Last season Derby were involved in just two 0-0 draws, yesterday they clocked their first of the new campaign through a hard-fought draw at Sheffield Wednesday.
The Rams lined up in the usual system with Will Hughes continuing in the defensive midfield role, Jake Buxton returning to the side after being rested in the League Cup and Simon Dawkins and Jamie Ward claiming the two wide roles.
Quickly after the first whistle, the Owls were on the front foot and excelled. Chance after chance came their way but Derby, somehow, hung in there and survived the onslaught successfully.
Once the Rams settled down and finally got into the game, things were much more even. Going into the break at 0-0 would certainly have been considered as a success in the dressing room. I have to say that Wednesday were a much better side than I anticipated.
Flicking through the matchday programme at the interval, I discovered that Sam Rush is a former rugby union player and turned out for Saracens. You learn something new every day!
Anyway, back to the football and the second-half saw Derby look more comfortable and saw Richard Keogh, in particular, make a couple of great tackles and blocks. The backline and Lee Grant were fairly concrete and did well to emerge with a clean sheet.
Derby had more clear cut chances than the hosts and most of the away side’s chances came in the second 45. Having said that, Derby were only really dangerous on the break. Johnny Russell came on and added a bit more to the attack but he really should have scored. In straight through on goal, the Scotsman fired at the grateful Kieron Westwood. I can’t call it a spectacular save, Russell just fluffed his lines.
One noticeable difference from the previous two matches was the lack of involvement in attacks from both full-backs. On Monday at Carlisle, I thought both Cyrus Christie and Craig Forsyth were superb. Also, the wide men never got in the game.
An alarming moment came from the away fans when Simon Dawkins, who, granted, had an awful game, was cheered off. That wasn’t necessary at all.
Russell’s miss confirmed it wasn’t Derby’s day and a point was probably a fair result.
Again, the ‘Thorne role’ dominates post-match talk. After playing well in the opening two matches, Hughes kept his place but today he just never got a grip on the game and failed to pull the strings of the team. It isn’t his best position. Yes, he can do a job there. However, he is much more effective further up the pitch.
Omar Mascarell came in and played very well. Clearly, he isn’t afraid of a tackle, just like George Thorne, and he recovers so well from errors. The Real Madrid loanee came on for the final thirty minutes and instantly the Rams were much more of a threat. I would expect him to start on Tuesday at Charlton.
The Rams were not at their best and, with a bit of tweaking, things will improve. Yesterday they simply never really got going. Three clean sheets and no defeats isn’t a bad way to start the season!