|Derby County v Fulham|
Saturday, 4th March 2017 Kick-off 15:00
The Weston Report: Rainbow Appears But Rams Pot Of Gold Out Of Reach
Monday, 6th Mar 2017 08:00 by Ryan Weston
Perhaps we should just request not to play in February? Not for the first time, the Rams tackled the second month of the year with all the smoothness of naming ‘Best Picture’ at the Oscars.
Feeble against Burton, careless against Cardiff and toothless at both Villa and Ewood Parks, our hopes of the playoffs seemingly disappeared into the distance quicker than Usain Bolt.
Still, this was our first game of a new month, one which had a distinct Spring feel. With warm (ish) sun greeting our arrival, could the season of new life breathe some into our campaign? Well, there was a new formation for starters, with Vydra making a rare start in an also rare change from 4-3-3 with Marcus Olsson coming in at left back in a 4-2-3-1.
Not that the change helped early doors, as the Rams passed with the same poise demonstrated by Madonna at the Brits. Barnsley, actually above us in the table at kick-off, looked neat and tidy, with Carson relieved to see Bradshaw’s stab across goal go narrowly wide.
We had seemingly been watching the Six Nations, with our passes finding touch regularly.
Our visitors looked a threat, with Armstrong causing a Keogh-less back-four problems with his movement. He was soon played in down the left-channel, with Carson equal to his strike on the angle. Next, Hammill tested our stopper with a strike from twenty yards.
As the half went on, we huffed and puffed-and that was just in the stands! Ince was playing more centrally, something of frustration given the fact that our visitors looked suspect at full-back. Still, their skipper Roberts was having a stormer, repelling everything that we tossed forwards.
Finally, after half-an hour, a chance! Russell, who had started poorly, dispossessed Yiadom out wide, before driving into the box. Choosing to shoot at the near post, keeper Davies saved with his legs.
Like London buses, another chance followed. Smart play from Vydra saw him fouled on the edge of the box, with the ref playing on to allow De Sart the chance to test Davies from range.
Now, we were playing the correct sport. A cracking ball from De Sart set Johnny free again. He rolled back to Ince, who curled a shot narrowly over. With Tom pulling the strings, we ended the half strongly. After winning a free-kick twenty yards out, it was a surprise to see him let Vydra take aim. Desperate for a goal, the Czech could only find the South Stand.
Still, as half-time arrived, there was enough to convince me we could take all three-points. De Sart however wouldn’t be helping us to do so-a whack forcing him to be replaced by Butterfield.
In a complete opposite of the first half, we began brilliantly. We certainly smelt blood down our right, with Christie reminiscent of Linford, marauding forwards. First, his clever exchange with Vydra saw him find Russell. Another man desperate for a goal, he was unlucky to see his flick blocked.
Next, Cyrus’ flicked ball in just evaded Ince for a tap-in at the far post.
Given our positive start, you just knew what was coming next.
That’s right, we fell behind due to our Achilles Heel…
Roberts’ huge long throw was met by the head of Matty James, who gleefully nodded past Carson. The simplest goal you could ever wish, or in this case not wish to see. The third consecutive game in which we had conceded from a dead-ball situation. McClaren had alluded to the fact we had been practising in the week. More is obviously required.
Without a goal in three games. 0-1 down at home. It was time to either show character or whimper to another timid loss. I must admit I predicted the latter, but credit to the players for then producing their best 35 minutes in recent memory.
It helped that we hit back straight away. Another Christie cross from the right saw Vydra challenging and the ball eventually falling to Ince. One touch with his left, the next with his right, a goalkeeper who dived despite the ball being straight at him and it was 1-1. Tom’s desire to get on with proceedings spoke volumes.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again-when we play with tempo, there are very few teams in this league who can match us. Now, we were playing with some and lo and behold, creating chances.
Another free-kick was won in shooting range and that man Ince this time took responsibility, almost finding the top-corner but for Davies’ fingertips. Linford then delivered yet another centre that Vydra could only head over.
In between times, Carson almost gave me a cardiac arrest, coming to claim a corner but dropping it into the ruck of players. Thankfully, we managed to smuggle it away, but not before a few blood-pressure rising hacks to do so.
Scott could have blamed a greasy ball, with the pleasant sun now replaced by heavy rain. But could Barnsley whether the Rams’ storm? For the moment, but not without alarm. A corner of our own caused confusion, before Russell fed Ince in the box, only for his shot to be diverted onto the post by Davies. Then, good play from the excellent Nugent saw him lay off the Johnny, whose curling effort was again pushed over the bar.
Finally, our huffing and puffing broke the door down, Lady Luck finally decided to show her face.
Vydra tickled it on to Nugent, who chested, spun and shot on the turn from the angle. Despite the effort being on target, a lovely deflection saw the ball nestle in the far corner. The most smiley man in football certainly enjoyed opening his account for the Rams, as did we!
Could we hold on? Well, we almost made it safe soon after with a set piece of our own. After Russell had been replaced by Hughes in a reversion to 4-3-3, Ince’s corner found Christie, whose volley was cleared off the line. And that is why you always defend posts at corners!
Anya replaced the tiring Vydra as we looked to play on the break. Our visitors sought an equaliser, while Nugent’s smile turned to in-takes of breath, with him visibly shattered. We had enough on the break though and after Ince’s foray into the box saw his effort deflected over, we should have sealed it.
A fantastic run by Anya down the left saw him reach the by-line and cut-back for Hughes. On William’s left- foot, the net would have rippled, but as such, his right-footed attempt was pushed away by Davies.
With this being Derby County, there was still time for a scare. Good passing on the edge of the box saw Kent set free in our box. Thankfully, the angle was against him and Carson’s palms were strong enough to beat it away.
And that was that. A win at last - one that was full of character.
As we applauded the troops off and as Nugent looked forward to a lay down, a rainbow appeared over Pride Park.
Sadly, the pot of gold seems out of reach.
Weston’s Player Rating:
Scott Carson – 5: Not his assured self-didn’t command his box enough.
Cyrus Christie – 7: Looked a threat every time he came forwards.
Chris Baird – 8: Excellent in unfamiliar role.
Alex Pearce – 7: Can’t remember him losing a header.
Marcus Olsson – 6: Did well on return to side.
Bradley Johnson – 7: Got stuck in well
Julien De Sart – 6: Steady but eventually injured.
Johnny Russell – 7: Recovered well after shocking start.
Matej Vydra – 7: Very encouraging first start for a while.
Tom Ince – Weston’s Star Man 9: Brillant throughout. Thriving in role of talisman.
David Nugent – 8: Led the line tirelessly and great to see him get the winner.
Jacob Butterfield – 7: Got us playing more.
Will Hughes – 6: Should have made it 3-1!
Ikechi Anya – 7: Very good cameo
We Said / They Said - Gaffer Reaction:
We said - Derby Manager Steve McClaren:
‘It's a big win for us and I have to say it was fantastic character from 1-0 down from a long throw and everyone could have gone down. It was important to react quickly which we did and then it was quite an open game, but we got the goal and then hung on at the end.’
It's one game at a time, I hate losing and I've been angry in the last couple of weeks. It's not a pleasant taste and we talked about finding a way to win today. Two defeats put us back in terms of confidence and we're now just trying to build confidence.’
They said - Barnsley Manager Paul Heckingbottom:
‘The players are an honest bunch and they are disappointed with the two goals we have conceded. I'm disappointed with a few performances in that we weren't positive enough and didn't have a big enough effect on the game to make us win it.’
‘If you think you are conceding sloppy goals and some of your players aren't at their best, the fact we've lost 2-1 and could have got something out of the game shows how far we've come. I'm generally not bad at getting the result in perspective, good or bad, but I feel a bit thrown today from the feedback I'm getting from other people and how I feel about the game.’
Manager / Player Post Match Reaction:
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