Yesterday, the Rams kicked off their pre-season campaign with an emphatic 6-1 victory (goals: Russell 2, Ball, Davies, Coutts and Sammon) victory over Irish side Bohemians. It was the first opportunity for supporters to get a glimpse of the team in action since the close of last season.
Derby lined up with two different XIs, one for the first half and one for the second half. The main focus was how the new signings would fare and for them to begin their process of embedding into the team. It’s also a chance for Nigel Clough to experiment with different formations, as he did, while the players stake their claims for the new campaign.
Jonathan Rodgers was in attendance and was on hand to send in his thoughts, with a particular focus on the new additions to the squad and those that stood out in the 22-man squad present.
Here are few thoughts on an enjoyable afternoon in Dublin, mainly focussed on the new signings…
John Eustace – Obviously not actually a new signing but if Clough doesn’t give him at least a year’s contract before the season starts I’ll be astounded. Playing in between Keogh & Bucko in a 3 man central defence, he looked calm, assured & authoritative. Played the ball out well & caused a bit of mischief in the Bohemians box at set pieces.
Chris Martin – I didn’t see anything new in this performance compared to last season. Some nice touches, played a few poor passes. Not much pace. Not particularly incisive. I have my doubts about him but still open minded.
Lee Grant – He was never going to be much involved with this type of opposition but looked confident & didn’t make any mistakes. Engaged in an animated discussion with Keogh & Eustace mid way through the 2nd half, presumably about the poor defending that led to the Bohs’ goal. If so, that’s a positive.
Craig Forsyth – A decent performance, used his physical presence to good effect at times, put a couple of decent balls in when attacking. Will be tested defensively more in the Championship, I suspect.
Johnny Russell – Very promising. Took his 2 chances well & looked dangerous in the box. I think we might have a finisher at last.
Honourable mentions –
Jamie Hanson – Showed a few good touches & recovered well to get in a last ditch tackle late in the second half (the Bohs fans I spoke to thought it was a penalty).
Mason Bennett – Played on the right of a midfield three & had a great 45 mins. As confident on the ball as Hughes & pacey enough to drive forward effectively (which he did to provide the assist for Russell’s second). Not bad for someone who’s not 17 until Monday. A loan beckons I think.
Paul Coutts – Typical performance but showed willingness to have a shot on goal. Skied one but the other flew in from 25 yards.
Conor Sammon – The Bohs defenders couldn’t cope with his usual all action performance & he could have scored more than the one goal.
Valentin Gjokaj – Looked very comfortable at centre-half alongside Hanson. Can see him getting a few starts this season. In fact, I prefer him to Bucko.
As ever, a huge thanks to Jonathan for sending over his thoughts.
Next up is a trip to Port Vale on Tuesday as the pre-season friendly campaign gathers pace.