It’s time to prepare for the play-offs


Burnley’s win over Wigan today gives the Clarets Premier League status and confirms that Derby will have to all the way to Wembley and win if they are to make it to the big time.

Sean Dyche has done a remarkable job against Turf Moor and his side fully deserve their promotion. I can’t help but look back on games such as the Birmingham draw and the defeat at Burnley. Costly errors and decisions.

Anyway, on with today’s match against relegation-battling Barnsley (or Baaaarnsley as the Yorkshiremen insist they are called).

The first-half was largely controlled by the energetic hosts, who created plenty of chances and zipped the ball around well. Barnsley struggled to contend with the Rams and didn’t look like scoring.

Jeff Hendrick’s 25-yard goal was impressive. The Irishman came in for Will Hughes, a good change, as well as Patrick Bamford, also among the least ineffective of the bunch on Friday, made way for Jamie Ward.

A Johnny Russell deflected shot doubled the lead just before the break. My 4-0 prediction was looking good.

In truth, the result suggests the game was much tighter than it was, that was due to a lackluster second period from the home side. The Tykes pressed and there was little response from Derby.

Jamie Ward, the pick of the bunch in the first 45, and Graham..I mean George Thorne, who, once again hit some fabulours passes and, even when they weren’t quite successful, incredible vision, were substituted in quick succession midway through the half, contributing to the Rams’ slowing down.

Nick Proschwitz bagged the away side’s goal with ten minutes remaining on the clock. A better side would have most certainly punished the hosts with more vigour.

The goal wasn’t to be the most dramatic moment of the half. Quickly after the goal to half the lead, sub Conor Sammon was brought down for a clear penalty. Russell saw his effort from the spot superbly saved.

More chances followed the penalty to top off an electric, in comparison to the rest of the half, final ten minutes. Derby should have scored a couple in those closing minutes.

At the end of the day, it was another three points in the bag and more momentum into the play-offs. However, the second-half does raise conerns because of the way the Rams allowed Barnsley into the game and squandered so many chances, having said that it is sure to be a completely different situation in the play-offs.

Before I move onto the play-offs, just a quick word on ex-Ram Tomasz Cywka. The midfielder received a good reception from the Derby faithful. It seems a while ago now that he was a regular in the Rams’ ranks.

The play-offs are on their way. Derby and QPR have mathematical confirmation of a place, while Wigan effectively have a place secured. QPR have a lot of big name players that would be no stranger to Wembley-type venues and Wigan have direct experience of visiting the big smoke, in fact, it’s been their second home over the past year or so, though I’m getting ahead of myself with Wembley there.

Sixth place seems to be anyone’s as things stand. A win at Leeds has given Forest renewed hope, how about a juicy East Midlands derby in the semi-finals?

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Alternative Awards 2013/14 Season


Following on from my player of the season piece, I’ve gathered more reflections on the campaign and compiled some different awards.

Sweetest left foot – Patrick Bamford

Who else? I wish I had a left foot half as good as Bamford, who I have really taken to since he arrived from Chelsea.

Most patient – George Thorne

Out on loan to gather experience, the West Brom loanee found himself doing little more than trying out the substitute benches of various clubs. The midfielder was an unused sub for eight successive matches after signing in late January. Finally, he was unleashed in the East Midlands derby last month and turned out to be rather good.

Best beard – Jake Buxton

This one’s barely a contest. Bucko was quoted as saying his wife “hates it” but “the lads love it” so the beard continued to grow.

buckobeard

 

 

 

 

Best galloping runs and accurate crosses – Craig Forsyth

The full-back is a constant threat down the left flank having improved massively as the campaign has progressed.

Scrappiest goal – Conor Sammon

Somehow the Irishman bagged Derby the winner against Middlesbrough on a cold Wednesday night at the iPro back in December. I don’t know how he was credited with it or how he scored, but he did. Watch it again and try and point out who actually scored!

Most bizarre celebration – Richard Keogh

Stop it, Richard!

Most time spent on the ground – Chris Martin

There aren’t many players that are fouled or end up on the ground as much as Martin. At times, he seems to seek the foul and actually back into the opponents. His goal record, though, cannot be argued with.

Most skilful – Jake Buxton

Cristiano Ronaldo, watch out. Watch this below that illustrates the defender’s skill.

Craziest game – Derby 4-4 Ipswich

The post-Clough era didn’t begin quietly. Atrocious defending was met with a superb response and genuine fight by the Rams.

Most boring game – England U’21s 1-0 Wales U’21s

OK, this isn’t strictly a Derby County game but it was at the home of the Rams.

It was like a training match, no fight, too tactical and, as a result, extremely monotonous, the intensity of league matches is the opposite of that. Club football most certainly beats internationals. This match could have been helped by England giving Will Hughes a start and playing the nowhere to be seen Derby adopted heroes Patrick Bamford and Andre Wisdom.

Best game – Derby 5-0 Forest

It fills me with immense joy to even think about this one. Utter embarrassment for the men from down the A52. The rampant Rams could have even scored more. Sure to put a smile on your face, re-watch the highlights below.

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Thorne blossoms in promotion push


After eight successive games of warming the bench, George Thorne was unleashed against rivals Nottingham Forest and proved to be a class act. Since then he has remained in the side and proven he is an excellent player.

The West Brom midfielder, who Derby were linked with back in 2011, is clearly an excellent distributor of the ball and always ready to receive the ball and unleash.

Take a look at this wonder pass to set up Johnny Russell for the opener in last weekend’s 3-1 defeat of Huddersfield Town.

Thorne has 8 Premier League games under his belt.

I, for one, would most definitely like to see him play for the Rams beyond next season. However, the 21-year-old signed a three-and-a-half year deal before crossing the Midlands to arrive on loan at the iPro. This contract was signed after the arrival of new Baggies boss Pepe Mel so, clearly, he must have liked what he’s heard and seen in the short space of time the pair crossed paths before the loan move.

In the same position as Thorne, John Eustace has been a remarkable addition to the team and, just like Chris Martin and Lee Grant last summer, was a free transfer by Nigel Clough. The veteran’s experience and implementation into the team on a regular basis has formed the backbone of the team’s magnificent rise up the division.

The midfield anchorman signed a one-year deal in the summer having impressed in pre-season. Will the club give him another year? I hope so. While he may not, aged 34, play as many as the 36 matches he has played thus far this campaign, the ex-Watford skipper would surely be a useful squad member, Premier League or Championship, two divisions he has ample experience of.

Eustace in his younger days.

Last summer, the Hornets offered the Eust a player/coach role, in which he declined in favour of the Rams, stating that he didn’t wish to turn away from his playing career. Maybe he’ll want to try his hand at coaching next season, if so could Steve McClaren be in a position to offer that? Both Chris Riggott and Rory Delap, former Rams, occupy roles in the club’s academy, possibly their first coaching roles.

Anyway, comparing Eustace and his junior Thorne, it is clear that they both offer a lot, and Derby are well-equipped for the play-offs being able to call on them both, the latter seems to be the most mobile and the former’s organisation and dictation of what to do and when has similar value.

Aside from George Thorne, there have been some further loans that have been pivotal. Patrick Bamford, aged 20, I would imagine isn’t much closer to getting into Jose Mourinho’s Champions League and Premier League title-chasing side despite two brilliant loan spells this season. He could well be available on loan again but maybe they’d feel it’s time to give him a go at a Premier League club. And then there is Andre Wisdom, an integral part of the defensive steel, his parent club, just like Bamford’s, can be nothing other than impressed with his performances.

For now, all that is put to one side, although it will still no doubt and must be in the club’s thinking, as the Rams pursue promotion.

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Player of the Season Verdict


Regardless of what happens in the coming weeks, this has been a wonderful season and much better than most, including myself, expected. It has been a year that the club has, instead of offering rare glimpses of excitement, took the fans on an intriguing ride that I hope isn’t about to end.

Mid-table mediocrity improved almost each year with Nigel Clough and there was a sense that he was edging closer to masterminding a push towards the top six. Looking back, could he have ever done that push? It has become clear since his departure that Derby required someone to push them to the next level with not only more experience but more effective methods for the players on the pitch.

However, there is no denying Clough’s remarkable work to transform the Rams back in to a prospering club after sinking to its knees in adversity during the Premier League dark days. Craig Bryson, one of the league’s top midfielders, was brought in for around £350,000, nothing when you compare it to the millions that both of our East Midlands neighbours have ploughed into their squads. That is just one example, there are many more successes of players being bought in for little and thriving a lot and there is the youth development, which needs little explaining with Will Hughes destined for the top flight one day.

Steve McClaren has been the biggest game changer of the season (and I’m not just talking about his in-game tactics), Derby are now almost a ready-made Premier League club. Now for the players that have had the biggest impact on a magnificent campaign as I consider my Rams player of the season.

First of all, a word on Lee Grant. The goalkeeper has improved hugely since Eric Steele’s arrival and is most certainly the most enhanced player under the new regime. Craig Forsyth is another to have enhanced his game since McClaren arrived, as well as Jake Buxton.

Now, loan signings have largely been made to fill in for injured regulars in the past few years but this season there have been some incredible additions. Andre Wisdom has been key in the defence’s tightening up and been a menace for opponents going forward and defending in the right-back role. Patrick Bamford has brought his quality to the team too, he has hit some vital goals and, most recently, showed he has more than a knack of scoring, he has demonstrated his awareness and ability off the ball. Also, George Thorne has recently impressed and I’m still in awe of that pass to Johnny Russell in the 3-1 win over Huddersfield Town!

It is testament to the new management that the club can attract and develop such stars.

Elsewhere on the pitch, John Eustace has showed Watford fans what they have been missing this season. A very good signing and integral to how the Rams line up.

Goals, goals and more goals have been scored by Chris Martin, another free signing brought in by Nigel Clough. There have been many calls from fans to the board to splash out on a ’20-goals-a-season striker’, surprisingly one has come in the form of a free agent. Anyone who scores so many goals is always a contender for the player of the season prize.

Furthermore, much praise of how well the Rams have done this season must go to midfield magician Craig Bryson, a certain frontrunner for the award (he was extremely close to getting my award).

The Scotsman has hit two hat-tricks from midfield, a great feat from anyone, yet against Nottingham Forest it has an extra meaning so, Bryso, I salute you for helping make one of the best games I’ll ever witness so very sweet. Goals from midfield, marvellous runs forward, extensive box-to-box running and a never-say-die attitude (remember the Ipswich match!) make the 27-year-old a sensational all-round player.

Having said all of that, my player of the season is Jake Buxton. The central-defender wears his heart on his sleeve and would put his head where others wouldn’t put their feet, but you need more than that to be a great player. Bucko has developed hugely in his time at the club; there is nobody that has worked at their overall game more than this fellow.

Michael Keane, an under-21 international tipped for big things, from Manchester United and Zak Whitbread, a Liverpool academy graduate that was more recently involved in Norwich City’s successive promotions, from Leicester City have both been brought in with the aim of presumably being an upgrade on Buxton alongside Richard Keogh in the heart of the Rams’ defence. Neither has managed to get much of a look-in with the Mansfield lad getting the better of both purport upgrades.

From non-league to Premier League and developing so much would make a great story. Top work from Derby’s ‘footballing genius’ throughout the season and in his time at the club, he must have wondered if he’d ever play for the Rams again when met with a long-term back problem in the 2010-11 campaign.

It is worth pointing out too that since his arrival and including the summer of his arrival Derby have signed Shaun Barker for around £900,000, Jason Shackell for around £750,00 and Richard Keogh for over £1 million all in the same position as Bucko.

Player of the season would be good recognition for the man that has turned from being capable in non-league to being very competent at the top end of the Championship.

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Billy’s Boys Humiliated


What. A. Day.

There’s beating your local rivals and there’s humiliating your local rivals with a magnificent performance. It was truly magnificent from beginning to end.

prematchThe Rams looked sharper from the off and were clearly up for it, completely unlike their East Midlands foes. Just six minutes in, Craig Bryson bustled through the defence and his persistence paid off with a close-range finish. The goal began from some neat work from the lively Jamie Ward, but the ball fizzled away and found its way to the Scotsman.

Bryson’s opener had Derby bouncing and more dominance paid off when a great turn and pass from Patrick Bamford fell to Chris Martin, who also turned and then found Bryson, who had made a darting run into the box, on hand to tidily slot the ball home. The fluid build-up was lovely to see, Forest simply couldn’t cope with it.

A third goal quickly followed, it massively caught out the Reds as it all began from a Reds’ corner. Lee Grant, holding off Forest pressure, punched the ball away, it fell to Ward who hit it on to Bamford. The Chelsea loanee had two desperate defenders rushing his way, he held them off and showed his awareness, seemingly without even looking up, to perfectly pick out Jeff Hendrick, who did the rest, hitting the ball both between Karl Darlow’s legs and the goal posts. Counter-attacking football at its best. It came just five minutes after the second goal, thus, after little over half an hour, Derby were comfortably three goals to the good.

It was 3-0 at the break but it really could have been more, the Rams looked like scoring when they marched forward and were good value for the lead. I thought at half-time that the floodgates would remain open for more – and they did.

Johnny Russell, on for the injured Ward, didn’t take long to get in on the act and open the hosts’ second-half account. Russell hit a beautiful strike under ten minutes into the second 45 and sent the crowd wild. Such a well-struck effort, the goal must be a goal of the season candidate.

Later on after his remarkable goal, the striker slipped and made an embarrassing miss-hit. Luckily, the home faithful were in a position to laugh and not groan and he appeared to follow suit, later tweeting…

As the rain poured in the second 45, the goals continued to pour in as Rams fans were in for a treat to tell future generations all about. A 69th penalty concluded the afternoon’s scoring. Darlow was brought down by Bamford in the area, due to the forward advancing away from the goal the ‘keeper was spared in an early shower (although that must have been an appealing prospect with the rampant Rams not settled with 4-0). It was certainly a penalty. No arguments.

penaltyCraig Bryson (who else?) hit the ball down the middle to complete a wonderful hat-trick. Amazingly, the last 5-0 win by the Rams in this fixture also contained a hat-trick. The great Steve Bloomer, on that day in 1898, bagged three goals, and now has a bust beside the home dug-out in his honour. Is there room for a Bryson one anywhere?

That penalty rounded it all off and from then to the last whistle the home side kept the ball extremely well, frustrating their fierce rivals.

If I was a Nottingham Forest supporter, I’d be ashamed of the team. They didn’t look like they wanted it, put up no fight and never looked like scoring. For the second goal, two players rushed to the same ball, leaving the on-rushing Hendrick free to score. Wouldn’t it be funny to see Billy Davies sacked after Nigel Clough did in the reverse fixture? I think it’s time Billy went.

Whenever the poisoned dwarf, continuing to avoid the media, came to the technical area he was met by a chorus of boos and, of course, the standard ‘Cheer up Billy…(you know the rest)’ chant. He thinks it’s him against the world and the Forest supporters appear to be turning on him, little over a year after ‘king Billy’ returned.

goalAnyway, back to McClaren’s classy side. The team performance as a whole is worthy of a lot of praise and every single player was more than up for it, they were busting with energy and genuine attacking intent. In addition, the passion the players also had is extremely pleasing. Of course they should have that ardour, but it does seem very heartfelt, and it is very inspiring to the crowd, which brings me to my next point.

The ground’s atmosphere was incredible. All sides of the ground played their part and the new South Stand arrangement (where the DCFC fans are now all housed behind the goal, with the away fans ostracised into the corner) looked the part.

In terms of stand-out performers, I can’t look further than Craig Bryson for man of the match. The midfielder put in a real shift and supported the attack to great effect. Forest’s midfield, which featured Jesus look-a-like Jonathan Greening (who couldn’t even provide a miracle against such a good team), were run ragged by him. Today’s hat-trick means the 27-year-old is on 15 goals for the season, a marvellous tally for a midfielder.

Aside from the hat-trick hero, I was very impressed with George Thorne, making his debut in the absence of the suspended John Eustace. To be honest, I had my doubts; I thought he would have played by now (he joined in late January) if he was any good. Thorne made some intelligent passes and firmly looked the part. As I’ve said numerous times this season, it’s fantastic to be able to have one integral player replaced by someone more than up to scratch – instead of having to call on a less competent player (as Derby have had to do at times in the past five years).

Richard Keogh holds the Brian Clough Trophy.

Richard Keogh holds the Brian Clough Trophy.

Patrick Bamford, against his old club, looked splendid. The Chelsea man’s off-ball movement was good, as were the clever interchanges he had with the hosts’ middle and front lines, which a key played a part in two goals. Moreover, Jeff Hendrick, criticised recently for looking a little off ther pace, was also in form, imposing his presene in the midfield areas.

I hope Jamie Ward, who went off injured before the break, is okay. He looked extremely sharp before giving way to Russell, who showed that tenacity he always shows.

So, after four games without a goal this is what we got. A day to be remembered for a long time to come. Up the Rams!

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Statistical Preview: Derby Vs Forest


It’s almost here. Take a look at the key stats.

  • Forest are without a win in their last 7, meanwhile Derby haven’t won in their last 4.
  • Derby have lost just 1 of the last 5 meetings with Forest.
  • Forest have only won once at Pride Park, that win came under Billy Davies in 2011.
  • Forest have won 5 on the road this season in the league, including a win at Leicester in November.
  • The Reds have conceded 14 goals in their last 7 outings.
  • McClaren’s Rams are without a goal in their last 4. In the 5 fixtures prior to the dry spell, the team bagged 9 goals.
  • Billy Davies has won 4 and lost 3 against the Rams while in charge of Forest.
  • There have been 5 red cards in the last 7 meetings between the sides.
  • The Rams have beat just 1 (QPR) of the 4 current top 6 sides played on home soil this season.
  • After a recent dip, Derby lie 11th in the Championship form table. Forest’s slump means they are 23rd in the division’s form guide.
  • The side from across the A52 have the 7th best away record in the division yet they’ve won just 1 in their last 8 road trips.
  • 6th-placed Forest are just 1 point clear of 7th-placed Reading.
  • Derby are 7 points clear of Reading. The Rams are 3rd with 63 points and 10 points behind the last automatic promotion spot.
  • Former Rams boss Billy Davies achieved Forest’s first double over Derby since 1990 with a double in the 2010/11 season.
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Rams Fans Share East Midlands Derby Memories


Saturday’s blockbuster is fast approaching and to whet your appetite I have gathered a few Rams fans’ memories of past Derby County Vs Nottingham Forest encounters and their predictions for the weekend’s match.

First up is Charlie McGrath, writer of great new blog Rams Ramble.

What is the best East Midlands derby you have witnessed?

Hmmm…that’s a difficult one! Any win against Forest is very special and I’ve been lucky enough to watch a few. One that stands out in my mind is the 4-2 win in March 2004. Ian Taylor scored early on and then Peschisolido bagged a brace. It seemed like an easy victory was on the cards but Forest had other ideas and managed to pull back two goals. It was beginning to get tense until Peschisolido found Tudgay late on and his deflected shot secured a brilliant victory.

I can’t not mention the win at the City Ground with 10 men but as I wasn’t at the game, my favourite East Midlands derby is the 3-0 win back in December 2004. Our first goal in that game remains one of the best I’ve seen! The quick passing and pace in the move is just breathtaking and one of my favourite ever players, Tommy Smith, was there to finish. Grzegorz Rasiak headed in a Smith cross and then tapped in from Morten Bisgaard’s cross to complete a cracking win.

What is the worst East Midlands derby you have witnessed?

The worst Derby-Forest match I’ve seen is probably the one earlier this season. Being a relatively young supporter, I’ve not experienced too many derby defeats so, for me, this one was particularly painful. It was the first time I’d been to the City Ground and, after that, I wouldn’t rush back. Our performance was just terrible and we lost 1-0, without even putting up a fight. And, to add insult to injury, Nigel Clough, who I thought was doing a good job, was sacked shortly after full time.

Lastly, what is your prediction for this weekend’s match?

On Saturday, I can’t see anything other than a Derby win. We’re not in a particularly good run of form but we should take confidence in the performance at Reading last weekend. Eustace is suspended and Hughes may miss through injury, which won’t help, but I know we can do it. There’s no greater time to finally end this goalscoring drought and I suspect Chris Martin will be the man to do it. Forest aren’t doing well of late either and some are even calling for Billy Davies’ head. We should take advantage of this and who knows, Billy could get the sack if Derby win, just like Clough in the reverse fixture. Having said that, I think it’ll be tight, so I’m going for a 2-1 win.

Next up is Jonathan Rodgers, writer of the excellent Facing Two Ways.

What is the best East Midlands derby you have witnessed?

My first ever derby was the 4-1 victory over Forest in 1979 (the one with the classic Graham Richards commentary -”Forest are in absolute ruins!”). However, I was only ten years old then & don’t recall anything about the game other than being given humbugs by some oiks in the Normanton End.

So, the best one I’ve ever witnessed has to be the 2-0 FA Cup victory in 1983 (the game styled as Clough v Taylor). I was standing on the Popside with my dad for that game & will never forget the free kick from Archie Gemmil that put us ahead. His celebration was pretty good too.

What is the worst East Midlands derby you have witnessed?

Saturday’s game will actually be my first East Midlands derby in a long, long time &, to be honest, I can’t recall a game I’ve been to where we’ve lost. Having said that, watching the game at the City Ground earlier in the season (on Sky) was a pretty awful experience!

Lastly, what is your prediction for this weekend’s match?

I don’t normally make predictions because I’m a tad superstitious but I’m reasonably confident about this one. Forest are a shambles at the moment & we’re due a win after playing so well in the Bolton & Reading games. I’m going for a two one win to us, with at least one sending off & Andy Reid scoring for them from outside the area.

Matt Bregazzi has also had his say.

What is the best East Midlands derby you have witnessed?

Without doubt for me the best has to be the 3-0 win under George Burley during the 2004/5 season.  We had a terrific side that year who were desperately unlucky not to make at least the play-off final, and we really put on a show that day.  Two from Gregorsz Rasiak and the pick of the bunch from Tommy Smith following a lovely move which encompassed a neat one-two between Inigo Idiakez and Morten Bisgaard.  The latter played the ball back in field to Idiakez, who squared for the onrushing Smith to sidefoot into the Forest net.  One of those goals (and matches) I’ll always remember with great fondness.

What is the worst East Midlands derby you have witnessed?

Perhaps surprisingly, I’m choosing a Rams win for this one as well – the 1-0 victory in March 2012, courtesy of ‘Sir’ Jake Buxton’s late, late header.  My reasoning is simple; aside from the winner in the 95th minute it was one of the most dull games of football you’re likely to see anywhere, ever.  The ball probably got the best vantage point of the afternoon on account of it being in the air immediately above Pride Park for about 60 mins of the match.  I don’t remember it being a particularly ill-tempered affair either (by the standards of this fixture, anyway), so it’s not like we had many handbags-at-five-paces incidents to distract from the aching boredom and alarming lack of quality on show.  For any neutrals who are reading that watched that match, I truly apologise.

Lastly, what is your prediction for this weekend’s match?

This weekend’s game is arguably the most important one for a fair while, and also probably one of the toughest to call in terms of a prediction.  Both sides come into it in lying in the top 6, but also strangely in their own sort of mini-slump.  Add into that the fact that both are struggling for goals and you’d be forgiven for thinking this might be another game for lovers of clean sheets (defenders and ‘keepers, then).  However, as the old adage goes, ‘the form book goes out of the window’, and there’s never a greater spur than potentially re-igniting your season by getting one over on the old rivals.  My heart – and our recent performances compared to the mutterings coming from Forest fans about theirs – says Derby to win, but my gut screams a 1-1 draw and someone getting sent off.  Probably a Forest player reacting to Chris Martin ‘buying’ a free-kick on the edge of their box with 10 mins to go.  I’m not normally good at this prediction lark, as my recent accumulator results will attest, but I’m going to commit to a forecast and go with my gut.  1-1.

Finally, Tom Few answers.

What is the best East Midlands derby you have witnessed?

Well, I missed out on going to the infamous 10 men 2-1 win, so it would have to be 1-0 in March 2012, purely for the atmosphere when Buxton scored.

What is the worst East Midlands derby you have witnessed?

Losing 1-0 at home in 2011, that was just such as dull fixture, luckily I also missed the 5-2 thrashing, so that is the best and the worst I have missed.

Lastly, what is your prediction for this weekend’s match?

After the performance we put on against Reading and Bolton without scoring, I’m sure the tides will turn and we will thrash someone soon. So why not out of form Forest? I’m going for a 3-0 win.

Thanks to the fans for answering the questions.

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The History of the Great Rivalry


As the build-up ahead of the latest East Midlands derby gathers momentum, I bring to you a look at the fixture’s history. Kevin Tarrant has kindly sent in an article.

Nottingham Forest and Derby County are two clubs that have had a passionate rivalry with each other for over a century; yet despite the tension between the sides whenever they meet, there are strong similarities in the histories of the Midlands clubs.

Both clubs are considered two of the sleeping giants of English football. For teams with such glittering pasts and a trophy cabinet to match most Premier League sides, in recent years they have both found themselves in the second tier of English football and unable to climb out to once again compete with the elite.

Despite the fall from their glory days both clubs are averaging over 23,000 fans for their matches, their stadiums and facilities are up to Premier League standards and have been involved in some of the biggest events in football. Derby are 3rd in the Championship and Forest are 6th. To get back to the promised land of the Premier League is the aim for both sides, and to do so at the expense of their arch-rivals would be even better for the fans.

History

It’s not the first time that the two rivals have clashed with each other. The first fixture between the teams was way back in 1892. Forest came out on top that day with a 3-2 victory. There have been highs and lows for both since then and some gruelling encounters between the two.

Forests City Ground and Derby’s Pride Park are only 17 miles apart. Football can often cause a divide in families and one workplace can have sets of both supporters when two sides are this close. The only thing that comes close to seeing your side win is to see your rivals lose and how Forest and Derby would like to get the chance to gain promotion this season over their enemies, most people support their teams by placing the bets on their favourite team on Bwin.

Despite the feeling of animosity between the clubs, they both share one love; to hear the name Brian Clough will bring a smile to the face of both Derby and Forest fans. Clough, who is considered one of the most successful managers ever, enjoyed the best parts of his career at Derby and Forest.

Clough at Derby  

When Brian Clough was appointed manager of Derby in 1967 it would set him on the way to becoming an all-time great and change transform a small club like Derby who were struggling in the second division into the Champions of England and onto European adventures.

Clough took control of the Rams after enjoying success as manager of Hartlepool. After only finishing 18th in the second division in 1968, Clough showed how capable he was of transforming a clubs fortunes. With his right-hand man Peter Taylor, who had an eye for talent, he set about building the first of his great empires.

In the summer of ‘68 he signed Alan Hinton, John O Hare, Roy McFarland and Dave Mackay. He got his team playing the Clough way and guided them to the top of the table. Derby won the league and were promoted to Division 1. Clough was now a hero to the Derby faithful.

Clough was an ambitious young coach and wanted more success. He continued to build his side and delivered the Division 1 title in 1972. It was the first time Derby had ever won the league and was considered a huge achievement. The following season Clough led the Rams on their first battle in Europe. They managed to reach the semi-final before losing to Juventus.

Despite Clough’s achievements he failed to retain the league title in 1973. After coming under question from the board he resigned as manager. In Clough’s 6 years at Derby he turned them into one of the biggest teams in England and will forever be known as a hero to the Derby fans.

Clough at Nottingham Forest

Clough became manager of Nottingham Forest in 1975. In the two years since he had left Derby he had gone on to manage Brighton & Hove Albion with little success and was famously sacked by Leeds United after just 44 days in charge. Clough needed to rebuild his reputation and was hungry for more success.

Forest, like Derby when Clough took control, were now in the second division. In his first year there Forest finished 8th in Division 2; Clough was then joined by his old assistant Peter Taylor and together they guided Forest to promotion by finishing third the following year.

This was just the start for Forest as they went on to achieve unbelievable success. With Clough at the helm until 1993 they went on to win the league and four League Cups. The biggest achievement from the era was winning the European Cup.  In 1979 Forest beat Malmao FF 1-0 in the final and then remarkably managed to retain the trophy in 1980 when they beat Hamburg in Madrid.

Clough brought Nottingham Forest the most successful era in their history. He resigned in 1993 after he wasn’t able to prevent them from being relegated from the Premier League. He is an idol to Forest fans and the club have named one of the stands at the City Ground the Brian Clough stand.

Aiming for success

Both clubs are forever grateful to Clough for bringing them such great success. Since he left, neither have managed to gather the momentum to bring the glory days back. It’s been 6 years since either team have been in the Premier League, and Forest have even dropped in to the third tier since they were last in the top league.

This season it looks as though both have a genuine chance of claiming promotion. Billy Davies and Steve McClaren have got their teams into a playoff position; wouldn’t it be ironic if it was battled out by the two clubs where Brian Clough made his name at Wembley on May 26th?  The two clubs have been involved in some thrilling matches over the years.

Derby 4 – 0 Nottingham Forest, 1971

Going back to 1971 and this is an era that all Derby fans would love to experience again. If getting them promoted didn’t do it then thrashing their local rivals certainly turned Brian Clough into a hero. Before Clough had any association with Forest he led his team to this glorious victory at the Baseball ground.

The result gave Derby the momentum they needed as they went on to win the league. The season got even better for the Rams as their rivals were relegated from the top flight.

Nottingham Forest 3 – 0 Derby, 2003

Fast forward to 2003 and ten years after Clough had retired from football both teams were in the second tier. Forest were looking the stronger of the sides at the time and they showed why they were chasing promotion.

A Darren Huckerby strike and two goals from Marlon Harewood gave Forest a famous win over their rivals at the City Ground. The result was one of the highlights of the season for Forest as they were unable to carry the form through to the end of the season and missed out on promotion.

Derby 1 – 1 Nottingham Forest, 2008

The two sides hadn’t met for 3 years as Derby had been in the Premier League, so tensions were high at this fixture. Going into the match Forest had never won a game Pride Park. The first half failed to deliver though, as no real chance were made and the fans were becoming impatient.

If the first half was dire then the second was anything but. It had everything you’d want and expect from these two famous clubs – goals, fouls, red cards and penalties provided the fans with end to end entertainment.

Derby’s Argentinian striker Emmanuel Villa had given Forest the lead when he put the ball through his own net. The striker turned from villain to hero though as he went and got the equaliser for Derby to set up a tense finale.

The remainder of the match was filled with drama that you can expect from a local derby. Forest’s Luke McGugan was sent off for challenging with his studs up. Luke Chambers was also lucky not to get sent off as he gave away a penalty. Derby failed to capitalise though as their former keeper Lee Camp saved the spot kick.

Derby thought they had won it late on as Miles Addison headed the goal into the back of the Forest net only for the referee to disallow it, a decision that was highly disputed by the Rams. The match stayed at one a piece though in a match that was fitting to two of Brian Clough’s old teams.

Nottingham Forest 2 – 3 Derby, 2009

Going into this FA Cup fourth round match, Derby hadn’t won at the City ground since 1971 when Brian Clough was manager so Forest were favourites. They had drawn 1-1 in the first match and a replay was needed.

Forest showed why they were favourites as they dominated the first half. Chris Cohen and Nathan Tyson fired them into a 2 goal lead by half time. It looked as if they would be on their way to a famous win over their rivals in front of their home fans.

This was the FA Cup though and anything can happen. Derby came out in the second half and were a different team. Three goals from Rob Hulse, Paul Green and Kris Commons inspired them to an amazing comeback. The match finished 3-2 and Derby were rewarded with a fifth round tie against Manchester United.

Derby 0 – 1 Nottingham Forest, 2011

Going into this match Forest still had never won a match at Pride Park.  The odds were stacked against them but like always in these matches anything can happen.  33,000 were there to watch this Championship game that was the highlight of the season for the fans.

The match deserved more than the one goal as both sides treated the fans to an open attacking game. Passion got the better of some players as the referee handed out 7 bookings and sent a player off.

With the game deadlocked after 80 minutes it was Rob Earnshaw who put Forest in front with a tremendous strike.  Forest managed to hold on and the fans went wild at full time, manager Billy Davies going over to the fans to join in the celebrations. Not only was it Forest’s first win at Pride Park, but the first time they had done the double over them for 21 years.

Where now ?

Despite the ups and downs both clubs have had in recent years and chances to get back to the big time, they both find themselves in very similar positions. Both with the history and fan base of a top division club they find themselves stuck in the Championship.  Now two of Brian Clough’s old teams are battling out against each other to try and recapture glory.

In fact, in recent years the most glory that either club has had is winning a trophy that is dedicated to the former manager of both sides.

In 2007, 3 years after Clough passed away, the Brian Clough trophy was invented. The winner of the Nottingham Forest vs Derby match has claimed the Brian Clough trophy. As it stands, Derby hold the record by winning the trophy 7 times compared to Forest’s 4. It’s certain that both clubs would love to take the playoff trophy home along with the Brian Clough this season.

Thanks very much to Kevin for the article.

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The Big One is Almost Here


It’s the one everybody scrambles to check for when the fixtures are released in the summer, to check there aisn’t a holiday at the same time and to ensure it is pencilled straight into the diary. Yes, it’s the Rams against bitter East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest.

Frustratingly, and in stark contrast to much of the Steve McClaren tenure, Derby have now gone four matches without a goal and are surely due to put a few away; it couldn’t be against a better oppsoition that everyone is keen to inflict misery towards.

In last week’s 0-0 draw at the Madjeski, Will Hughes picked up an injury and fellow midfielder John Eustace got booked to warrant a suspension for both the East Midlands derby and Tuesday’s trip to Ipswich. It means there will be another reshuffle in the middle of the park.

On-loan West Brom midfielder George Thorne is a clear contender to get a long-awaited nod. Yet to make an appearnce since signing in late January, Thorne has been an unused substitute in each game since making the move across the Midlands. Does this mean McClaren belives he isn’t as good as he’d hoped or is the match a little overwhelming for his debut? In the time the 21-year-old has spent as an unused substitute there have been occasions recently in which he must have had a chance to start yet was overlooked.

Fortunately he does have Championship experience to his name with games in loan spells for Portsmouth, Peterborough and, more recently, Watford.

In addition to the Albion loanee, James Bailey, who’s played little over seven minutes of football under the new regime and been injured for a large spell of the season, is also available.

In attack, things aren’t as bright as they were, but, like I said, the goals are coming. I expect Chris Martin to lead the line. Who to partner him? It’s a big derby match so Jamie Ward, for me, has to be the first name on the teamsheet, the forward oozes passion and has proven he can score in sich big occasions – as well as earning praise for his efforts at Reading. Patrick Bamford, Simon Dawkins and Johnny Russell are the remaining contenders. Bamford’s moments of magic are always worth keeping him as an option, while Russell has showed what an impact he can have from the bench.

Nottingham Forest are set to be without key player Andy Reid. The visitors arrive very much out of form, without a win in their last seven outings. It’s a chance for the Rams to push the Reds out of the top six with plenty of teams surely ready to jump at a ploace in the play-offs.

Looking at the match itself, it’s always difficult to know what to expect as it is a feisty derby. However, my prediction is for the goals crisis to end with a 3-1 Rams win and a red card or two (as ever!).

There are divided thoughts about who should be starting so please post your starting line-up below in the comments section, as well as any hopes or concerns ahead of the match.

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Red card mars crunch Championship clash


Panoramic Tuf  Moor2-0 defeat at Burnley could have been a lot different, decisions by the referee hampered the Rams’ chances of getting a result at Turf Moor. Now Derby lie five points behind second place.

It was my first time at Turf Moor and it definitely makes you appreciate the luxuries of home matches.

When I finally got a good signal, the team news wasn’t too surprising. Dawkins had impressed when he came on last week and thus he stated ahead of Patrick Bamford. Both Jamie Ward and Craig Bryson were only fit enough for the bench, which, again, had quite a strong feel to it.

Chris MartinIt is widely known how unfortunate Chris Martin was with the sending off. Things could have been much different and the impact that could have on the Rams’ season could be crucial.

Yes, Martin was extremely unfortunate and very hard done to. However, he does have a tendency to back into players, go down easily and look for fouls – maybe a reputation of those things cost him yesterday.

Recently the ex-Canary has been a shade of his early season form, nevertheless the striker’s goal record is something nobody can argue with. In the past couple of games Conor Sammon has offered more when he’s emerged from the bench, but, of course, not as much as Martin in front of goal.

Watching The Football League Show last night exposed to me the incidents leading up to the sending off in more details. Suspicious incidents went unpunished, that’s for sure.

Martin came and sat on a seat (plastic, unlike the wooden one I paid for!) amongst the away fans, along with the substituted Johnny Russell and Mason Bennett. Reeling from the straight red, he looked extremely disappointed, but, quickly, he was spotted by supporters looking for a photo opportunity.

In the first-half, Derby were on the back foot. Retention of possession was poor and, at times, it just seemed like the visitors couldn’t clear their lines at all.

With ten men in the second 45 the Rams looked like a changed outfit, playing some neat football and coming close to equalising on a few occasions. Based on that second-half, without mentioning the referee’s decisions, Derby deserved to go home with something.

The Clarets were a really organised side that had some very good ball winners in midfield and a solid backline. Prior to the beginning of the season, I didn’t even consider Sean Dyche’s team to be contenders.

David Jones’s goal for the home side was tremendous. Andre Wisdom isn’t exactly at fault hut it must be said that he could have got up quicker to try and stop Michael Knightly making the pass to Jones. Burnley got fortunate with a deflection for the second goal – Derby did always look vulnerable with ten men to searches for a second goal.

Full-timeTaking the positives, McClaren can definitely be pleased with the second-half effort.

Luck was not with the Rams, but it’s time to move on as, looking ahead at the fixtures, March is a tough month – potentially a season-defining month. Forest and trips to Reading and Ipswich stand out as difficult matches. Next is relegation-battling Millwall, now led by Ian Holloway.

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The Opposition View: Burnley Vs Derby


Ahead of Saturday’s game at Turf Moor I have interviewed Jamie Smith, the editor of popular Clarets blog No Nay Never

It seems that Burnley have caught many, including myself, by surprise this season, did you expect a promotion push?

Nope! It’s been a lovely surprise. You always want to improve on the previous year but when you sell your best player (Charlie Austin) just before the season starts and don’t replace him, you worry a little. I didn’t expect us to struggle but a lot of the football we played under Sean Dyche last season was poor, so I thought it could be a long year.

I’m delighted to have been proven wrong though. Hardly anyone expected us to be pushing for the top six, let alone be second going into March. It’s been a phenomenal season so far but we’re hoping it carries on for a while now.

Danny Ings and Sam Vokes are obviously huge threats to Derby’s back four, but who else could be potential menaces to the Rams?

Kieran Trippier is the supply line. Even though he’s our right-back, he’s got more assists than anyone in the league. He’ll exploit any space he gets when he goes forward and his delivery is typically excellent. He fancies himself as a free-kick taker as well but he’s only scored one so far. Trippier is excellent defensively too and I don’t think it’s looking too far ahead to suggest he could be a future England international.

Ings and Vokes are our main goal threats though. Vokes is absolutely dominant in the air and Ings scores all types of goals from nothing, so your back line will have its hands full despite a good run of clean sheets recently.

When Jason Shackell moved to Turf Moor in 2012 many Rams fans were angered, how has he performed since?

He had a pretty slow start, but apparently he was carrying an injury at the time. Since he’s shaken that off he’s been a colossus at the back and £1 million looks like an absolute steal. He reads the game brilliantly, organises the side from the back and is possible the best all-round defender I’ve seen play for us in 20 years. He’s that good. Our back five is very settled and Shackell is an 8/10 player every week.

Frankly I’m amazed he’s playing for us. He looks good enough for the Premier League to me. If we don’t go up, he’ll probably leave.

The Clarets have been quite a bogey side for the Rams, what is your match prediction and promotion predictions?

We were absolutely magnificent in the first half against Forest last week, 3-0 up at the break and it could have been more. If we start like that on Saturday I can’t see Derby stopping us. But I’m wary of Patrick Bamford and Will Hughes and Steve McClaren will have you organised, so I’m not expecting us to blow you away like we did to Forest.

I hope we can get a win, but a draw wouldn’t be a disaster given the stage of the season. If either team wins you’d have to say they become favourites for promotion, especially as we open a nice gap if we get the points. I’m sure there are twists and turns to come yet, but it looks like us or you for second right now, so it could be a winner-takes-all occasion.

Most Burnley fans will have their fingers crossed Lee Grant makes a rick at some point. He was excellent for us last season but is certainly capable of a match-losing error.

I’m going to sit on the fence and say it’ll be 2-2 on Saturday and promotion will be decided on the last day.

Thank you to Jamie for taking the time to answer the questions. 

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Statistical Preview: Burnley Vs Derby


As the match gets closer, take a peek at the key statistics and facts.

  • Burnley are clearly a bogey side for the Rams, who haven’t won in the fixture in the past 9 meetings.
  • Turf Moor has been quite a miserable place to visit, Derby have just 1 win to their name in the last 11 visits.
  • Derby stand as the division’s second best away side with 31 points from 16 outings on the road.
  • The Clarets are undefeated on home soil this season and are second in the home table with 36 points from 16 games.
  • The form table has the Rams in second and the Clarets in fourth.
  • A win in the fixture would see Derby go second, a draw would see Derby remain 2 points behind Burnley and a defeat for the Rams would raise the gap to 5 points.
  • Between them Burnley strike partnership Danny Ings and Sam Vokes have scored 34 goals.
  • Derby’s last victory over the Lancashire side was at Pride Park in January 2007. Steve Howard scored to extend the club’s lead to 6 points at the top of the Championship on a night when Billy Davies was sent to the stands.
  • Sean Dyche’s side have an impressive record against top 6 sides at Turf Moor; Forest, QPR and Reading have all lost there, while leaders Leicester are yet to visit
  • The second-placed side have played 6 matches against fellow top 6 sides, they are undefeated in all of those matches with 3 wins and 3 draws.
  • Meanwhile the third-placed side have also played 6 matches against their top 6 counterparts, but have won just 1 and lost a disappointing 5.
  • Lee Grant is a notable player to have played for both sides due to his switch in the summer. He made over 100 appearances for the Clarets, including every single league match last season, and since joining DCFC he has 8 clean sheets to his name having played every single league game so far this campaign.
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Then & Now


Derby County take on Burnley in Saturday’s grudge match at the top of the Championship, a win would see the Rams occupy the second place.

Cast your mind back to late August when the Clarets visited Derby. The away side demolished the hosts 3-0, making the Rams look a far cry from promotion contenders. But of course there was a long way to go at that point and now, after a huge change at the club, there’s every reason to believe in Derby as they push for a place in the top flight. So, what’s happened, on the pitch, to revitalise a relatively mediocre side into a huge force in the division?

In the four home league matches prior to Steve McClaren’s performance there were no victories for the Rams, quite a surprise when you consider that the form on familiar soil carried the team into the top half last season. In the 12 home league matches since, the club have lost just one – an extraordinary record. It is clear that the team now is at their best where they should be.

Behind that record is the management. Nigel Clough did an excellent job here, I can’t stress that enough, however the new regime evidently has a little extra to push on – the perfect antidote to a couple of years of promise from the likes of Will Hughes and Jeff Hendrick yet a lack of shrewdness to compete with the top dogs outside of the Premier League.

Under McClaren and co, the approach on the field has had huge effect. Substitiutions actually make a difference, you only have to look as near back as Saturday for that – the introduction of Simon Dawkins and Conor Sammon at the interval revised the team’s play for the better. The Mac isn’t afraid to make a bold change or two and keep his team pressing to score until the very end.

Recruitment-wise the Rams have flowered with a glitter of premium loan signings. Andre Wisdom, Patrick Bamford, Simon Dawkins (now permanent) and Michael Keane have arrived from the nation’s elitist clubs, who obviously trust Derby to bring on their talents. Although loan scoops were made previously, none were of this quality.

Quite a subtle reform, yet important. John Eustace has had a prominent role in this season’s success to date. At the beginning of the season, the ex-Watford captain didn’t feature as often, now he is intrinsic to the side.

Noticeably Derby can now win ugly, especially in the past few weeks. Chasing the game or not in thrall of the game, Derby rarely won, yet now, there’s always a belief and genuine chance of a result being pulled out of the bag.

To reiterate an earlier point, Clough did wonderful under his resources at the club and proved perfect to steer through quite a mess that was left for him. Since his, at the time, bitter sacking, I have been woken and enlighten by different concepts that have been pretty refreshing.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, there are still 14 matches to go – a long way and time in the ever-changing world of football.

Saturday’s match will provide a benchmark of how far things have come over the season, since it was rejuvenated almost five months ago.

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Martin serves up a moment of magic


Another 1-0 win, this time over Eddie Howe’s organised AFC Bournemouth side at the iPro.

 

teamvsbmouth

Here is how the Rams lined up.

The team news made for disappointing reading with Craig Bryson and Jamie Ward both sitting the match out due to injury.

Bryson is the engine and catalyst for everything good about Derby’s midfield play, that was telling in the first 45. Jeff Hendrick, in the Scotsman’s place, almost watched the game pass him by.

Tremendous credit must go to the way the away side set out. They got in the Rams’ faces, made some good interceptions and stopped Derby from playing.

Defensive lapses worried the home faithful as the away side went into the interval unlucky not to be ahead. Something had to give at half-time, it couldn’t go on.

Again, bold substitutions upped Derby’s tempo. Steve McClaren’s changes have had a massive effect since his arrival. John Eustace made way for Simon Dawkins and Patrick Bamford made way for Conor Sammon. The two attack-minded subs gave the ascendancy to the hosts.

Finally, the Rams were on the front foot but they tested the tolerance of their fans. Chris Martin seemed especially ineffective leading the line – or so I thought.

Goal DCFC

The players celebrate the goal.

Will Hughes was judged to have been tripped on the edge of the box five minutes from time. After watching a reply, no foul was committed and Derby were fortunate but, when you’re running forward with the ball at the opponents and mounting the pressure, you make your own luck. Chris Martin took the free-kick, much to my surprise as I can’t recall him taking one before, and fired home with a wonderful drive to send the ground wild.

Dawkins was very good when he came on, Will Hughes also had a good outing but my pick is definitely Johnny Russell. The Scot made some excellent runs and exchanges as they went in search of that elusive goal.

Lee Camp, as ever, got the attention of the Derby fans on another visit to his hometown. The ex-Red managed to earn himself a deserved yellow card when his protests over a foul went too far with his arms flailing at the referee.

It was good to hear the attendance at the healthy figure of 27,306 but most pleasing was the victory after not being near their best, just like at Hillsborough. It’s been said time and time again, that is a massive promotion credential.

Elsewhere, Burnley beat Forest 3-1 at Turf Moor, etching next week’s visit to the Clarets up a notch. Are the wheels falling off Billy’s promotion wagon? QPR were defeated at Charlton, a good result for Derby as the Rs do have a game in hand over McClaren’s army.

Up The Rams!

leaguetable22feb

How things stand in the Championship’s top six. (Click to enlarge)

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Still On The Up


Derby County made it two 1-0 wins in a row on Tuesday night with victory over Sheffield Wednesday. Again, like the QPR match, the Rams managed to win in spite of not being the best team on the night – one of the most significant promotion credentials.

In a match of little quality, loanee Patrick Bamford produced a moment of magic to grab the three points. I’ve watched it now three or four times – so sweetly struck.

It’s moments like that that mean Bamford is worth keeping on the pitch in scrappy Championship encounters for the edge he can provide. The Chelsea striker is one of a few loans that have helped the side’s Premier League push and huge credit must go to the club for attracting and identifying such pivotal loans.

Post-match Rams fans could again admire the zeal on show from defender Jake Buxton with another spirited photo (below).

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(From @dcfcofficial)

Craig Bryson, Chris Martin, John Eustace and Andre Wisdom have been the main stand-out performers this season. Bucko can be added to that list.

Not too long ago I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him follow Nigel Clough to Sheffield United. The defender’s efforts, the way he was fended off competition from Michael Keane and Zak Whitbread this season to cement a first eleven place and the wonderful improvement he has made since joining (when he hadn’t tasted life above League Two) have been commended.

First-team coach Paul Simpson acknowledged Clough’s influence on the ex-Brewer and hailed his work under the new regime “Nigel was good for Jake but Jake has been absolutely magnificent for us”.

Does this make him a contender for player of the season? There is nobody on the pitch that expresses their delight and sheer fervour for the club more than him.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s game at the iPro against 15th-placed Bournemouth, there is a chance for Derby to put another foot on third place and even leapfrog Burnley into second place.

The Cherries have won just three on the road, however their record against the division’s top sides away is quite commendable. Over the season they have picked up a win at Reading and draws at Burnley and Forest so it’s clear that the match will be more than a walkover.

Worryingly for Eddie Howe and co, the Rams are in imperial form and lead the Championship’s form table with East Midlands counterparts Leicester City and Nottingham Forest. That match against the Reds on March 22 is looking like the most important between the rivals for a very long time.

This weekend there is a venomous fixture at the top of the Championship. Burnley play hosts to Forest, while QPR travel to Charlton and Rangers have won just one of their last four away from home so maybe that’ll be a banana skin for the Championship giants. Leicester, in the form they’re in, appear to have a pretty routine fixture in the form of a home game against Ipswich.

Take a look at the current top six below and cast your votes in the polls.

leaguetable

 

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E I E I E I O…..


My last two articles on here have contained groans about the Derby County defence. How stupid do I look now?

The defence collectively produced a solid display against QPR on Tuesday night, with Jake Buxton and Richard Keogh performing outstanding at the heart of the back four. I really didn’t anticipate keeping a clean sheet after conceding poor goals against both Yeovil and Birmingham.

John Eustace’s goal, his first in Derby colours, was wonderful. The loop outwitted the defence, punishing Rob Green after his short punch out.

I thought the away side were pretty uninspiring for their superior amount of possession and the amount of money spent. They couldn’t create as many clear-cut chances but credit to Lee Grant for making a couple of excellent saves.

On Monday the table looked lovely, however, after a night of results that didn’t go in the Rams’ favour. Four points now separate McClaren’s side from second-placed Burnley and one point is the current gap that Forest must mind.

Sheffield Wednesday, 17th, appears to be, dare I say, a relatively easy game on the face of it, but the Owls were on an 11-match unbeaten run prior to their 3-0 defeat to WIgan last night. After that, Bournemouth, 15th, visit, two good opportunities to gain maximum points before the difficult trip to bogey side Burnley.

Derby have a comparably easy next couple of games to the promotion chasing counterparts. It’s a time I hope is capitalised on. Burnley travel to Bournemouth at the weekend, followed by a grudge match with Forest on the 22nd. The Reds, before that, take on runaway leaders Leicester. QPR next face 6th-placed Reading. This spell could result in a little reshuffle beneath the Foxes.

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What next for the Rams?


Many Rams fans were rightly peeved by the defensive lapses that contributed to last week’s 3-3 draw at Birmingham City.

It was an utter shame considering the menacing Derby attack look like they have a lot of goals in them. Is it time for a dominating central-defender to be brought in? Let’s not forget, though, that defence starts from the front-line. It does seem that more loan activity could be on Steve McClaren’s agenda.

Jake Buxton has been the best defender this season, he’s fended off competition from Michael Keane and Zak Whitbread and stepped up to the plate as captain during Keogh’s injury lay-off.

As aforementioned, the loan market continually appears to be interesting to the club. Yes, it’s worked wonders – just look at Andre Wisdom, Simon Dawkins and more recently Patrick Bamford – and credit to the club for sourcing such gems. However, I feel January was an opportunity missed. In an article last month, I said that, considering the Rams’ league position, there should have been more activity.

An extra face or two would have not only bolstered things and kept the current regulars on their toes, but also showed their intentions – why not make a big push when you’ve laid down the foundations and got through some gruelling fixtures to emerge in a good position? Money being thrown around needlessly is of course not what I’m saying, only a little more shrewdness with the new recruitment set-up up and running.

On the other hand, I can’t over-question this due to, again, the loan recruitments’ success thus far and the on-pitch record of the new team; they obviously know what they’re doing. The team is in safe hands.

The Mac’s record is quite remarkable. Played (league): 19. Won: 12. Drawn: 4. Lost: 3. Yet, since the turn of the year (league) things have been different to the breath-taking December form. Played: 6. Won: 2. Drawn: 2. Lost: 2. It is slightly unjust to suggest that Derby have completely stagnated since the beginning of 2014 because a sticky spell was probably inevitable after such a marvellous run of form, but there have been slightly frustrating times (penalties!) that could come back to haunt us.

Still, the Rams sit pretty in 4th spot and, I believe, the squad has what it takes to hang into the play-offs at least. There are 17 matches to go, a long way. Looking far ahead, the latter five matches are against current bottom-half sides – not a bad run-in, though there is a lot to happen between now and then and a play-off place is by no means secured.

The Manchester City of the Championship, Queens Park Rangers, are next up on Monday night at the iPro. Derby will no doubt line up with a more defensive mindset than the one which turned out at St Andrew’s last week to contain Harry Redknapp’s side more, but, equally, the Rams won’t sit back – as we know, the side isn’t short of a goal or two.

Monday’s visitors are unbeaten in the current calendar year (league) and, in fact, are yet to taste defeat since their last visit to the east Midlands on Boxing Day at Nottingham Forest. Looking more positively at the hosts’ chances, both Matt Phillips and Charlie Austin, integral members of the away side, won’t be available and are expected to be out for some time.

I predict a relatively tight game. QPR have made the most clean sheets (14) this season, whilst the Rams have scored the most (57) in the division. I’ll go for a closely-fought 2-2 draw.

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Disappointing draw at St Andrew’s


photo_1[1]

Pre-match rainbow.

Simon Dawkins came out of the line-up for Jamie Ward in Steve McClaren’s only change. It came as a surprise after the former Spurs forward was a shining light in the stellar comeback on Tuesday night.

The Rams missed a plethora of chances in the first-half, enough to have been two or three up. Craig Bryson’s saved penalty further asserted the well-known fact that Derby simply aren’t consistently good enough at penalties. What if the play-offs came down to a shoot-out?

In the second 45, an early flurry of goals sparked the match into action. It did take Birmingham’s goal to wake up the away side after the break, from them on the Rams assumed control.

You probably won’t see a more bizarre goal this weekend than Derby’s second goal. Chris Martin fired a shot that Bryson attempted to avoid but it ended up looping over the goalkeeper via the back of the Scotsman! You may say it was lucky, I’d say it was deserved after all those chances went begging.

Finally, the third goal was a wonderful move finished off by full-back Craig Forsyth.

The Blues

Their midfield was quite non-existent at times and their defence could easily be split open. Creatively, the Blues offered little, instead Lee Clark’s man capitalised on Derby’s deficiencies to earn their unfair share of the soils.

The Rams 

Mac’s Rams were in utter hegemony on the game. A lot of neat football was played in the usual positive fashion, Dawkins wasn’t missed as much as first feared. photo_4[1]

There is no way that Derby should have drew. There is no question about that. Attacking-wise, the way the team advances together is quite splendid. Unfortunately, it isn’t complemented defensively. In addition, the horrendous Birmingham City makes it harder to accept – they’re an awful side and it’s not hard to see why they’ve been on a slide.

The Defence

If you’ve not been convinced by the back four for a while then you’ll be no closer to being convinced after today’s display. Generally, there was little for the defence to deal with but when they were a little under the cosh lapses in concentration proved costly. I felt that matters had improved upon Richard Keogh’s return, they had briefly but not now.

There are concerns in that area. Some more training ground work? Or take a plunge with on-loan Zak Whitbread?

Patrick Bamford

Again, I must mention him. The loanee went on some glittering runs and got stuck into some some splendid build-up play, especially his link-ups with fellow youngster Will Hughes. It’s becoming clear that he has an extremely bright future  ahead, credit to the club for snapping him up and credit to Bamford himself for making the step-up from League One to Championship with such serenity.

Another goal today, this time it was at the second attempt – he fired in a rebound from close range to send the away supporters wild.

Jamie Ward

photo_3[1]The ex-Blade has been given a bit of stick from fans recently. Today he showed exactly why it was right to return to starting after being a substitute in midweek, he was definitely the away side’s man of the match in his best performance for a while now.

His role in the first goal was worthy of a goal itself. Ward weaved in and out, reached the by-line and found the perfect cross. You can’t beat getting to the by-line and putting in a decent cross, one of the most effective ways of attacking. He also bagged in assist in the third goal.

Bogey Ground

You have to go all the way back to 1995 to find Derby’s last victory at St Andrew’s as there hasn’t been a Rams win there in the past six occasions.

Coming Up

It would’ve been a perfect match to gain all three points with the lunchtime draw between QPR and Burnley and there being a chance to beat the Rs in the next fixture but it wasn’t to be.

‘Arry’s glamour side visit Derby on Monday 10th February.

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Rams fight back after first-half woes


What a night!

The main talking points from Derby’s 3-2 win over the Glovers….

Yeovil fans

The travelling support from Somerset was impressive considering the distance, the day and time of the match. They also made themselves heard. Prior to the match, reports circulated that some of the away fans were making their way up on boats due to the heavy rainfall!

The first-half

Yeovil set out well – defended for their lives and attacked in numbers with immense vigour for an away side. It was, of course, very effective. Splitting the defence open and displaying their clinical side in front of goal shocked the Rams, who had enough chances of their own to have matched the visitors’ half-time goal tally, and the supporters that expected to be cheered up with a comfortable victory after another day of miserable weather.

Defensively the home side were not at their best and struggled with the surging runs as the Glovers counter-attacked. Ishmael Miller was quite a presence in their attack.

An improved second-half

John Eustace was taken off at the break for Jamie Ward, demonstrating McClaren’s attacking intent. Yeovil were pressured from beginning to end of the half and fortunately they attacks were fewer and further between, enabling Derby to pile on the pressure.

The diving header from Patrick Bamford went in just five minutes after the re-start and Craig Bryson, just three minutes from full-time, showed immense quality to slot the ball in the bottom corner of the goal across a body packed of boxes.

Of course the Rams weren’t content with a point. A Bryson free-kick was glanced in by Chris Martin’s head. Wild scenes followed, the players even broke the corner flag whilst celebrating. A euphoric feeling after a plethora of chances missed, including a sitter from left-back Craig Forsyth.

The, to use a great football cliché, ‘never-say-die’ attitude was marvellous to see and, in spite of seemingly clinching a draw, Johnny Russell was brought on for added time. The Rams did it the hard way.

Patrick Bamford

Bamford’s goal means it is three from three now, with two of those matches coming from the bench. Not only does he have such clinical finishing, but he’s also Derby’s most tricky player. The Chelsea loanee went on a couple of completely dazzling runs that made me wonder how he held on to the ball. Clearly a talent and somebody that has a contribution that makes a significant difference. It was Bamford’s first start in Derby colours and some may suggest he is wasted out wide.

Simon Dawkins

Dawkins was a leading threat for the home side and his liveliness on the ball helped create the first goal. For me, he was man of the match for the Rams in possibly his best match since joining permanently this month.

Don’t leave before the match is over!

Derby really like putting their fans through the mill, don’t they?

Two goals in the last few minutes last night, a late equaliser at Ewood last week and, casting my mind further back, a last-gasp winner at Watford back in October and another late Bryson goal to complete the turnaround in the 4-4 draw with Ipswich.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a glorious photo from Derby Telegraph snapper Ian Hodkinson of the players after Martin’s winner.

Derby 3-2 Yeovil

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Introducing Patrick Bamford


Yesterday the Rams battled against fellow play-off chasers Brighton and Hove Albion and emerged with a hard-fought 1-0 victory.

The visitors parked their bus in their own half early on, setting out as an away side playing on the break when they could. Derby did manage to have plenty of the ball but didn’t dissect the Seagulls’ defence often enough. There were some good ball-winners and a usually organised defence in the way of the hosts, who had the fortune of the dangerous Ulloa being completely isolated and marked out the game.

Defence

After a shambolic display against league leaders Leicester City last week, normal service was resumed in Steve McClaren’s back-line. Fit again skipper Richard Keogh came in for Manchester United loanee Michael Keane and showed exactly why he’s been sorely missed.

Keogh brought back in air of calm to the back four and put in some excellent tackles, as well as a couple of bursts forward. His solidity made a clean sheet in little doubt, a definite man of the match. Jake Buxton and Andre Wisdom also put in good shifts. Moreover, Lee Grant deserves a mention for a couple of reaction saves.

Eustace Effect

It’s been acknowledged as a mistake putting Jeff Hendrick in the holding role for the Leicester game, as a result John Eustace was given the nod today and again showed why his signing on a free was a shrewd piece of business.

The ex-Watford captain held everything together, put in some smart challenges and, in usual Eustace fashion, make a few fouls for the team. Back in the side and back to basics, he really is a cracking player – the experience that was needed in a very talented and youthful midfield.

Substitutes

Again McClaren made game-changing subs. Not settled with a 0-0 stalemate, two forwards were brought into the fray and made a difference. Jeff Hendrick was also brought on and slotted in at right-back.

Bamford

The Chelsea youngster was a lively addition to the side at 0-0. His free-kick was among the worst I’ve witnessed all season (NASA is investigating claims that it is orbiting high above) but we can forget that due to his sublime curling finish to grab all three points.

Not Pretty But Enough

Derby have won prettier before and will win in much better fashion in times to come but winning with less style shows they can grind it out when necessary. Brighton were in the play-offs going into the game and never mind things easy, however it was a deserved victory.

League Position 

The Rams remain in fourth place, five points off the top two and now eight points above seventh place. It’s vitally important that the gap continues to consolidate. Next up is Blackburn Rovers at Ewood next week.

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Should there be any January additions?


The drubbing at Leicester City last week was awful to watch. At times, it was shambolic but let’s not forget the resources available to the Foxes in comparison to the young Derby County side on show.

It’s been well-documented that the team selection was wrong and missing the experience and know-how of John Eustace.

During the season the Rams have struggled at the hands of the league’s very top teams; Leicester, Burnley and Reading out-muscled Derby in the early stages of the campaign. Although the league position still looks healthy, that form must improve – you won’t face a mediocre side in the play-offs.

Today the Derby Telegraph reported that there aren’t currently any plans to add to the squad during the January transfer window, with loans being more likely.  I firmly believe that the current squad is perfectly adequate, has more depth than recent years and contains spades of quality however I think a new face or two would be more than ideal for a promotion push.

Fourth in the league is where the club currently sits. I don’t think chances like this come around too often to gain promotion so that’s why an extra face or two could be necessary, perhaps a midfielder. John Eustace’s job has been done marvellously but he is prone to picking up bookings here and there and will there ever be a reasonable balance between Craig Bryson, Jeff Hendrick and Will Hughes? The trio are great individually, yet shuffling them up together hasn’t always worked effectively. On the other hand, James Bailey is back in the side and shouldn’t be discounted. A competitive edge lacked last week in that area and balls weren’t won.

The other day I noticed that Kevin Phillips has made his way to Leicester City. Now there’s a guy that would’ve been good. Looking beyond his age and in the more immediate future, his experience and nous inside the penalty area will be of huge value to the Foxes. I know it’s easy of me to say ‘someone like that would be good’ but there may be someone available out there to aid this push. I just believe that getting into this position at this stage and not making a big go of it would be a travesty.

If you’ve made it to this point near the top, it’s clear that you’re serious contenders and not on an early season bout of form. Five of the top six in the Championship table at this point last year got a spot in the top six. An extra face would strengthen Derby’s current chances, whether that comes in this window or another quality loan signing. Let’s see what happens.

Tomorrow Brighton visit for a top six clash. Having Richard Keogh available is a massive boost. The visiting Seagulls are a different side to the one that was turned over by the magic maroon Derby side back in August.

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Derby put on a show but fall to Chelsea


Derby 0-2 Chelsea – FA Cup 3rd Round

An FA Cup tie with Jose Mourinho’s giants – the elements, rain, wind and bitter cold air, were there for a classic upset. In the end, the Rams were outclassed but by no means disgraced. Missing the injured Craig Bryson was unquestionably a loss.

Here are some quick-fire points on the game.

Crowd

The scene prior to the game with the scarves aphoto_1[1]nd the flag on the far side to me was splendid to see. There was a sense of excitement.

More bumper crowds like this on a regular basis would be fantastic. Hopefully more of the attendees return more frequently, not just for the attractive fixtures.

Performance 

The Rams enjoyed a period of dominance in the first-half and looked real threats going forward. However, Derby struggled to test the Blues goalkeeper to his limit.

Defensively, the hosts largely held their own. Playing their own style and attempting to pass the ball around was fantastic but it didn’t work often enough. Although that’s the correct approach, I just felt that a bit more direct play would’ve been more suitable at times.

In addition to the earlier spell there was a further period of more offensiveness and control after the Premier League side’s second goal. During that spell Derby were unfortunate not to have scored.

Ultimately the gap in quality was clear.

Star men

photo_4[1]Jake Buxton, aside from not quite standing up to prevent Chelsea’s second goal, put in a captain’s performance.

Craig Forsyth both got forward and attacked with the same baptism of fire. His improvement since the appointment of Steve McClaren has been extremely pleasing as I was among the Scotsman’s doubters.

John Eustace put himself about and, at times, broke up the visitors’ rhythm. Jeff Hendrick, especially in the first-half, coped well.

Mason Bennett came on as a late substitute and looked very positive.

Bails is back 

Prior to yesterday, April 2012 was the last occasion in which James Bailey strutted his stuff in a Derby shirt. Ostracized by Nigel Clough and sent packing on loan to Coventry City, it was safe to believe that there was probably no way back for him into the first-team plans. Credit to him for persevering and obviously impressing the Mac.

As a sub in the game yesterday, the midfielder made a bright comeback and will no doubt be an extremely pragmatic operator to have in the team.

Smooth-talking Mourinho

photo_3[1]

Back to the league

Leicester City, current top dogs of the Championship, are next up for McClaren’s Rams on Friday night. Playing against the leaders will present a tough challenge. The Foxes have won their last five league outings.

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Fan Polls


As 2013 draws to a close and the halfway stage is almost upon us, cast your votes in the below polls.

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Festive Fixtures – can Derby continue the impressive run?


Six wins in a row. Fourth place. Three points off the top two. Eight wins from ten under the new regime. The Rams’ rampant form makes for pleasant reading.

“Santa, Derby to win promotion is top of my list. Don’t you dare tell me I’ll have to settle for an X-Box!”

Thick and fast, the festive fixtures are almost here. For some, things start to catch up with them and fatigue plays a part, other flourish and benefit from the strugglers’ subsequent magnified frailties and, as always, some clubs experience a hit and miss time.

What’s for sure is that the period will be a test for Steve McClaren and co, I’m sure we’ll learn more about his methods and even gain from the better sized and strengthened squad.

Tomorrow the Rams entertain Doncaster Rovers. Attacking talisman Chris Martin is a doubt.

Paul Dickov’s side are currently in 20th place and are without a win in their last six trips on the road. Theo Robinson (remember him?) is Rovers’ top scorer. Sod’s law often means ex-players score against their former employers, however, a fortnight ago, I said Steve Davies, returning with Blackpool, would score – he didn’t.

After Christmas the side make two trips to Yorkshire; the first of which is to Huddersfield Town, followed by a trip to Barnsley, where they’ll be buoyed by a large travelling contingent from Derby. The Terriers sit in 12th as things stand, while the Tykes are bottom.

Despite their league positioning, I feel that Barnsley are a side that can never be underestimated. They’re a funny side. You never know what to expect from them, they may roll over or cause an upset. Just don’t take them lightly, then again that can be said for every game in the Championship!

Craig Bryson’s recent form is starting to gain plaudits. Hands off him in January. For me, he has been the club’s best player so far this season.

Back on home soil for New Year’s day, the FA Cup holders come to town! Exciting, isn’t it? No, actually, Wigan Athletic were victorious at Wembley – those dizzy heights seem distant as a recent managerial change illustrated how they’ve struggled to make the adaptions to Championship life and succeed in a European and domestic juggling act. Anyway, the Latics are in 14th spot.

League fixtures against the 20th, 12th, 24th and 14th sides would seem routine for a team in such form but, of course, it’s the Championship. Derby must keep grounded. Nonetheless I can’t help myself from thinking of getting into that top two before the year’s out and then there’s the Cup tie to look forward to; Chelsea’s midweek League Cup defeat to Sunderland gives further cause for hope.

Moreover, the transfer window’s just around the corner. There’s transfer talk of Conor Sammon leaving in the forthcoming window and a Premier League replacement lined up. Additionally, keeping hold of the assets will be pivotal. On the ins, Derby are now a more attractive club for better players to come in to – just look at Andre Wisdom’s arrival, would he have arrived under Nigel Clough?

On a final note, merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Bring on 2014 – the year that sees the Rams return to the top flight?

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Charlton become the next victims to McClaren’s magnific men


Yesterday the Rams recorded a sixth straight victory to move within just three points of the automatic promotion spaces. 

Chris Powell’s Charlton Athletic side were defeated 2-0 on their own path as supporters purred in the club’s ‘Thunderbirds away day’. 

Tom Few was at The Valley and has sent in his player-by-player verdicts. 

Lee Grant: 7 Made fine saves when called upon and was sure when making claims. He had little to deal with throughout.

Andre Wisdom: 8 An all-round solid performance and read the game perfectly. Played the ball to suite the play at the time and positioning was superb.

Richard Keogh: 6  Started steady and was able to break up play easily. Held the offside line well, but was opened up to allow Charlton their best effort at an equaliser from a back post header.

Jaxe  Buxton: 7 Won most, if not all, aerial battles but did to many hopefully long balls which went into the stands.

Craig Foryth: 7 Looked dangerous on the attack and put some great whipped in balls into the box. At times he went for too optimistic passes when there was better options available. Sound defensively.

John Eustace: 6 A whole host of misplaced passes and was in and out of the game with little impact. However, made some key tackles when needed.

Simon Dawkins: 7 Was able to pick at gaps in the Charlton back 4, whilst also linking up well Wisdom. Used his pace to his advantage but provided little cover defensively.

Jeff Hendrick: 7 Had a well fought game in midfield and was consistent throughout. Played a simple, honest game and showed no signs of previous injury.

Craig Bryson: 7 Took a while to get into the game after a slow start, but once hw got going in the second half he was the catalyst for the Rams, managing to keep the ball flowing whilst covering a lot of ground. Finished the game off will a well-deserved chip over the keeper.

Jamie Ward: 6 Drifted in and out of the game, although he managed to provide sufficient cover for Forsyth and create some chances. Was lucky to score a deflected goal, but unlucky to hit the bar.

Chris Martin: 7 Held up play well and allowed the midfield to join the attacks. Won most headers up to him and created space through clever movement. Managed to do the most outrageous dive to date, after going down like he had been shot to being up in seconds.

Jonny Russell (74’): 6 Caused problems for Charlton when he came on, but like Ward, failed to have a constant impact.

Conor Sammon (85’):  7 Came on and lifted the team spirit through some clever link up play. Shortly after coming on did a delightful ball to assist Bryson.

Michael Keane (88’):   5 Had little impact on the game due to the lack of playing time.

sam rush

Sam Rush and John Vicars watched on from the away end and mingled with the Derby faithful. Tom was on hand to spot them out of the large following.

The fans: 8 The third highest away attendance in the Championship this weekend, managing to take over 1,800 to The Valley. Introduced a relatively new and catchy tune throughout the game (Since I was young…) and managed to get the away end rocking regardless of the lack of noise from the home faithful. Sam Rush and John Vicars were also present and were happy to answer any questions and have a chat (even give me a box of biscuits), showed they were willing to maintain a good link with the heart of the club, the fans.

Thanks very much, Tom. It was clearly another successful day on the road and, looking at the festive period fixtures, there’s a chance to close the gap and even reach top of the table. But, it’s the Championship, there’s no room for complacency. 

You can be forgiven for looking at the table more than once, I have!

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iFive


Derby County registered their fifth straight victory yesterday in an entertaining encounter against Blackpool. A 5-1 win cemented their play-off position.

Going into the game the Rams were sitting pretty in 4th spot, whilst the victors occupied 6th spot. Not a lot between the sides then, you would think. Instead, the match displayed exactly why the hosts are top contenders to be in the promotion shake-up for a long time to come.

photo 1

You are duly reminded of the name change as you look up at the main entrance.

Pride Park’s official renaming took place to coincide with the visit of the TV cameras. Some free, small shots of iPro was available to taste outside the ground. It was OK, nothing particularly special, and seemed to be fancy flavoured water; perhaps I’ll give it another go!

Beginning the game with a bang, Thomas Ince whipped in a free-kick that was met by Isaiah Osbourne’s head. He rose above Chris Martin to connect with the ball and put the visitors 1-0 up. All the pre-match excitement and buzz surrounding the home side was quashed within three minutes.

After that goal Blackpool barely mustered a meaningful attack and when I say that I am referring to the rest of the game, not the first-half.

photo 2

A minute’s applause was held in the wake of Nelson Mandela’s death.

The rest of the first 45 consisted of complete Rams dominance. There was good movement going forward, neat passing and, in fact, everything aside from the end product. Simon Dawkins had the best chance, a quick breakaway left him in on goal but the Spurs loanee took too long on the ball and was therefore caught up by the rushing Seasiders’ defence. Craig Forsyth, looking ever better and getting involved in the attacks, blazed one key chance over too.

Going into the break, ‘Pool were flattered by their lead but could be pleased with containing their lead. Could Derby begin the second period with the attacking intent of getting back on track? Boy did the Rams manage that!

Jamie Ward was replaced by Johnny Russell at half-time. In truth, Ward was pretty poor and found himself hitting in far too many unconvincing corners. His replacement was very dynamic.

Within a couple of minutes of the restart, Chris Martin tumbled over – the referee pointed to the spot. Jack Robinson was penalised for a minor nudge that was far too soft for a penalty. The ex-Canaries attacker did go down pretty easily. The well-taken penalty put Derby on level terms.

photo 4

Pile on!

The Tangerines’ patched-up, feeble defence gifted the hosts the lead just minutes after being pulled back to 1-1. Martin was the benefactor, picking up the pieces.

Andre Wisdom’s surge down the right-hand side resulted in another goal, courtesy of further poor defending. Blackpool watched the on-loan Liverpool defender’s cross meet the boot of the ever-majestic Craig Bryson.

A second penalty was rewarded and this time it was the right decision. Neil Bishop certainly made contact but didn’t deserve his red card. Chris Martin fired the ball in exactly the same place as his previous penalty to secure the matchball.

photo 3

The cameras were there to witness the goal flurry.

To add further misery to an awful week for the Lancashire side, Martínez received his marching orders to bring Blackpool down to nine men. This was most certainly deserved. Two bad fouls in quick succession, both under the referee’s nose, meant he had little to complain about. That was the club’s eighth red card of the season.

Finally, Richard Keogh was the man that bundled in the fifth goal. Michael Keane, making his debut as a sub, saw his header saved by Gilks, who could only parry it to the grateful feet of skipper Keogh.

What an exquisite second-half display. Remember that the opponents have been challenging at the time throughout the season, the Rams didn’t turn over a side at the footer of the table.

Simon Dawkins, yet again, was among the top performers. His pace and the threat he poses means that Steve McClaren must seriously consider signing him up on a permanent basis.

Additionally, Chris Martin’s first career hat-trick brought his tally for the season to 13 already. A mean feat.

Wisdom again showed what a great addition he is to the squad, pushing forward with power and energy, as well as defending with the back-line know-how that was required to tighten up. On the other side of the back four, Craig Forsyth is looking much better than the error-prone man of a couple of months ago.

Lastly a mention must go to Jake Buxton, who, today showed what he is capable of. He reads the game incredibly well and dealt with everything thrown his way.

Happy days!

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Attacking impetus boosts Rams


During Nigel Clough’s tenure at Pride Park criticism was made on the matter of the team’s seeming lack of offensiveness. Now, attacking-wise the Rams are a force.

Chris Martin, Jamie Ward and Simon Dawkins have been combining well in a forward line tailored to oppress the opponents. Collectively they have been key in the recent form. Ward has been especially impressive in comparison to his lackluster early campaign form.

What’s even more striking is the positivity during matches under the new regime. The substitutions are more attack-minded, instead of being content with a draw. The 3-2 win at Watford is a prime example of that.

In the narrow yet efficient 1-0 victory in Bournemouth on Saturday, four of the seven substitutes were strikers. That is a certain statement of intent.

This more vigorous approach is quite refreshing.

Additionally the loan signings and one short-term contract by the new staff illustrates their early impact.

Zak Whitbread was first through the doors, joining at a time just shy of the McClaren era. Although he is injured, he was a welcome figure into the back four. Next came Andre Wisdom and Simon Dawkins. Not a sweetener in a deal for starlet Will Hughes the club say, the England Under-21 defender has tightened things up at the back. Meanwhile Spurs attacker Dawkins has excelled in the other half of the pitch.

As well as those loan signings, Kalifia Cisse has joined and, as I mentioned last week, proved to be a class act in his opening Rams outing.

At the time of writing, the Rams are reportedly on the verge of pocketing. Michael Keane on loan from Manchester United. That is another fantastic coup for the surging side.

Derby are currently sitting just outside the play-offs in seventh place, just a point adrift of the top six. I know it’s still early but I do believe that there is every reason to be aroused.

The matches are coming thick and fast. Wigan Athletic on Sunday present an interesting challenge; the Latics have plenty of players that have appeared in the Premier League. Their campaign is yet to be fully set alight as they lie in 11th place.

Following that, two back-to-back home matches are on the agenda. Middlesbrough visit next Wednesday and Blackpool visit in a lunch-time TV encounter next Saturday.

It is by no means unreasonable to think that Derby will be in the play-offs very soon and maybe even by the end of the camping.

Up the Rams!

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Derby have a midfield that should be the envy of the Championship


With players fully on their way back to returning from injuries, Derby County have a deluge of options in the midfield department. The surfeit of options available make for a selection dilemma in central midfield!

I thought Nigel Clough was blessed with a lot of options at one stage with Jeff Hendrick, Craig Bryson and Will Hughes but this is phenomenally good. Combining the trio I just mentioned proved difficult for Clough; one had to be pushed out to the wing regularly. Maybe the three just don’t quite match altogether. However, what’s clear is that they’re among the Rams’ star assets, yet they’ll find it tough to get on the team sheet.

Kalifia Cisse

I’m sure I can be forgiven for thinking the ex-Reading man would be a big, clumsy figure. His first game against Sheffield Wednesday showed he was a delicate operator in midfield, stringing tidy passes together and calmly tackling.

Wednesday rarely got passed Cisse, who was on hand to slow down any attacks from the away side.

Having signed on a two-month deal earlier this month, he’ll only add to the competition.

John Eustace

I have been full of praise for Eustace on this blog. Playing a similar role to Cisse, the ex-Hornets skipper allows the rest of the midfield to aid the attacks and acts as a shield for the defence. He was instrumental in the draw against Ipswich Town and victories over Leeds United and Watford.

Aged 34, the central midfielder can’t quite play the box-to-box role of Craig Bryson but he does compensate with his intelligence in reading the game.

James Bailey

Clough ostracized Bailey from the first-team and sent him out to Coventry City on loan, where he did receive plaudits. The Sky Blues couldn’t sign him and no other club saw him viable in the summer, resulting in him remaining at Pride Park the iPro Stadium.

Since McClaren’s arrival, he has given each player a clean slate. Returning from injury, this former Derby young player of the year will be a benefactor of that. He was sensational in his early days and was a profit of an intriguing new formation alongside Robbie Savage. I, for one, am looking forward to watching him again.

Will Hughes

What more can I say that hasn’t been said? Further speculation persists, but Hughes just gets on with the job in hand with the Rams. The slick technical midfielder continues to mature. Hands off, for now, Liverpool and co.

Yesterday the 18-year-old hit a superb goal for the England Under-21s, somehow emerging from a jammed central area to hit home. Watch below.

Craig Bryson

Derby’s midfield are at ease with this man’s presence. For me, the Scotsman has been the club’s player of the year thus far.

Of the midfield line, he most provides the potency in the opponent’s box. Finally, he earned a start for Scotland last night too, so congratulations to him for that.

As a pacey central midfielder, that freedom means he can be a thorn and a pest for oppositions looking to run the midfield through quick and developing passes.

Bryson was my player of the month on superrams.com for October.

Jeff Hendrick

Last seen hobbling off the pitch at Yeovil, Hendrick has worked his way back from a troubling ankle problem.

The Irishman is a cogent character in the middle of the park, complementing the more slight Will Hughes. Going forward he can be a huge threat. Hopefully this injury doesn’t halt his development too much – the senior international is another of Derby’s key valuables.

Now, over to you, Steve! Who complements whom the most? And, finally, Rams fans, have a go at picking your midfield from these players? Don’t forget, these are just the centre-midfielders!

Twitter @NathansRamsBlog

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Post-match conclusions from Derby’s 3-0 win


Today the Rams ran out 3-0 winners over Sheffield Wednesday at Pride Park, recording their second home victory.

The return of Stefano Eranio, introduced to the crowd prior to kick-off, was met with open arms, even if it was just a flying visit and not a return to the club as a player, although he demonstrated he’s still got the talent that brought him a cult hero status with many supporters on the training pitch this week.

Derby began the match on the front foot but squandered too many chances, leaving me to fear the worst. Luckily, the Owls didn’t pose much of a threat going forward. Controlling the game, the hosts pushed for a goal and were unfortunate not to have been rewarded for their superior possession.

However, on 45 minutes, Jake Buxton’s head was met with by Jamie Ward’s accurate corner-kick. Bucko’s thumping header allowed the home faithful to breathe a sigh of relief as the players headed for the tunnel in the ascendancy.

The Rams continued to press forward; it didn’t take them long to double their lead. After an outpour down down the flank, Craig Forsyth’s low cross was met with ease by Will Hughes to tap home.

Unfortunately for the visitors, Steve McClaren’s side weren’t finished yet. A similar move down the wing gave, this time, Ward the chance to set up a tap-in. Chris Martin was the grateful benefactor, slotting home to give the home side an unassailable lead. Low and hard crosses like those are tough to beat, Wednesday were besieged from all angles with players also loading the box. Correspondingly further pressure was mounted towards the South Yorkshire’s side.

The match saw the debut of Kalifia Cisse, who signed on a non-contract and game-by-game deal. I was very skeptical about the former Reading player, who has taken weeks (and a John Eustace suspension) to convince the Derby County coaching staff that he should be in the side.

Cisse operated very well in the midfield, put in some clean tackles and made some tidy passes.

Going forward, both Jamie Ward, lapping it up against a side he seems to relish facing, and on-loan Simon Dawkins booth looked lively and perilous to the opponent’s defence.

Moreover, left-back Craig Forsyth had a more composed game, in which he assisted the second goal therefore an honourable mention goes to him, along with Will Hughes, who initiated many attacks.

As for Sheffield Wednesday, I was fearing a more difficult game after their 5-2 drubbing of high-flyers Reading (their first victory of the season) last week. Today the Owls barely mounted a significant attack and constantly hoofed the ball forward, an utter contrast to the fluid Rams.

I firmly believe that Derby are contenders for the top six. There are plenty of players set to return after the international break, they’ll surely only strengthen the side. Nevertheless recent defensive frailties cannot be ignored but the fewer they become, the better.

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FAN POLLS


I last did a similar post to this back in August so I thought it was time for another to gather the general feeling among Rams fans. Simply scroll down and cast your votes.

Thank you for voting. Don’t forget to re-visit this post as the poll results begin to build up.

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Rams Cursory


A briefing on the latest surrounding Derby County.

Rams Held to Home Draw

Saturday’s game looked to present three points. We were flying high after an impressive result at Vicarage Road and Birmingham City had been beaten 4-0 at the hands of Leeds United, who looked a long distance off a good side, live on TV the week previously. It wasn’t to be. I was unable to attend therefore I recommend Facing Two Ways’ assessment of the match.

The McClaren Effect

New managers often present a new lease of life at a club. McClaren brought that in abundance. Victories over Leeds and Watford boosted supporters, prompting many more than usual to attend the Birmingham match and subsequently make it the highest attended match of the weekend in the Football League. Read my piece, if you haven’t already, written prior to the draw, by clicking here.

Clough the Blade

Sheffield United’s appointment of Nigel Clough was a long time coming after his settlement with Derby County dragged on but Blades fans saw their new man unveiled last week. When I posed ‘Should Derby have sacked Clough?’ to my readers at the time, an incredible 985 replied with yes; which was a staggering 78.61%. Thus I am sure you’ll all join me in wishing him well at Bramall Lane.

Loan Fledglings

Already Steve McClaren is stamping his mark on the squad he inherited. Most impressively of all, Andre Wisdom has arrived. People have speculated that it could be sweetener for a Will Hughes deal. Nevertheless it seems to be a shrewd signing. The Liverpool defender is a very commanding figure in defence and would have probably been on most, if not all, Championship manager’s radars given the chance.

Blistering Bryson

I have been hugely impressed with the recent form of Craig Bryson. Goals and assists in abundance, the Scotsman poses a massive threat to the opposition.

Also…

It is, at the time of writing, exactly a month since Nigel Clough lost his job and the Rams were defeated at the City Ground. Do you feel better about the club four weeks on? Let me know and get involved through @NathansRamsBlog and facebook.com/nathansramsblog, as well as the below comments section and it could be included in a later post.

John Percey of The Daily Telegraph recently told his Twitter followers that Steve McClaren has interviewed Cardiff City’s former head of recruitment Iain Moody for a similar role at Pride Park.

Wigan Athletic are thought to be lining up a loan move for Aston Villa’s Marc Albrighton, a man on Derby’s loan agenda prior to the Clough sacking.

James Bailey was recently given a squad number. Could this be a new chance for him at the club? I am certainly looking forward to seeing him playing again.

And, finally…

Sir Alex Ferguson’s recently-released book has prompted a lot of criticism, which I cannot understand. Wouldn’t it have been boring if he just stated the successes & praised people? I began reading it the other day and am thoroughly enjoying it.

To put a Rams slant on it, Fergie does praise current Derby County head coach Steve McClaren and Eric Steele. If they have his seal of approval then they must be good. McClaren was described as ‘a very innovative and energetic coach’.

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The McClaren Effect


When a new manager, or whatever you wish to name them, arrives at a club it is often followed with a resurgence on the pitch. It has been no different at Derby County after what has been a whirlwind past few weeks or so.

Don’t underestimate the magnitude of yesterday’s 3-2 victory at Watford, who are a side tipped by many for promotion. Derby brilliantly negotiated their way through a testing away match. Prior to that the second-half against Ipswich and the win over Leeds have demonstrated the Rams’ free-flowing abilities.

Currently the Hornets and the Rams are the division’s joint top scorers. 15 away league goals in just 5 league games thus far is fantastic and a huge surprise after last season’s dreadful experiences on the road. Derby are 7 goals off equaling last year’s away goals tally.

On the contrary, the side have conceded 20 goals at home and away. Buckle up a bit at the back and, without trying to curse things, there’s a genuine chance of promotion. There, said it.

One massive difference in Nigel Clough and Steve McClaren’s styles with the same side this season has been tactical nous during matches. Irrespective of your stance on Clough and his sacking, I’m sure you can agree that he has made some wrong calls and showed a reluctance to change during the course of games. Whereas McClaren has been bold and effective with his substitutions, which have paid off and turned the tide.

Steve McClaren has brought a feel good factor to supporters. Next up is Birmingham City at Pride Park and, if their 4-0 defeat to Leeds, who the Rams easily turned over recently, is anything to go by then I certainly wouldn’t bet anything other than a home victory. After that McClaren returns to QPR, where he aided Harry Redknapp as first-team coach. The visit to Loftus Road will be a real test of how far they’ve come.

Recently, Craig Bryson has clearly excelled as the team’s star man. 8 assists and 6 goals in the first 14 matches is transcendent to many other Championship midfielder’s tallies. He provided the final ball for two of the three goals at Watford yesterday. The Scotsman has showed he can not only be provider but also a goalscorer from midfield, which brings me onto Bryson’s midfield counterpart John Eustace.

John Eustace has been the catalyst for the recent wins. The ex-Sky Blues midfielder has, as I’ve mentioned recently, anchored the team into allowing Craig Bryson and Will Hughes more unrestraint to go forward.

James Bailey was awarded a squad number earlier this week. I’m sure many, like me, are delighted to hear that. Another chance for him will not just bolster the options, but additionally offer renewed hope for Bailey and hopefully have a new signing feel. I was a huge fan of the former Crewe midfielder’s during the times he was part of the side.

I can’t help but feel optimistic. Up the Rams!

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FANS’ POLL: Who should replace the injured Russell in Derby’s next fixture?


Today Derby County confirmed that striker Johnny Russell is facing up to six weeks out of action due to a a fractured fibula in his left leg, which was suffered in the concluding parts of Derby’s magnificent 3-1 win over Leeds United.

Fortunately for Russell, the international break is underway so he could only miss four fixtures; including trips south to face high-flyers Watford and Queens Park Rangers.

This isn’t the first time that the Scot has had trouble with that leg. Last year he broke it.

It comes as he was just starting to look like a very important part of the side.

I certainly wish him a speedy recovery.

Vote below on who should replace him in the side.

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10 IN A ROW! Derby 3-1 Leeds


prideparkvleedsAnother match against Leeds, another three points for the Rams. It’s become the norm.

It was Derby’s first home league victory of the camapign. A convincing and disciplined display helped secure the three points.

The Rams were a genuine threat going forward. In recent games (apart from the second-half on Tuesday), they have had a lot of the ball without looking like threatening the opposition. They could break down the Leeds defence from both sides and down the middle. It was refreshing to see.

All the goals were very well taken and displays of the attacking prowess that has been hiding at home. There was some excitement from the off that had been missing for too long too. It was refreshing to see.

Chris Martin’s opener was fantastic. His advance forward and combination with Craig Bryson puzzled the Leeds back four. The second, through Johnny Russell, came via a Martin assist – again, excellent stuff from Derby.ramsgoalvleeds

There was fluid football throughout from the Rams, a pleasure to watch. It was a reminder of how good Derby can be on home soil.

The Whites’ late first-half goal did demonstrate that there is still work to do with the defence. Lee Grant rushed out to try and meet a ball pumped into the box. He was caught out – when a ‘keeper comes out, they have to be sure they’ll claim the ball (not in this instance). The ball was headed away from Grant and into the centre, where it was met by the alert Jason Pearce.

It seemed like a bad time to concede but it didn’t prove to be that. Derby came back out on top and didn’t get themselves sucked into much pressure. The back four and the ever-brilliant Eustace toughened up and allowed the other players to, instead of being completely behind the ball, get forward and look to add to the lead.

awayfansleeds

A bumper away crowd raised the attendance to over 26,000.

Will Hughes’s goal helped put further daylight between the sides, it was a super right-footed finish and run into the box from the youngster.

The feel-good factor around the ground was exciting to see from the players and supporters. Steve McClaren’s start to life in the Derby hot-seat has got off to a wonderful start. It was very rare that I ever noticed him on the touchline. His number two Paul Simpson was the main touchline presence. 

Craig Bryson and Chris Martin were among the best performers of the day, along with Will Hughes. The Scotsman was the provider of two of the goals. In a role where he can get forward, he is very effective – as his midfield counterpart Hughes. Ex-Canary Martin was a real handful for Leeds, reminiscent of his early season form.

The cream of the crop was midfielder John Eustace. He is proving to be the best piece of summer business so far; a free transfer from Watford. Like Tuesday, he gave Hughes and Bryson more freedom and swept up the crumbs of Leeds’s advances. The ex-Hornets skipper is going to be instrumental under the stewardship of McClaren.

Return of the Mac was played on the ground tannoy. His return has certainly sparked a surge in performances but, unfortunately, it’s the international break now. I’d rather watch the Rams play like that again than watch England. You can’t beat club football.

10 in a row is a record that’s almost unheard of. How much must Leeds United fear us? Anyone for 11 in a row on the final day of the season at Elland Road, coupled with promotion?

Twitter – @NathansRamsBlog

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McClaren’s Half-Time Team Talk Inspires Rams


ipswichoctober2013_2Last night Derby County and Ipswich Town battled out a 4-4 draw. I’ve never really witnessed anything quite like it.

Academy manager Darren Wassall took charge, while new head coach Steve McClaren watched from the stands. Wassall changed things up from Nigel Clough’s final Derby County side on Saturday. In came Whitbread, Davies & Sammon for Keogh, Eustace & Russell. Youngsters Jamie Hanson and Max Lowe, both tipped to be future first-team players, made the bench.

I’ve never watched such a bad start to the game. Derby simply couldn’t defend corners, however, after viewing the reply (see highlights at the footer of the article), Zak Whitbread possibly had a case for a foul for Ipswich’s opener.

ipswichoctober2013Derby simply haven’t dealt well with physical oppositions in both ends of the pitch on home soil this season. The away side were a real presence in Derby’s box during the first period and they were clinical too. Whitbread’s header from Davies’s corner was, on the other hand, Derby’s only thing to shout about during a dismal first-half that led to the players going off to rightful boos. Did I ever think it would change around? Aside from a miracle, no.

After the match, it was confirmed that Steve McClaren went into the home dressing room and conducted a team talk. It worked wonders.

Two Rams changes were made at the break. Sammon, who had a dreadful 45, not winning anything against the away defence, made way for Bennett and Davies made way for Eustace.

On the radio post-match it was considered whether Nigel Clough would’ve made such bold and risky changes so early on. I have to say he probably wouldn’t have done so. He seemed reluctant to make changes, which is understandable in a way – the starting XI is the team that the manager (or head coach) thinks stands the best chance of winning – but there are situations that do require quicker changes and, often, Clough didn’t make the ones that many of the supporters cried for and were probably necessary.

Credit to McClaren for making the changes that changed the course of the game – for the better.

John Eustace orchestrated the play, broke down any Ipswich advances and, importantly, allowed Bryson and Hughes to roam forward. Mason Bennett also added a real breath of fresh air, got involved and was an irritating, strong presence to give the opponents something to think about.

There was an air of passion and urgency in the second-half from the players and supporters alike. It was fantastic to see Pride Park rocking with such [second-half] excitement on the pitch. Craig Bryson in particular showed passion in abundance and fighting spirit, which is exactly what we want to see from the stands. It was brilliant to hear of his Scotland call-up today after he stepped up to captain the Rams for the first time last night.

The Rams managed to do what they haven’t been able to do recently – break down the opposition’s defence.

New loan signing Whitbread looked comfortable in the second period. He’ll be very useful during his loan spell. I wonder if his deal is another of Derby’s ‘try before you buy’ deals.

Full credit to Derby, who could have even won the game, for pulling it around. Nonetheless the defending in the first-half was inexcusable and must be worked on.

My final point is about the ninth minute applause for Nigel Clough. Many, including myself, joined in. Some fans were branding it ‘cringeworthy’ prior to the game but I felt it was a suitable thank you from the supporters, which he was certainly owed after the job he did.

Watch the goals, courtesy of the club’s YoutTube channel below.

Twitter – @NathansRamsBlog

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McClaren Verdict


Earlier today, Derby County announced the appointment of Steve McClaren as head coach. It has divided opinion among supporters.

At the weekend I voiced my disappointment of Nigel Clough’s dismissal. Although I remain disappointed by the sacking and that Clough won’t have the chance to finish off the years of rebuilding, I’m quite happy about his successor.

Please look beyond the ‘wolly with the brolly’. The fact that he was appointed as England boss does in itself speak volumes. The work he did with Middlesbrough mustn’t be discounted and his success in the Dutch league with FC Twente but, yes, he has failed as England, Wolfsburg and Forest (if you can’t it as he did resign himself) boss.

I don’t think anyone cannot agree with the staff that have followed him into the club.

Paul Simpson is regarded as a good former player at the club. Eric Steele coming in as the club’s goalkeeping coach is very wise. He has a wealth of experience under the stewardship of Sir Alex Ferguson and working alongside some of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers in recent years. According to a piece in the Metro, Manchester United and David De Gea owe him a ‘debt of gratitude’.

McClaren’s time under Jim Smith at Derby and spell as a player will hopefully be beneficial. More significantly he worked under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United during a successful spell for the club. He doesn’t hire any old fool.

More recently, he has worked as a coach at QPR for Harry Redknapp. Nothing but praise has come of that.

The common denominator in praise for McClaren is that he is an excellent coach. The decision to call him ‘head coach’ instead of manager suggests he’ll bring a more hands-on approach to the role with plenty of training ground work.

Sam Rush is also looking to fill the void of ‘technical director’. McClaren’s relationship with the new technical director will be key, many managers would understandably be reluctant to have another man alongside them – maybe that was the case with Nigel Clough. If this director does come in, it could present more time for McClaren to centre his time around coaching, where he is clearly most effective.

If you think back to Clough’s appointment in 2009, Nigel didn’t have any Football League experience – the new man has the opposite amount of experience. That is pivotal this time around. Again, if the former England boss succeeds, don’t forget the foundations laid by Clough.

Voice your verdict in the poll.

It was, as I mentioned at the weekend, a real shame to see Nigel leave but it’s now time to get behind the team – starting tonight!

Twitter – @NathansRamsBlog

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FANS’ POLL: Steve McClaren in, is he the right choice?


Derby County this evening announced the appointment of Steve McClaren as head coach, signing a a two-and-half-year deal with the club.

He has helped QPR start the season in fine form as a first-team coach, working alongside manager Harry Redknapp.

The former England manager will be joined at Pride Park by Paul Simpson (first-team coach) and Eric Steele (goalkeeping coach). Read the club’s full statement by clicking here.

Vote below on whether he is the best choice as Clough’s replacement.

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The Nation Reacts To Clough’s Sacking


Here are various people’s reactions to Nigel Clough’s dismissal as Derby County manager.

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Clough Sacked – An Utter Shame


Nigel Clough’s sacking last night came as a massive surprise to me. I knew he’d be under pressure after three consecutive defeats but that, no – he should still be the club’s manager.

Rewind to January 2009, the time of Clough’s appointment, when Derby County were simply in a mess. Most of Paul Jewell’s signings were overpaid, uninterested and without a care for the football club – that has changed. Pre-Clough there was less emphasis on producing talent through the club’s youth system – that has changed.

Nigel inherited a minefield of utter mess. Tasked with reducing the exceedingly extortionate wage budget and rebuilding the club, he delivered on all fronts.

I cannot see how anyone can have expected more from him on a very low budget. What he did, including getting the side to play passing, attractive football, with so little is full credit to him and his staff. After years of rebuilding and laying foundations in the academy, I can’t help but feel it is such an utter shame that Nigel Clough has not been able to have a chance to finish off a sublime job after years of graft.

Derby County supporters owe nothing but complete respect to him for the job he has done and the memorable wins that will live long in the memory. Not only is it Rams fans that owe thanks but it is also the players that have and will continue to benefit from the chances he gave them. Where else would the likes of Will Hughes and Jeff Hendrick have been given the chances they have at the East Midlands club? The talent nurtured under Clough’s reign demonstrates his ability to spot talent and not be afraid to take a punt.

After giving him all this time, couldn’t the club have stuck it out a bit longer and gave him more time? He was owed that at least.

I know everything isn’t about presentation but this sacking is questionable. There are whispers that the dismissal was pre-planned after the 3-0 home defeat to Burnley and, irrespective of the outcome of the Brian Clough Trophy encounter yesterday, Clough was a goner. In addition to that, the Daily Telegraph’s John Percy has reported that the news was delivered over the phone.

The son of legendary manager Brian, Clough was given the grim news by chief executive Sam Rush, by telephone, following a conference call with the club’s American owners. Clough had been asked to attend a meeting at Pride Park but demanded to be given notification of his dismissal over the phone, which Rush duly did.

Back in July, Nigel Clough gave a rare interview to a national newspaper. He discussed how he never took his job for granted.

We might be here for two more weeks or two months, you just don’t know. The sack isn’t something we’re worried about because it will happen, if they don’t carry us out in a box first.

Two months was mentioned and his dismissal came just over two months down the line of that being printed.

As of the time of writing, the club are yet to release anything further than the initial statement.

The board feel it is time to move Derby County forward to the next level, which will necessitate a comprehensive review of the club’s football operations.
The ownership group remain steadfastly committed to the club and maintain their desire to compete at the top end of the SkyBet Championship this season.

Vote below and see the results on whether the decision was right or not.

I’ve voiced my verdict on my disagreement with the decision here but, putting that to one side, I will back the new man – I can’t not.

You have been voting in your hundreds on who you think should replace Clough. If you haven’t voted yet, do so below and, if and when you have, see the results.

I would personally love to see Martin O’Neill at Pride Park but I can’t see that happening. Neil Warnock is a good shout too. Steve McClaren seems the most realistic at this moment in time.

It’ll be interesting to see if the new man gets much cash to spend. If he does then can we assume that the club don’t trust Clough with much cash?

It did appear that the club expected to have a new man at the helm in time for Tuesday’s home game against Ipswich Town but that doesn’t seem to be the case now.

If the new man comes in and takes the club far, just don’t forget the foundations Clough and his staff laid.

Thank you, on behalf of many, Nigel Clough and good luck.

Twitter - @NathansRamsBlog

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Derby day Defeat: My thought’s on yesterday’s match


Nottingham Forest 0-1 Derby County

What a mad day at Derby County. First, a defeat at the hands of local rivals Nottingham Forest, including a sending off of the club’s skipper Richard Keogh, and then the news of the club’s decision to sack manager Nigel Clough. All in a day’s work at the Rams? No, not quite! Clough was the longest serving manager in the division, he arrived in January 2009.

If there’s one positive from Clough going it’s that our loss at the City Ground has been overshadowed and, instead of giving us stick over that, hopefully our Forest foes will discuss the controversial sacking.

Anyway, about the match.

The first-half was very open, Derby’s shots were mostly from outside the box as they struggled to break down the defence but they did look a genuine threat going forward, with no end product however.

The goal came at a bad time before the break. Leading up to the corner, the Rams simply couldn’t clear the ball and deal with the danger. The resulting corner was superbly struck into the box, unfortunately nobody picked up Jack Hobbs’s run onto the edge of the six-yard box. Again, poor defending proved costly.

In the second-half, the visitors took the game to Davies’s Reds. The post-match stats said that the hosts committed a total of 26 fouls, compared to Derby’s 8 fouls. Dirty Reds.

Through those fouls, the Rams had a lot of free-kicks in good areas. It’s a shame that none of them were taken advantage of. Ben Davies, arguably Derby’s best set piece player, sat on the bench whilst the set pieces were wasted. He could have made a difference through the set pieces.

Clough’s men did, to their credit, go for it and push forward, even reverting to the long ball on occasions. They struggled to break down the Reds but the consequent long balls that were pumped up were barely ever won by Derby. Conor Sammon was brought on but he couldn’t get the better of Forest’s defence in the air either.

Captain Richard Keogh’s lunge on Chris Cohen resulted in a penalty and a second yellow card. My initial view of it was that it was a soft penalty but, having watched it again, it does seem clearer. The sending-off strengthens Derby’s need for another centre-half.

Up stepped Darius Henderson with the chance to put the game beyond the away side. Lee Grant’s save at stretch is to be admired, as are his various other saves in the match. The ex-Clarets ‘keeper was a shining light on a frustrating afternoon.

Despite having ten men (where have I heard that before?) Derby continued to press forward with no luck, resulting in a 1-0 defeat.

Derby were by no means played off the park. If you watched The Football League Show’s highlights of the match I don’t think you’d have seen a Derby chance – so don’t be fooled by that.

Creatively the Rams simply couldn’t hack it. I’m sure there are many who aren’t fans of Ben Davies, however I think it’s time he deserves a recall. Whatever you say about him he does put in some good crosses and gives the full-backs something to think about. Giving Michael Jacobs a chance wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

There could be two arrivals ahead of Tuesday’s Ipswich match. Defender Michael Keane from Manchester United could arrive, while midfielder Marc Albrighton from Aston Villa – regularly linked with the Rams over the past week or so – could be another new face.

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This article will be followed by my thought’s on Nigel Clough’s sacking as manager.

You can vote your opinion of the club’s decision by clicking here.

You can vote your opinion on who should replace Clough by clicking here.

Twitter – @NathansRamsBlog

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FANS’ POLL: Who should replace Nigel Clough?


Nigel Clough’s sacking has led to speculation about his successor. Sky Bet has Tony Pulis as the current favourite, followed by former Forest manager and one-time assistant Rams manager Steve McLaren.

Vote below on who you think should be the next manager and comment with your thoughts on the matter.

You can also get involved in the debate of Clough’s sacking by clicking here.

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FANS’ POLL: Should Derby have sacked Clough?


Derby today parted company with manager Nigel Clough.

Please vote your opinion of the sacking in the below poll and comment below.

I hope to get my thoughts in a full blog post on here in the next day or so.

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Nigel’s City Ground Successes


Nigel Clough is under increasing pressure from Derby County supporters and Saturday’s game at arch rivals Nottingham Forest presents him with a chance to lift spirits.

The former Burton manager has oversaw four victories from six matches in his time as Rams boss at the City Ground. Here I take a look back at those wins.

Nottingham Forest 2-3 Derby County. FA Cup Replay 4th February 2009

The Rams fought back from two goals down to set up a fifth round tie with Manchester United.

Chris Cohen put Forest off to a dream start after just 2 minutes with a left-footed strike going beyond Stephen Bywater. It didn’t take the Reds long to double their lead, Stephen Bywater brought down then-Forest striker Nathan Tyson to give Forest a penalty kick. Tyson scored the resulting penalty.

The Rams had to fight back and, after some pressure, put themselves back in the game, a brilliant Gary Teale cross was headed in by Rob Hulse. In the second half Derby continued their pressure and got their rewards on the hour mark, an unmarked Paul Green put the ball in the net from close range. It was game on then, the sides were level with half an hour to go.

With around 15 minutes to go former Red Kris Commons, returning to the City Ground for the first time, struck a 20-yard drive into the Forest goal to put the Rams into the next round.

Forest: Smith, Chambers, Morgan, Breckin, Wilson, McCleary (Heath 81), Perch (Byrne 70), McGugan, Thornhill, Cohen, Tyson (Newbold 85). Subs Not Used: Darlow, Bencherif, Reid, Whitehurst.

Booked: McGugan.

Goals: Cohen 2, Tyson 14 pen.

Derby: Bywater, Connolly, Albrechtsen, McEveley, Nyatanga, Barazite, Green, Savage, Teale, Commons, Hulse (Ellington 81). Subs Not Used: Carroll, Stewart, Villa, Sterjovski, Todd, Pearson.

Booked: Bywater, Nyatanga.

Goals: Hulse 27, Green 60, Commons 74.

Att: 29,001.

Nottingham Forest 1-3 Derby County. Championship 21 February 2009 

Central defender Lewin Nyatanga put Derby ahead with a close range strike after the Forest defence couldn’t clear a Kris Commons free-kick. Derby’s next goal came on 47 minutes through a wonderful Rob Hulse header after a perfect Robbie Savage delivery from a free-kick. On 67 minutes the Rams were awarded a penalty on 67 minutes after Forest’s James Perch pushed Derby striker Rob Hulse, Steve Davies scored the resulting penalty.

Robert Earnshaw scored a consolation goal on 87 minutes.

Forest: Smith, Chambers (McCleary 64), Morgan, Breckin, Heath, Anderson (Newbold 81), Perch, McGugan, Cohen, Earnshaw, Tyson. Subs Not Used: Gamble, Wilson, Thornhill.

Booked: Chambers, Perch.

Goals: Earnshaw 87.

Derby: Bywater, Connolly, Nyatanga (Todd 64), Albrechtsen, McEveley, Barazite (Sterjovski 16), Green, Savage, Davies, Hulse (Villa 68), Commons. Subs Not Used: Carroll, Ellington.

Goals: Nyatanga 5, Hulse 47, Davies 67 pen.

Att: 29,140.

Nottingham Forest 1-2 Derby County. Championship 17th September 2011

10-man Derby came from 1-0 down to win all three points in a dramatic East Midlands derby.

After 66 seconds Rams ‘keeper Frank Fielding was sent off for a foul on Ishmael Miller. Andy Reid scored the subsequent penalty after Tomasz Cywka became the unlucky man to leave the field for Derby’s sub goalkeeper Adam Legzdins to come on and make his debut.

Derby were level before the half hour mark through Jamie Ward. Forest called for play to stop when Chris Cohen was down but Derby carried on (encouraged by Nigel Clough) and gave the ball to Jamie Ward, whose solo run and near-post finish was the equalising goal.

In the second half Derby should have been ahead after youngster Jeff Hendrick headed a Ben Davies cross wide for the ten men of Derby. But soon after he more than made up for that miss with a stunning 25-yard strike hitting the back of the net to give the Rams a memorable victory.

Forest: Camp, Gunter, Chambers, Morgan, Cohen (Lynch 32), Majewski, Greening (Findley 61), Moussi, Reid (McGugan 68), Miller, Derbyshire. Subs not used: Smith, Moloney, Lynch.

Booked: Lynch, Gunter, Miller.

Scorer: Reid (pen) 2.

Derby: Fielding, Brayford, O’Brien, Shackell, Roberts, Hendrick, Ben Davies, Bryson, Cywka (Legzdins 4), Robinson (Croft 86), Ward (Tyson 65). Subs not used: Steve Davies, Anderson.

Booked: Brayford. Red card: Fielding.

Goals: Ward 29, Hendrick 72.

Attendance: 27,356.

Nottingham Forest 0-1 Derby County. Championship 30th September 2012

After a summer of transition for Nottingham Forest, which involved a Kuwait takeover and a flurry of incoming players, the hosts were tipped for victory in the derby fixture. However, Clough’s Rams proved a tougher match than many home supporters anticipated.

In the first half Forest were the better team, mounting pressure on the Derby defence. The first half was full of tackles flying about, making it a really physical game and therefore difficult to play good passing football. The physical element of the game resulted in a fair few long balls being played.

Seconds into the second period Reds striker Dexter Blackstock was given a straight red for elbowing Richard Keogh, who went up for a challenge with Blackstock. The Forest number 23′s sending off sparked debate. Contact was certainly made, the referee deemed there to be intention. Bryson Goal V Forest

The game changed after that red card, the Rams saw much more of the ball and used that to create more opportunities. On 55 minutes John Brayford set winger Paul Coutts free, who delivered an inviting cross into the 6 yard box for Craig Bryson to get the critical touch to put Derby ahead! The visitors soaked up the late pressure to hold on for derby day delight.

Forest: Camp, Halford (Moloney 78) Ayala, Collins, Harding, Gillett, McGugan (Lansbury 75), Cohen, Reid (Sharp 74), Cox, Blackstock. Subs not used: Evtimov, Moussi, Coppinger, Majewski.

Booked: Gillett, Reid, Lansbury

Sent off: Blackstock

Derby: Fielding, Brayford, Buxton, Keogh, Roberts (O’Connor 78), Coutts, Bryson,  Hendrick, Hughes, Ward (Jacobs 65), Sammon (Robinson 82). Subs not used: Legzdins, Tyson, Gjokaj, Freeman

Booked: Roberts, Buxton

Goal: Bryson 55

Attendance: 28,707

A repeat of any of these victories will do nicely!

This ‘More Than Just A Game’ video below on the rivalry between the sides is excellent. Well done, Derby Goals.

Nigel V Billy in Derbies

Nigel Clough’s record.

  • Derbies: 11
  • Wins: 6
  • Draws: 2
  • Defeats: 3
  • Win Percentage: 55%

Billy Davies’s record.

  • Matches: 6
  • Wins: 3
  • Draws: 0
  • Defeats: 3
  • Win Percentage: 50%

View more pre-derby content by CLICKING HERE.

Finally, on RamZone there is a piece about the recent players that have dared to cross the A52.

COME ON YOU RAMS.

Twitter – @NathansRamsBlog

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Preview: Nottingham Forest Away


It’s nearly here. The match that is the first one that supporters of both teams alike immediately look out for on fixture release day.

Derby County go into the game with an exemplary away record in the league and boast a return of 12 goals in just 4 games on the road. A different story in front of the Pride Park crowd has left many supporters with a sour taste in their mouth, with plenty of fingers being pointed at Nigel Clough. The Rams come into the game on the back of a 2-1 defeat at Leicester City, a match where Derby were quite unlucky and condemned by two set-pieces (watch below).

Saturday’s hosts also enter the East Midlands derby on the back of a 2-1 away defeat (see below). The Reds have won just 1 of their last 5 outings and have conceded 10 in their last 5 matches. On home soil, Forest are yet to be beaten. 

In the recent head-to-heads, Derby have won on their last two visits to the City Ground and are unbeaten in the last four matches between the East Midlands counterparts – you have to go back to 2010 to find the Reds’ last home win in the fixture.

Ultimately, does this form have any bearing on the fixture? Very little, I think. Form has notably been no suggestion to the outcome in recent years and, as it’s said, goes out the window.

During the Rams’ defeat at the hands of the Foxes earlier this week, midfielder Paul Coutts picked up a knee injury. It subsequently ruled him out of action for at least four months. He provided the assist for Craig Bryson in last year’s win on the Red side of the Trent.

Coutts joins fellow midfielders Jeff Hendrick and James Bailey on the sidelines. It appears to be unlikely that there will be any signings before Saturday’s lunch-time match. It’s been apparent in home matches that Hendrick’s physicality and general presence is a sore miss. The recent home defeats have come up against very strong sides, both physically and in terms of their organisation.

As a result of the injuries, Saturday presents another interesting team selection. The goalkeeper picks itself, unless any of you are calling for Saul Deeney to be chucked in at the deep end for his first match since 2010? No, I thought not.

Ex-Red Kieron Freeman came in for Spurs loanee Adam Smith on Tuesday night. I think Clough will revert back to Smith for this fixture. The rest of the defence does almost pick itself as there is little else to call on however Craig Forsyth hasn’t done much to impress in the opening matches of the new campaign but, unless Clough wants to play Freeman at left-back, where he can play, it will be Forsyth.

The main question is, do Derby stick with their diamond of 4-1-3-2? It doesn’t give the team much width despite there being Ben Davies, Jamie Ward and Michael Jacobs all able to play on the wings. I’d definitely like to see more of Davies and Jacobs. The formation hasn’t worked at home, where it most certainly does need readdressing as it doesn’t break teams down, but it has been pretty successful on the road with a lot of movement and neat football going on.

John Eustace, it’s fair to say, hasn’t been outstanding for Derby thus far, however this is undoubtedly a good game for his experienced head. Craig Bryson and Will Hughes are likely to start with the former Watford skipper.

I really don’t think Jamie Ward is suited to that formation, unless he is up front. Nevertheless I wouldn’t hesitate to start him against Forest. Ward displays such passion in derby fixtures and has a spark that can change the game. The ex-Blade has scored two for the Rams against the Reds.

The front two is one up for debate. Starts have been hard to come by for Conor Sammon so far this season, however he started alongside Johnny Russell on Tuesday. Many had been calling for the recall of the Irish international but, if he starts, would that mean Russell or Martin should face the axe or should all three be accommodated?

Whatever eleven run out at kick-off, it will be an interesting game. Tackles will fly about, I certainly wouldn’t bet against there being a red card. Anything can happen in these fixtures.

As I mentioned earlier this week, it’s a massive match for manager Nigel Clough - a defeat would mount more pressure on him and make Tuesday’s seemingly routine match at home to Ipswich Town a very important one.

You can read and watch all my pre-Forest features by CLICKING HERE.

Finally, be sure to get behind the team – whether you’re at the City Ground or elsewhere!

Come on you Rams!

@NathansRamsBlog

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Memorable matches against Forest


With Saturday’s derby clash at the City Ground looming, take a look back at some memorable matches against the Reds at the City Ground to get you in the mood for derby day. There’s nothing better than beating Forest on their own back yard.

As well as these videos, I recommend the book ‘Derby’s Days’. It documents the history of the fixture, its meaning to various people and statistics. Here’s a link for the book on Amazon.

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The Massive Week has Arrived


It is a huge week for Derby County, first up tomorrow is a trip to Leicester City for a place in the fourth round of the League Cup and then, on Saturday, is the eagerly awaited match-up at our old foes Nottingham Forest.

It all comes on the back of yet another frustrating defeat at Pride Park. Derby were soft at conceding goals, lacked quality going forward and failed to make their possession count or trouble the opponents. Anyway, enough of that.

The Foxes are a mean, physical side, as they showed us early this season, but will they weaken their side for the cup?

As Ramspace pointed out earlier today (beat me to it!), tomorrow night’s match presents an interesting team selection headache with the encounter being days before the big day. Do the Rams make wholesale changes to preserve the likes of Hughes and Ward for Saturday, go all out and risk the possibility of extra time tiredness or make a few tweaks here and there? I say the latter. Hughes, for one, certainly must be left out after recent reports of injury worries, along with Ward, who Clough himself has admitted he must be cautious with and a couple of others hither and dither. It’s important to restore confidence and hopefully Sammon and certainly Jacobs are given a chance.

The Forest game, live on TV, presents a huge challenge and must be at the forefront of Clough’s mind tomorrow evening. Our last two visits there have ended in victory, why not again? Our away form is good and the way the Rams set out puts the pressure with the hosts. Don’t forget, following the takeover and spending spree of last season, many Reds wrote us off and look what happened (BRYSON, ring any bells?). It’s a local derby, anything can happen!

Clough has come under more criticism following another home defeat. When will he get it right at Pride Park?

Aside from the squad and the week for them, it is massive for the boss Nigel Clough. The home defeat at the weekend came hand in hand with the usual tweets and moans for his sacking and questioning his judgements, which I do believe were questionable at the weekend, by the way. Defeats this week, and in particular one on Sky with more than the usual viewing and to a certain side, would mean more mountains of pressure and that would be going into an, on paper, unattractive and boring game against Ipswich Town. Suddenly that could become another huge game and then it’s Leeds United at home, so back-to-back home matches are on their way next week. A win or two under his belt would relieve some tension.

Two oppositions this week will, if Saturday is anything to go by, punish Derby but on the road it has been a different story. They’re both two very tough games to predict but I’d be lying if I wasn’t slightly fearful of the team down the A52, Nathanial Chalaboh is a good coup on loan from Premier League giants Chelsea.

Nevertheless, let’s keep the faith this week and not dwell too much on the weekend. It’s a fresh week.

COME ON YOU RAMS!!!!

@NathansRamsBlog

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The Pride Park misery rumbles on…


Pride Park on an unusually warm September day.

What a glorious, weather wise, September day. Pride Park was basking in the sun. I arrived believing this was the time to put an end to the lack of points at home. I was wrong. Very wrong.

The first-half was largely controlled by the hosts but Reading did have their moments towards the back end of the half. There was plenty of passing from the Rams’ midfield but little quality in the box. Most shots went into the safe hands of Alex McCarthy, who was alert to crosses and had good distribution – a potential England number one in the future.

In the second 45, Derby came out half asleep. Pogrebnyak scored a scrappy goal a couple of minutes in. The home side failed to react and catch out the visitors, whose defence held a solid unit that the Rams simply couldn’t crack and probably wouldn’t if they were still at it. The Royals’ attacker Pogrebnyak added a second just after the hour mark, again the defenders weren’t holding tight.

Supporters swamp the exits.

Will Hughes, largely poor throughout, offered a lifeline with a smartly struck finish with ten minutes to go but that was cancelled out late on by another combative finish, this time from Blackman, condemning Derby to their third consecutive home league defeat. This was followed by a huge storm for the exits. Hughes’s goal was the first from open play in the four opening league matches.

When Derby went down there appeared to be no plan B. Derby were never going to pass Reading off the pitch and win that way, it became apparent quickly in the second half. I know it’s not the right way to play, and by no means pretty, but pumping a few long balls into the box could’ve helped to pile some pressure on Reading. Unfortunately they were never under much pressure and held well defensively. Tactically, the Rams have got it all wrong at home and need to re-think their system. Nigel Clough, to his credit, did make the subs earlier than his usual too late scenarios, must take an awful lot of the responsibility.

I don’t even have the consolation of saying that we’ve been beaten by goals that the team can hold their hands up and say “we couldn’t do anything about that”. Defensive errors have been deeply taxing. The simple failure to clear the ball in the process of goals has been frustrating. The scrappiness of the goals makes it even hard to take.

A Jeff Hendrick-less midfield isn’t ideal at home, particularly against the physical sides that have visited thus far.

The early season form of Chris Martin hasn’t been replicated in my last couple of visits to Pride Park. He doesn’t seem to be winning as many balls and is coming unstuck against some organised defences.

As Paul Wright pointed out to me on Twitter, the three sides that have won at Derby are all ahead of Clough’s men in the league table.

It’s a big week coming forward and I’m sure, ideally, Clough would’ve liked to go into it with fans and players alike sharing some confidence. What a difference a week makes in football, this time last week Rams fans were in a euphoric mood. Two good results next week would more or less put this to bed, well, particularly one in now just under a week’s time across the A52.

Get Marc Albrighton here from Aston Villa ASAP!

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The curious case of Nathan Tyson


Late on Monday night, it was confirmed that Nathan Tyson had left the Rams after two years at the club – leaving to join fellow Championship side Blackpool on a free transfer, where he’s joined up with fellow ex-Ram Steve Davies.

His exit is a curious one. Tyson claims he wanted to stay and wasn’t told directly about the club’s decision to place him on the transfer list, however manager Nigel Clough talks differently on the matter. Listen to them both in a report on BBC Sport.

Brining Nathan to the club was a gamble for Nigel. Big wages, a switch across the A52 from the old enemy and history with Derby and a certain event involving a flag.

After a difficult first campaign at the club, largely hampered by injuries, the former Red began last season with a bang – he scored two from the opening two matches. There was also a late winner at Ipswich from the bench followed by two further goals as a sub, proving his abilities as an impact player from the bench.

After the run of two from two, he struggled to maintain a spot in the starting eleven – of the next eighteen matches, he was a substitute on sixteen occasions (only one of the remaining two was a start). This was largely down to the signing of Conor Sammon.

In total, the striker managed to score five goals in seventeen matches (only five of which were starts).

I can’t deny that he isn’t injury prone but I feel that he’s one hell of an option from the bench (you could argue that it’s not enough when he’s on big money). I do believe he deserved more opportunities last season. The ex-Royals attacker had just managed to find his feet and started producing the goods, only to be dropped. The loan spell, which Tyson requested for after persistently being overlooked, at Millwall didn’t benefit any party.

Nevertheless, the fact is he has left but I, probably in unison with many others, am curious about his departure and have filed it along with other similar cases, baring similarities to the cases of Chris Maguire, Dean Leacock and Miles Addison. It’s clear that his last start, which came at Charlton, proved to be a poor game but it was just ONE game.

Is he happy to be at the current league leaders? Of course!

Total Rams stats

  • Appearances (including those as a substitute): 41
  • Goals: 5

Goodbye and good luck (needless to say, except against the Rams), Nathan (no, not me, the other one).

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Bogey team Burnley triumph


What an awfully frustrating afternoon at Pride Park, reminiscent of many away days in recent years – but it hurts more on your own patch.

Derby 0-3 Burnley

From the off, the Rams bossed it. Their passing and possession keeping was impressive but there was no end product, the Clarets contained the passing football but barely got hold of it themselves. But that was in the first ten minutes or so.

Danny Ings muscled his way forward, surging through Derby’s helpless midfield and then catching Jake Buxton in the wrong mind to open the scoring. A bitter blow after minutes of dominance.

Derby did continue to press forward but without quality, which was clearly left behind on Tuesday.

Sean Dyche arrived at Pride Park armed with a plan to frustrate the Rams and counter attack, exposing defensive frailties. It worked a treat for the travelling support from Lancashire.

Sam Vokes doubled the away side’s lead with little over half an hour gone on the watch. It was a scrappy goal that didn’t come without its chances to clear – Derby just couldn’t bundle it away. Nobody would be discussing this had Lee Grant routinely collected the cross, some have argued. Again, a destructive blow.

The back end of the first period contained more efforts to get forward from the hosts, however the resolute Clarets soaked up the pressure and continued to threaten themselves. Chances missed by the Rams’ forward line didn’t land them in good stead for the second-half.

At the interval Nigel Clough made a change, which is extremely early by his standards. Kieron Freeman made way for Spurs loanee Adam Smith. Following the conclusion of the match, Clough was apparently (I wasn’t tuned in) critical of the substituted full-back on the radio.

The Rams came back out and were less fluid and more flat with their passing, clearly dejected by the first-half proceedings. Having said that, they should’ve capitalised on their forward play – not just the penalty.

With around half an hour to go, the referee served up an opportunity for Derby to pick up a point from the match. Chris Martin had been brought down in the area, one of many times – perhaps this was compensation for earlier fouls that eluded the ref.

Russell missed penaltyJohnny Russell, the scorer of the penalty against Blackburn, saw his effort saved by Tom Heaton – palming the ball out to his left. This confirmed it simply wasn’t the Rams’ day.

To add to the misery, former Derby defender Jason Shackell got in on the act and scored – diverting a delightful Keith Treacy cross goalwards.

This followed more pain as Nigel Clough’s side simply couldn’t muster anything together to scar the buoyant away team.

Overall, Derby couldn’t take advantage of their time on the ball and struggled to show signs of real quality and shrewdness in the last third. They came unstuck against an organised and rigid unit that used their physicality effectively.

Substitutions came late for Derby, if you put aside the defensive like-for-like half-time swap. Attacking-wise, Ben Davies and Conor Sammon weren’t introduced until the 67th and 75th minutes – one of them should’ve been chucked into the action earlier to add a fresh pair of legs and hopefully an injection of more life.

Full credit to Burnley though. They continue in being the Rams’ bogey side – nine matches between the sides have past without the Midlands side coming through on top.

A defeat like this is never any good but I feel it’s worse when it’s going into an international break. A game coming soon after can often help players re-find their form, rhythm and confidence. The next game is on 14th September at Millwall.

This was clearly a bad day. It doesn’t mean the season’s over. We’ve seen plenty of cause for optimism, just not in this particular outing.

The transfer window shuts on Monday. The central-defence position is being talked as a position in need of bolstering amongst supporters, yet the message from the club appears to be that there is satisfaction with what’s available. The defence weren’t good today, as a unit and at coping with Burnley’s surges forward. I think a loan centre-half would be good, if a full signing is not what the club wish to do with Mark O’Brien and Shaun Barker set to return, to add extra competition and provide the options to change things up. On the other hand, let’s remember that the entire team were bad today – not just the defence.

At the end of the game, news emerged that influential midfielder Jeff Hendrick, whose presence was sorely missed, would be out for around 12 weeks with the ankle injury picked up at Yeovil. You have to wonder whether John Eustace should have replaced him, not Paul Coutts.

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Rams Diary 19/8/13 – 25/8/13


My day-to-day account on all things the Rams over the course of the past week, including what’s gone on and my thoughts on the happenings.

Monday

Still a bit sore after Saturday’s defeat? Yes, disappointed. Now on with the new week.

The Rams’ Under-21 side were defeated 2-1 at Crewe in their first league match of the campaign. A 25-yard free-kick from Michael Jacobs wasn’t enough for Derby. He won’t just go down as having scored, he’ll also go down as having a last minute penalty saved.

Valnetin Gjokaj, Michael Hoganson, Mason Bennett and Michael Jacobs. Also among the side were Luke Hendrie, an 18 year old former Manchester United midfielder, and former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Dean Parrett.

Tuesday

A report in Metro said that Liverpool are set to launch a £6 million bid for Will Hughes. However, the Derby Telegraph were, as ever, swift in putting their word out regarding the speculation “The Derby Telegraph understands that as of Tuesday afternoon, the club has not received any bids for Hughes.”

Firstly, £6 million isn’t near enough. I’m sure Derby would hold out for much more. Also let’s remember that Liverpool paid £35 million for Andy Carroll, and look how he turned out for them – if they can splash it on him, why not on the ‘next Gerrard’, as some people have dubbed him? If it is Liverpool that do come in for Hughes then, Derby, please hold out for as much more than usual – and not just because they believe £6 million is the right price!

Today the below tweet was made the club.

I had to check twice if it was the club’s account. Maybe they’ll be following Doncaster in signing one of the band members to boost interest and shirt sales!

Theo Robinson popped up with another goal for his new side Doncaster tonight. He’s scored two in two now. Both of his goals for his new team have now been from inside the six yard box, typical Theo style. Cries on Twitter and the forums that we should have kept him are obviously rife but I don’t think he’s the way forward for a club aiming for the top six, do you remember his general ability on the ball?

Finally, this piece on ex-Ram Giles Barnes caught my eye.

Wednesday

News emerged today that transfer-listed defender James O’Connor is training with League One side Bristol City, with a view to a permanent move. City boss Sean O’Driscoll managed the defender while at Doncaster Rovers. Him, Adam Legzdins, Nathan Tyson and James Bailey are the remaining transfer-listed players on Derby’s books, while Tom Naylor is on loan at Newport.

It’s all good and well being able to be Mr Flexible and be able to play all across the back four but O’Connor never showed the credentials of a very able player. He was clumsy and often caught out defensively.

In a poll last week, I asked ‘Of the five still at the club for the time being, which would you most happily drive away to another club tomorrow?’ – just over 40% of voters responded with James O’Connor. I was even asked on Twitter, by @jimDCFC, if he had to wait until tomorrow to drive him away – he was prepared to do it there and then!

Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey today completed his month-long loan move to Championship new-boys Yeovil Town, who are the Rams’ opponents this Saturday. It’ll be a welcome boost for this weekend’s hosts but the Welsh ‘keeper hasn’t played a senior game since April 2012 – when Wolves were a Premier League side, now they’re in League One.

Amid all the speculation about Will Hughes, Nigel Clough has remained adamant that no bids have been received “We’ve had no bids or contact from anybody”, he added “Unless there is somebody sitting there with an awful lot of money burning a hole in their pocket I cannot see it [Hughes being a Derby player] changing.”

Away tickets for Saturday’s game sold out therefore the Glovers allocated the club a further 500 tickets. If sold, there will be 2,000 Rams fans cheering Derby on in Somerset.

This isn’t directly related with Derby but still of interest. Rumours are doing the rounds about Lee Camp joining League Two side Chesterfield!

Thursday

I wake up to more Will Hughes speculation. And more today. The Independent reported that Liverpool are on the verge of signing the youngster for £10 million and loaning him straight back. Nigel Clough continued in maintaining that no bids have been made and added “I cannot predict what is going to happen but I do not see it changing”.

A loan-back would be an absolute imperative for me. Would he benefit more from warming Liverpool’s bench and playing in their under-21s or playing regular first-team football with Derby? It’s a no-brainer. Not only is it about Will’s development, he’s also a key man for the current season in Clough’s side.

Little else other than the Hughes saga, if you insist on following suit of the Premier League with the word ‘saga’, today so here’s a video that was uploaded today showcasing the midfielder’s talents. Good work, Derby Goals!

Friday

This isn’t really of much concern for us Rams fans but when it comes to our rivals, we’re naturally interested as to what they’re getting up to. The Nottingham Post exposed of how Forest are freezing local media access and therefore distancing fans. Read it here.

Injured skipper Shaun Barker is taking bigger steps to recovery (see below). His tweet today was great to read.

Also, a piece on Ram Zone grabbed by attention today – and a sensible one it is too.

Further reports on Hughes today- in the Express and in the Daily Star.

Finally, happy birthday to defender Valentin Gjokaj today. He is 20.

Saturday

Matchday. Yeovil away.

Many Rams fans encountered traffic problems on their way to Somerset – with some even missing kick-off.  In total 1753 made the long journey to cheer on Derby.

Derby emerged with three points with a 3-0 win. Goals courtesy of Johnny Russell, Craig Bryson and Chris Martin. Unfortunately, Jeff Hendrick did pick up an injury. It appears it’s nothing too serious, he could be available for the game against Burnley but a doubt for Tuesday’s home League Cup tie against Brentford.

Watch the goals below.

Here are the 24 passes and goal involved in the second goal. An incredible team effort.

Neil Bates (@NeilDCFC) made the trip and sent in his thoughts:

At 1.50 we were starting to feel like the effort we had put in to get to Yeovil wouldn’t be worth it after having left at before 8 o’clock in the morning. Thankfully, Derby produced a performance to warm the 1700 Rams fans that had all come down to the heart of Somerset in an August chill. Huish Park is the one away ground that has made me realise how lucky we are as Derby fans to have Pride Park, the away end is uncovered and shanty to say the least, and the rest is not much better.

Derby controlled the game from the first whistle thanks to neat interplay between the midfield diamond. However, we were starting to think it would be the same old story, all play and no end product, until Johnny Russell finished his goal well before laying a hand in an extremely well-worked second for Craig Bryson. The game was effectively over just after the hour-mark when Chris Martin tapped home in front of the delighted Derby fans in the Copse Road End. After that, we took a slightly more negative approach to the game but the clean sheet was well worth it. The 9 hour round trip was made much easier by the fact that we had witnessed Derby score 3 goals away from home for the first time since 2009, as well as a good night’s sleep in a Yeovil B&B.

Amazingly, it was the first time the Rams have scored three away goals since October 2010 (a 3-2 win at Doncaster). Also it’s the first time since February 2009 (two wins at Forest and one at Plymouth) that Derby have won three consecutive away matches. Are we beginning to see the ruthlessness and cutting edge away from home that have been so sorely lacking away from home for a long time?

A 100% away record. Long may it continue.

Sunday

Following the win yesterday, Richard Keogh received some plaudits in the Sunday Mirror – the defender made their Team of the Day in today’s paper.

Another report in the national media regarding Will Hughes said that Liverpool must pay at least £15 million for the young talent. It’s now become routine over the week for Rams fans to be reassured (below) that Derby haven’t had any constant from any other clubs about Hughes.

Giovanni Trapattoni named Jeff Hendrick and Conor Sammon in his 29-man provisional Republic of Ireland squad for September’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers. Richard Keogh has no place in the squad, even after a good performance yesterday.

Ex-Derby full-back John Brayford had no place in Cardiff City’s 18-man squad today in their win over Manchester City, as was the case in their opening Premier League fixture at West Ham. I hope he gets his chance soon, he has the credentials to succeed in the top flight.

Also, a post on Ramspace appeared today – worth a read.

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Are the Rams stumbling in their promotion quest?


The last two home games, not mentioning the controversies of Turf Moor, have left a sour taste in the mouths of fans. Although the latter home game, a 0-0 draw to Bolton, was an improvement, the inability to break down the opponents’ defence has been frustrating.

Free-scoring football, coupled with conceding too many, last month and priorly seems distant and has clearly resulted in a shift in attacking focus to the defence, which has tightened up, as demonstrated in the string of 1-0 wins, but it’s meant clear-cut chances and goals have dried up.

An automatic promotion finish now seems to be a tall order with too much reliance on Burnley slipping up – in fact, there is too much reliance on Burnley having a MAJOR slip-up. I, like many, think second place is out of reach, unfortunately. 8 points is the difference with both sides having 11 matches to play. How I’d love to be proved wrong.

Tomorrow the Rams are off to Reading, a team that quitely occupy the final play-off spot. The Royals have won at promotion-chasing QPR and Nottingham Forest this season, as well as at Derby in the early parts of the campaign.

However, Nigel Adkins’ side’s home form at the Madjeski will give the Rams cause for hope – in their past three matches tomorrow’s hosts have picked up just a point; a draw against relegation candidates Yeovil, a defeat to mid-table Blackburn and a loss at the hands of struggling Sheffield Wednesday is among the reasons why they lie 13th in the home table.

See the below graphic for a pleasant breakdown of the key statisitics and figures ahead of the match.

Fixture-15-03-2014-Reading-vs-Derby

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