critical in denying the yeti. Next, another cross was helped on by the big man, straight to Lee, who scuffed his volley badly.

McClaren sensibly sensed it was time for change and sent on Lingard and Bryson for Dawkins and Thorne, who had done well on his return. Infuriatingly, having then forced two corners, we decided to take them both short.

Finally, after much audience participation, Bryson swung the next in. Like a smug teacher, I watched gleefully as Buxton got their first again and nodded in past Lees at the near-post. Game on.

And now it opened up. Another Forest reject, Sam Hutchinson, almost made me cause the chair in front some damage, with his run and subsequent shot bobbling just wide.

At the other end, a good run from Lingard, who seems to have the Jordon Ibe style glide about him, saw him release Ince on the right edge of the box. Cutting in onto his favoured left, his curled effort led my arms to go aloft, but the ball to drift harmlessly past the far post. Within a few minutes though, came the decisive moment.

More superb work from Hughes, who by my reckoning must be worth at least £571 million by now, finally set Ince free of the last defender. In the box, Ince got to the ball just before Westwood, who proceeded to take him out. As the referee blew, the ball fell to Bent who steered into the unguarded net. Just as in the Bournemouth game however, the play was brought back for the initial infringement, and the keeper saw red.

And so started the long wait. As, ‘future England number 1’ (chortle) Chris Kirkland did his make-up, Bent had the ball on the spot. Although not for long, as Derby-reject Chris Maguire decided to use his studs to scuff up the area, much to the consternation of the crowd.

Finally, Kirkland appeared and the waiting stopped... it was never in doubt. Keeping his cool, Bent drilled the kick low and hard to Kirkland’s left and in the corner. We were ahead.

And now the party started. Recognising that Bournemouth were behind, ‘we’re Derby County, we’re top of the league’, echoed around the ground. Thankfully, despite there being more than fifteen left to play, we got home without too-many alarms.

Bryson and Lingard both tested Kirklands mascara, with a couple of other final balls too wayward for a fourth goal.

It mattered little though as, after five long minutes of added time, the game was up.

I said at the death that I will certainly have gone grey by the time this promotion race is over. We do know how to make things hard for ourselves. What we also know however, is that this group his huge character and can score goals like the England Cricket team concede boundaries.

Back at the top.

14 to go.

Best go and buy that hair-dye…

Weston’s Player Ratings:

Lee Grant – 6: No chance with free kick but another mistake for 2nd goal.

Cyrus Christe – 5: Looks short on confidence from the player we know he is.

Richard Keogh – 7: Two very good blocks/interceptions in 2nd half.

Jake Buxton – 7: Topsy turvey day. Lax in possession but came up with 2 crucial goals.

Craig Forsyth – 6: Wednesday nullified attacking threat.

George Thorne – 7: The man is back. Composed and relaxed.

Jeff Hendrick – 6: In the right places but too up and down.

Will Hughes – Weston’s Star Man 8: I think I have run out of things to say about him. Superb…again.

Tom Ince – 7: Got better as the game went on.

Simon Dawkins – 6:Decent without being spectacular. Still think he is more of an impact player.

Darren Bent – 7: Another crucial goal.


Jesse Lingard – 8: Excellent final 30 mins. Amazed if he doesn’t start on Tuesday.

Craig Bryson – 6: Off the ball, great. On the ball not so.

Match Info / Rams Team:

Ref: Darren Bond

Crowd: 31,628

Derby: Grant, Christie, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth, Thorne (Lingard 62’), Hendrick, Hughes, Ince, Dawkins (Bryson 61’), Bent.

Unused Subs: Roos, Ward, Thomas, Shotton, Mascarell.

Match Stats – Derby / Wednesday:

Goals: Buxton (47’, 68’), Bent (77’) / McGugan (20’), Keane (55’).

Possession: 68% / 32%

Shots On Target: 7 / 2

Shots Off Target: 10 / 4

Corners: 8 / 0

Fouls: 9 / 15

We Said / They Said - Match Reaction:

We Said – Steve McClaren:

"We've had spells of six or seven clean sheets but in the last four we've conceded nine goals. We can't continue with that and I thought today we are going through a spell where we make a mistake or give a free-kick away and it's a goal. But we have to eradicate mistakes otherwise conceding nine goals in the next four games will get us nowhere.”

"We said to the players at half-time that this could be a very big three points if we comeback and I think in the end we wore Wednesday down with constant pressure and the tempo of our football."

They said – Stuart Gray:

"We have been doing very well in our own box so to concede three goals from set plays was very disappointing. And then for Westwood to get sent off, I think that was a bit harsh."

“Derby are a good side and I think they will get promoted. Because they put you under so much pressure, we have got lads making decisions with tired minds. "But to get ourselves 2-1 up gave us something to build on."

Highlights / Post Match Interviews:

Up Next For The Rams:

Derby v Charlton

iPro Stadium

7:45pm - Tuesday 24th of February

Photo: Action Images

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