It really thought it was the day, Derby’s time, but it really wasn’t our day.
Horrific traffic meant I arrived at my seat in the nick of time; just as the Rams walked out onto the pitch. I was met with a tremendous view. What a lovely ground.
Craig Bryson was obviously a hugely notable absentee, it really does illustrate the depth and quality of the squad when the player of the season isn’t picked for the play-off final, as Will Hughes retained his place. The Scotsman must have been gutted.
The first 45 was fairly even, both sides had their efforts. Young Will had a decent shout for a penalty, it was quite soft, but I’ve seen them given.
Jamie Ward and Craig Forsyth went close in the first-half as Derby looked a threat on the break and kept the ball well at times. Meanwhile QPR were largely restricted to longer range efforts, with Charlie Austin, ever a Derby nemesis in a Burnley shirt, eager to shoot when he could. 0-0 at the break, a big 45 minutes of football was on its way and I was still confident of a Derby victory.
The weather took a lovely turn at half-time, blue sky and sun appeared, it was time for our Rams, backed by over 38,000 passionate fans, to shine.
Steve McClaren’s army began the half as the sharpest and that was affirmed with just over an hour to go. Johnny Russell exploded through the middle of the Rs’ defence and was poised to shoot, when Gary O’Neil slid in and committed a blatant foul to prevent Russell’s advance.
It was a clear red card and, after consultation with his linesman, the referee sent O’Neil packing. The midfielder later said on Twitter that “I thought Russell was going to score and knew I was getting a red! But decided to do it to help the team and thankfully it worked out! First red in 15 years!! Worth it now tho eh? #ladssaiditwasagooddecision”. At that time, Harry Redknapp had made two subs.
Chance after chance was squandered. QPR held firm, Robert Green pulled off some great saves and Nedum Onuha and Richard Dunne battled well, both ensuring of Chris Martin’s ineffectiveness. George Thorne and Will Hughes were the most impressive Rams for me. One tackle that Thorne made was outsanding, whilst Hughes played some neat football at times.
Simon Dawkins and Craig Bryson were thrown on. They both had chances, along with Martin, Ward and Keogh, but, still ‘Arry’s men kept Derby out. There was a penalty shout when Dunne appeared to push Martin, yet the referee didn’t think twice about waving away any appeals. Extra-time loomed.
The Rams did everything but score, which makes the events of the last couple of minutes much harder to swallow. The club deserves promotion.
Completely against the run of play, QPR scored, leaving the West side of Wembley in absolute shock. Bobby Zamora took advantage of Richard Keogh’s poor clearance and fired home.
The goal came just before the 90 minute mark. Patrick Bamford was brought on in an attempt to send the match into extra-time. A late corner for Derby saw everyone pile forward, but it came to no avail. It was over. The romantic story of the ‘innocent climb’ had fallen. QPR were up. I suppose that’s what you get for all those millions.
— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) May 24, 2014
What a horrible feeling. It’s difficult to put into words. Totally undeserving, QPR march to the Premier League. Where’s the justice?
I’m sure Derby will be back strong next season. The season we’ve had proves little comfort in the midst of the heartache.
I’m sure Derby will build on what’s been a remarkable season and be back stronger. Proud to be a Ram.