Derby 3-2 Sheff Wed
It’s the Chinese New Year of the Ram as fans at the game yesterday found out at half-time, let’s hope that translates into promotion, and the match showed exactly why there’s still plenty to be optimistic about.
Steve McClaren surprisingly kept the same back four after the dire defending at Rotherham in the week and brought in Simon Dawkins but, most significantly, the long-awaited return of George Thorne came in the form of a place in the Rams’ starting XI.
I thought Thorne, overall, had a good game, he made a few neat tackles and passes but did occasionally look a little rusty, which he can be forgiven for given the amount of time he’s had to watch from the stands. The roar he was met with is a real testament to his memorable performances at the end of last season, when he only played 12 games – how many players that have played so few times are held in such high regard?
Again, I felt Will Hughes was the best on the pitch. If Derby don’t go up, there surely has to be no holding him back. He is absolutely class, week in, week out.
Onto the game – it was a shock to go down. The Lewis McGugan free-kick, to me, didn’t actually look that spectacular and may have been closer to Lee Grant than he expected. After the goal, Sheffield Wednesday were prepared to just frustrate Derby. The Owls packed men behind the ball and made any passing through the middle in the final third so difficult simply due to the volume of bodies.
Derby came out firing from the half-time break. It was refreshing to see Derby look threatening from corners – it was a Thorne corner that Jake Buxton headed home. Game on.
The next Wednesday goal was poor from a defensive point of view. Jeff Hendrick was caught out in midfield and the defence was off guard, followed by Grant being beaten at his near post. 8 conceded in Derby’s last 4 matches – fortunately they know how to score.
Another Bucko goal from another corner, this time taken by Craig Bryson, who had a good game from the bench. It was followed by a Darren Bent winner from the spot. A through-ball from Hughes put Ince in, who was tripped by goalkeeper Kieron Westwood. Bent scored straight after but the referee pulled it back for a penalty and sent off Westwood! There’s certainly an argument for it just being worth a yellow card as he clearly didn’t prevent a goalscoring opportunity. Luckily, Bent scored the penalty – his 7th Rams goal since arriving. Bucko may have been a tad disappointed it wasn’t him, on hat-trick, taking the spot kick.
The Rams have certainly put their fans through the mill this week. Tuesday’s draw was two points dropped but, like yesterday’s win, showed what this team have in spades – character. There’s still an issue with conceding goals but while the talented options are available in attack, Derby are always in with a shout of cancelling out any goals conceded.
In fact, Derby have now caught up promotion rivals Bournemouth on goal difference with both sides on 31. Everything fell perfectly with Bournemouth and Middlesbrough losing. It’s time to cement that lead at the top. Starting with Tuesday, when Charlton visit Pride Park.