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.