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.
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.
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.
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.
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.