Rams promotion hopes take huge blow

Derby 0-1 Middlesbrough

The Rams just weren’t good enough on the night. Boro deserved their three points, they got their goal & held firm.

As you’d expect, Patrick Bamford scored. He kept his cool in front of goal to score & no doubt relished that as a boyhood Forest fan. Bamford had the last laugh. Despite the pressure & fight from Albentosa & Keogh, he always looked a danger with his Boro colleagues going forward. And that was the difference – Derby didn’t really look convincing going forward.

In the midfield, Jamie Hanson was again a calm figure & didn’t look out of place. Craig Bryson starting was an interesting choice & it had been coming. The team didn’t really manage to get the ball down & play it with the usual style & conviction, although the players worked hard, Boro were a class above.

Again, with injuries impacting the side, Russell was down the middle. Was there not another way to go? Chris Martin, as the focal point of the attack, was missed immensely. He does the simple things of holding it up & bugging opposition defenders very well & is obviously much taller. When Albentosa went up front in the closing minutes, it seemed that finally headers were being won.

Is time running out? Can the players respond?

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The Opposition View: Derby vs Middlesbrough

Ahead of Tuesday’s vital game against Middlesbrough, I have asked Everything MFC how things are at the Riverside to get a glimpse into the game and the wider promotion picture.

1) Has the season so far gone how you expected it to?
Given Aitor Karanka’s additions in the summer transfer window I was quietly confident that we could clinch a play-off spot, but with the way things have gone so far I don’t see why we can’t go up automatically. I’d say this season has so far been more successful than what I initially expected. 
2) How do you think Boro will approach the game at Derby?
In a typical Aitor Karanka way – only concentrating on ourselves and making sure the team deal with being under pressure. They’re aware it’s a big game and in recent matches it has been a bit scrappy, but the only thing that will matter for the players is the possibility of a huge three points and I’m sure the players will go out there only thinking about that. 
3) Patrick Bamford was impressive on loan at Derby, what do you think of him?
He’s our best striker for sure. Intelligent, quick feet and brilliant at pulling away from his marker to find space, as you probably already know from when he scored against you back in December. I’d put him up there as one of our best signings of the season. However, Bamford has been wasted out on the right recently and tends to cut inside (as you would do being a centre forward) leaving the right hand side a little vulnerable. If he starts on Tuesday night it must be up front rather than out wide. 
4) Who will cause the Rams the most trouble? 
Obviously Bamford will be one player Derby fans are wary of having already scored against them earlier in the season, but there’s other players that can cause the Rams problems. Lee Tomlin operates in the no.10 role just behind the striker and, although not the quickest, has incredible dribbling and skill to get past players. I’m sure you saw the turn he did that left Vincent Kompany for dead when we faced Manchester City in the cup. There is also Kike, who isn’t exactly firing at the moment but can still cause defenders problems, he offers good link up play with those around him, keeping hold of the ball to bring others into play. If he has worked on his shooting over the past few training session then he could make the difference.
5) Lastly, what is your score prediction & which 3 teams do you think will win promotion? 
Derby away is a fixture that doesn’t bring me much confidence (I’m probably still scarred from that last minute Conor Sammon winner back in 2013) but I’m going for a 2-2. Ince and Russell to get on the scoresheet for you and Bamford and Tomlin to get on the scoresheet for us.
In terms of promotion, I think yourselves, us and Bournemouth will go up.
Many thanks to Everything MFC for taking the time to answer.
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Added time disaster & looking ahead

Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Birmingham felt like a defeat.

For the entire game, Derby dominated. The midfield were comfortable, the defence rarely troubled and, typically, Johnny Russell was working his socks off but in the more unusual position as the central striker as the attack’s focal point.

I just couldn’t envisage a situation where Birmingham could get back in it, they rarely threatened.

Before I start on the absolute madness I just want to talk about Raul Albentosa, who made his league debut for the Rams. Although he didn’t have too much to do, he had a decent outing and will obviously be no pushover for any striker. I think McClaren will stick with him and Keogh this week at Carrow Road.

Onto the injury time and how on earth can a viable promotion contender draw from 2-0 up? It’s now 8 conceded in the last 4 matches and since the beginning of February, 15 goals have been conceded.

Tom Ince will know what he should have done with the ball that led to the penalty. As for the last goal, defenders were on the floor watching it and there was complete all round chaos with an away side so much more driven to win the first, second and third balls in the box. I have to say it was a a great ball across goal by Wes Thomas to assist the equalising goal.

And what about the ref? Throughout the game he was poor. Iain Williamson is his name and alarm bells will ring in my head when I next hear his name, just like with the infamous Stuart Attwell who needs no introduction. What was he thinking? Did he just want to make a name for himself? If so, he has succeeded with flying colours.

A minimum of 3 minutes of added time were given. OK, fair enough. The penalty, which was undeserved as it wasn’t a foul, was in the time. I give the ref 30 seconds or maybe generously just shy of minute with all the arguing about the penalty to add onto the added time. But, no, he plays another three minutes. Utter madness. Even the most hardened Blue must admit that the ref lost the plot but credit to their team for that comeback.

Fortunately, no other side seem capable of putting a run together. Losing three in a row and remaining in the top two is quite something.

The run of games now are good or bad, depending on which way you look at it. Opportunities to beat our rivals but, slip up, and things look a lot tougher to catch up. Here’s the run: Norwich away, Boro at home, Wolves away, followed by an international break and then Watford at home. A brief break of matches against promotion contenders after the Watford game is followed by Brentford at home.

I remain confident that the Rams will achieve promotion but it really is anyone’s for the taking. C’mon Derby!

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Rams fans ripped off at Norwich but welcomed to Wolves

Browsing the official club site, I was struck by the prices for both the Norwich and Wolves away games – they couldn’t be in greater contrast.

For the game at Norwich, adults are charged £40 – yes, £40 for a Championship match! Over-65s are £30, under-17s are £25 and under-12s are £17.

For the game at Wolves, adults are charged £13.50, over-65s and under-21s are £7.50, under-17s are £6 and under-12s are £5.

Carrow Road is over 170 miles from Derby. Molineux is over 40 miles from Derby.


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Rams Go Top

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.

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Reading dump Rams out of the Cup

What a great Cup tie – for the neutral that is. Rams fans left feeling disappointed but by no means disheartened.

First of all, Steve McClaren made a whole host of changes for the tie. It was certainly a side that was capable, the nature of the squad means that ringing the changes doesn’t hugely weaken the team, perhaps apart from the outstanding and clear stand-out performer of the season Will Hughes.

Derby played some great stuff, especially early on and really should have took their chances. A threat from Reading still remained, however.

Stephen Warnock deserved his red card. Two late, clumsy challenges won him an early shower. There is an argument for him getting another chance but I think the recklessness warranted a sending off. It seemed stupid and proved costly, which is a shame because, prior to his sending off, he looked like a threat going forward and clearly has a great left foot. After the game he admirably held his hands up.

With ten men, Derby still looked a threat and had most of the ball. Craig Forsyth came on to give the side a back four, although Forsyth was clearly instructed to act as a left winger at every chance.

It was good that Craig Bryson got a run out. Hendrick and Hughes have established themselves as first choice recently so it was the perfect chance for Bryso, who had a decent game alongside the also hard-working Jeff Hendrick.

Jesse Lingard had a good debut. The on-loan Man United youngster seems to be neat attacker and he has given McClaren a dilemma for Tuesday – who to play alongside Bent and Ince in attack?

Bent is a top ‘right place, right time’ striker at the moment with a record that almost equates to a goal a game for Derby. I don’t think he knew much about his goal yesterday!

Despite the Rams deserving at least a draw, Reading deserve the credit for taking the chance of a rare away win at Pride Park. The Royals looked lively going forward but I have to talk about their star substitute, Yakubu. The Yak was classy in everything he did – for his goal, his strength and finishing was clearly of a man of vast experience and he managed to frustrate the Derby defence when chasing the game. It was a blast from the past of Premiership years gone by, yet he is certainly not past it and will be a good signing for Reading.

It was a shame that, after all the hype over the past few days, George Thorne didn’t get on but there was never a right moment. Thorne will be back and I, for one, can’t wait to see his class back on the pitch.

It was a brilliant chance to get to Wembley, the FA Cup is as wide open as ever but it was not to be. I hope a Football League side can win it.

Back on to the league and a huge thumbs-up must go to Huddersfield, whose efforts got a draw at Bournemouth. Now it is over to Derby at Rotherham on Tuesday and then Middlesbrough at Birmingham on Wednesday.


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Top Goalscorers

The season is progressing quickly so here’s an update on the Rams’ top goalscorers and their tallies (in all competitions).

dcfc top scorers

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Dream Debut for Ince

Derby 4-1 Bolton

The Rams began the match with just one change from last week’s win at Cardiff, in came Tom Ince for Simon Dawkins.

The scoreline doesn’t reflect the match for a large part of the first-half, Bolton were in the match and not totally on the back foot. Derby’s first goal arrived just over five minutes before the break, after that the hosts beamed confidence and could open up the away side a little more.

Tom Ince looked more than capable from the off. His movement off the ball and neat touches were helpful for Derby. And that free-kick, wow! His second goal polished off a lovely move, which epitimised the performance. Jordon Ibe, who’s that? Well, Ibe started for Liverpool in the Merseyside derby.

Another gem in the win was, of course, Will Hughes. In fact, the midfield three had a superb outing. Hughes is clearly a class above. It was always a worry that other sides would try and give him a rough time and that Hughes would struggle as a result, but, clearly, he can match that now and is a very clever player. I think it is most noticeable when he is not in the team – look at the second-half against Forest. He is the calming, intelligent figure in the team.

Omar Mascarell put in a good shift. Since the new year, the loanee has grown more into his role. Meanwhile, Jeff Hendrick certainly had one of his best games in a while. His two goals will have done him a lot of good.

A remarkable crowd of over 30,300 was at Pride Park for a game that certainly, on the face of it, wouldn’t be considered as a blockbuster. Winning and good performing teams draw the crowds in.

After the two loan signings on Tuesday, Steve McClaren’s squad looks even stronger. Jesse Lingard didn’t emerge from the bench yesterday. Here are the subs in full: Roos, Christie, Warnock, Dawkins, Bryson, Bent and Lingard. Just look at the quality there and that’s not even in the starting eleven! And there’s still a certain George Thorne to come back, as well as Johnny Russell. This squad has the quality, strength and depth to go up.

Elsewhere, Bounemouth won 3-1 at Wigan, setting up a real top of the table clash on Tuesday night. Both sides are level on points, can we nick a win? Would you take a draw?

The match won’t quite make or break the season for either of the clubs but a three point advantage at the top would be great to build on.

Come on  you Rams!

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Promotion Race Hots Up

My confidence about the Rams getting promoted has naturally fluctuated throughout the season. Recently it has grown – I believed after the Forest defeat that it was a bit of a blip and hoped that a repeat of the second-half won’t be returning (there’s time yet!).

I have to say I’ve been slightly surprised at the January incomings but first a word on Jordon Ibe. What were Liverpool thinking? A daft moment of panic is my guess. Brendon Rodgers has already utilised his increasing (under the stewardship of Steve McClaren) ability and intelligence on the ball for him to take part in an under-21 fixture this week. Today he had around ten minutes from the bench, at least it was in the first team though.

The signing of Raul Albentosa was interesting to say the least. Based on watching him in the first-half against Chesterfield, he looks commanding, reflected in his height. Stephen Warnock can only add experience, Leeds United fans will be irked in a similar way to Rams fans over Ibe so far as Warnock is yet make his Rams debut.

So far, the best piece of business appears to be Darren Bent’s arrivals. A genuine plan B has been met with cheers. When Bent comes on, Derby appear to go more direct and, in Bent, they have a player that looks to make runs in behind the defence. More importantly so far has been his knack of being in the right place at the right time – proper poacher’s goals!

As well as the January addition of Bent, there’s another reason to be cheerful. George Thorne. After the palaver of singing him in the summer and then the injury, it will be quite a great moment to see him back playing in a Derby shirt. Of course he may not be back to his best straight away but I have indulged in this video (see below) in anticipation!

On to the competition and Bournemouth’s tremendous form hasn’t given off any signs of stopping, much like surprise package Burnley last season. The game at the Cherries a week on Tuesday will be quite a crunch game.


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Mac fails to rule out Newcastle job

UPDATE: Sam Rush speaks out, says there have been no approaches and claims Mac ‘completely dismissed it’.

After today’s 1-0 win over Southport, Rams boss Steve McClaren was asked repeatedly to rule out the vacant Newcastle United job. He didn’t rule it out but insisted it was ‘pure speculation’. I can’t have been the only one shouting “just rule it out” at the radio. It was like watching a politician skirt around awkward questions on Newsnight but more agonising as a Rams fan. This uncertainty is hardly great, especially leading up to the huge game at Ipswich next week.

I don’t think he’ll go, I doubt many think he will and, surely, he doesn’t want it – so why won’t he rule it out?

Is he wanting a bigger wage packet at Pride Park? Is he saying ‘look, I’m a man in demand, show me you want me to get you in the Premiership’? That could be one reason.

Another could be that he is issuing a come and get me plea and that he quite fancies the challenge up there. Please, no!

Or does he just like teasing us? Perhaps he is laughing at all this panic now!

It’s no surprise to see his name near the top of the bookies’ odds for vacant positions at top clubs given his success here. That’s football. It really would be a tragedy for him to leave at this stage. The Darren Bent rumours were dismissed by the Mac as ‘speculation’ days before the striker’s signing was confirmed, which hardly arouses confidence when he repeats it this time.

The days ahead this January are set to be very interesting. Ipswich are next up (I’m predicting a Bent winner against his old club already!) and then it’s Forest but what about signings? We’re in for more and more interesting, and hopefully joyous, times this month. Up the Rams!

UPDATE: Sam Rush speaks out, says there have been no approaches and claims Mac ‘completely dismissed it’.

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