The Weston Report: A Day When Both Rams & Canaries Chanted As One
Monday, 28th Nov 2016 14:08 by Ryan Weston
Ah, the curious case of the former player scoring against you. You can’t explain it, but just as night follows day, tick follows tock and Forest stay in mid table, you can guarantee it will happen.
Just as Luke ‘can’t hit a barn door’ Varney did to the Rams earlier this season, the curse of the former employee settled matters in this one. Thankfully, it was 2014-15 Canaries player of the year Bradley Johnson who struck to push his old side from the play-off spots and increase the heat on Alex Neil.
Incredibly given the dire fodder served up by the Ostrich hater, following this victory, we now find ourselves only three points off the top-six.
The early going saw black and white chasing yellow as we struggled to find a foothold. The imposing Mulumbu settled into his task of bullying Will Hughes, as our visitors dominated the midfield contest.
Chances though were at a premium. The first effort came from Hoolahan who smashed a wicked drive from 25 yards just over. We were offering too much space as the Canaries probed.
Slowly though, it dawned on us that we weren’t playing Rotherham and might actually have to get out of second gear. Johnson’s cross field ball found Bent, who laid off to Ince. A lovely turn later and he stung the palms of Ruddy.
Space though was at a premium. What wasn’t were the number of fouls Mulumbu was giving away, thought the referee was seemingly keeping his cards in his pocket until the festive season got a bit closer.
Another ex-Canary in Jacob Butterfield was next to take aim - his shot taking a couple of deflections before trickling goalward.
Then game easily the best moment of the first-half, when Chris Baird, or Bairdinho to his friends, flicked the ball over Naismith before driving a beautiful volleyed pass into the path of Ince. That his eventual cross came to nothing was a shame.
Perhaps the biggest talking point of a less than eventful opening half occurred in our penalty area. The impressive Brady, marauding from left-back, delivered a cross. As Pearce and Cameron, ‘put your house on him scoring against Derby’ Jerome tussled, the former seemed to catch the striker with his arm. An anxious pause before the referee waved, or should I say, laughed away the protests as if he was watching his favourite stand-up.
The final chance of the half saw Bradley Johnson thinking he was Paul Scholes as he volleyed goalward from a corner. Sadly, he isn’t Paul Scholes, with his cross-shot screwed wide by Russell. Half-time.
One can only hope that nobody did actually put their house on Jerome scoring, as he was replaced during the interval. Not that this seemed to deter the visitors, as the first guilt-edged chance of the game came soon after. Butterfield seemingly took a trip down memory lane, playing a nice through ball straight to the yellow shirt of Naismith. The Scot drove into the box, steadied himself and drove low across Carson. Our stopper though was up to the challenge, plunging low to his right to produce an excellent save.
And a critical save it was, as from them, the Rams took the driving seat.
There were signs towards the end of the first half that we were starting to win the midfield battle and key duels. Now, we pressed on, taking more care in possession and beginning to look a threat. Another Johnson ball found Bent in the box unmarked. Checking back inside, Darren brought a good save from Ruddy, who managed to gather jus quickly enough to deny Hughes an early Christmas present.
Next, Ince pounced on a Brady slip, only to smash his shot high and wide. We were though, starting to press a weary looking Norwich side, with the pressure almost paying dividends soon after.
A mix up between Martin and Bassong saw Bent in the clear. Looking up, he cut the ball back to Butterfield, who took a touch and struck low, only to see his shot just go past the far stick via a deflection.
Just as the guy behind me boldly stated: ‘This has got 0-0 all over it,’ the inevitable happened- the curse struck!
Hughes, increasingly growing into the game, drove forwards towards the Norwich box. With player left and right, Will drove down a dark alley and was crowded out. No matter, as the ball broke to Bradley, who smashed 25 yards drive into the bottom corner.
As Pride Park rocked, you hoped we wouldn’t fall into our shell.
Norwich played their hand, with Brady pushed further forwards. Before long, he had drilled a shot well over, as it was the Rams who looked more threatening. Nicking the ball in the middle of the park, we drove forwards with Butterfield entering a 3 on 2 numbers game in our favour. Inexplicably, Jacob went for a cracker, horribly skewing a shot high wide and anything but handsome.
Bryson replaced Hughes soon after Pritchard took aim, somewhere well wide of Carson’s net. It was testimony to our superb defence that we were restricting Norwich to pot-shots, with all football being played in front of our backline. In the dying minutes, Weimann and Vydra were added to help us see another clean sheet out.
And that we did, with a couple of mildly alarming moments. First, Murphy skipped past Baird and Butterfield lunged in. From my position, albeit at the other end of the ground, it looked a fair challenge. Our laughing friend agreed.
There was still time for Baird to foul Naismith on the edge of the box, as 3 of the 5 added minutes were up, some members of the crowd couldn’t look, Pritchard struck straight at Carson.
Another fantastic win and maybe, just maybe, Santa may deliver a top-six berth.
As we applauded another fantastic effort, something unusual happened. Both home and away fans chanted the name of Bradley Johnson in unison. And you could never have predicted that…
Weston’s Player Ratings:
Scott Carson – 7: Brilliant save at 0-0 and kicking decent.
Chris Baird - Weston’s Star Man 9: Easily his best game in a Derby shirt. Assured, solid and skilful!
Richard Keogh – 8: Very good from the skipper Alex Pearce – 8: Another solid and dependable display.
Max Lowe – 7: Probably his biggest test, he passed with flying colours.
Will Hughes – 7: Kicked around by Mulumbu but grew into the task.
Jacob Butterfield – 7: Got better as the game went on.
Bradley Johnson – 8: Really grown into the defensive role. Cracking strike to win it.
Johnny Russell – 6: Did ok in instalments but still not the player he can be.
Tom Ince – 7: Played well in spells. Did his defensive duties.
Darren Bent – 7: Led the line well again
Craig Bryson – 6: Did what he had to do.
Andreas Weimann – 6: Showed intelligence near the end.
Matej Vydra – 6: A late cameo.
We Said / They Said:
We said: Rams Gaffer - Steve McClaren
"It's a big win for us; a big step forward. We had to dig in at times, but that's a good team we've kept a clean sheet against. We controlled the game when we had the ball or didn't have the ball and that's important if you want to be a top team.”
"We might lose next week, but I know this team is capable of winning big games and today went a long way to showing me this team has got something."
They said: Canaries Gaffer – Alex Neil
"I've just seen the owner (Delia Smith) and she literally said to me, 'Keep going, we keep fighting'. She and Jez Moxey (chief executive) come down regularly after games and they know how hard I'm trying and how hard the players are trying.”
"All you can do is stick together and keep together and we'll get through it. The one thing I have never been is someone who is going to give up. I think you only ever fail when you stop trying."
Post Match Interviews:
Photo: Action Images
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