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.
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.
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