Gary Teale gave Derby County a deserved first win in five games, ending their four defeats on the spin at Pride Park.
In truth, Derby could have notched a cricket score today and it was only dreadful finishing from the home side that kept the score respectable.
City were inexplicably unchanged from the XI that started against Scunthorpe. The only change in the squad was Louis Carey taking his place on the bench for Cole Skuse, who was suffering with a cold.
Alvaro Saborio nearly gave the Robins a shock second minute lead but could only head straight at Rams keeper Steven Bywater from Bradley Orr’s measured right-wing cross. Bywater gobbled up the ensuing goalmouth scramble.
The early stages were being played at a frenetic pace with Elliott and Saborio trying their luck from distance but it was another predicable gaffe from Jamie McCombe, remarkably given the skippers armband for the day, that nearly opened the scoring on 23.
His slip allowed Welsh tart Robbie Savage a clear run on goal but following his cut-back, home debutant James Vaughan missed the target from the penalty spot with the goal gaping. It was a huge let off for the City.
Orr and Evander Sno both fired bending efforts from distance wide of Bywater’s upright with Derby dangerman Rob Hulse shooting just over the angle of post and bar at the other end.
The game was wide open and Saborio was guilty of spurning another glaring opportunity to give City the lead following great work from the impressive Sno.
Sno slipped the Costa Rican in one-on-one with Bywater only for Saborio to hesitate for too long and allow one time City target Shaun Barker to recover as the sides went in level at half-time.
Nigel Clough clearly gave his side the hairdrier treatment at the interval as Derby flew out the traps after the break before the stupidy of Donkey McCombe put City firmly on the back foot after 53 minutes.
In the space of two minutes, Hulse skinned McCombe on the touch line only to be cynically hacked down by the clumsy defender.
Both players lurched towards each other before McCombe embarrasingly threw himself to the floor, presumably trying to get Hulse sent-off for an imaginary headbutt. Ref Mick Russell correctly reached for his book and duly took the City defender’s name.
Seconds after the fracas, the same two players came together again. Hulse knocked the ball past him again (how often have I said about McCombe’s susceptibility on the floor this season?) on the right before having his path obstructed. Russell had no hesitation in awarding the free-kick Derby’s way, issuing a second booking and McCombe was off.
Then came the first baffling sub of the day. Former Derby defender Lewin Nyatanga was brought on for Saborio, our main threat, with Maynard, who was being marked out of the game, asked to toil alone up front! Make of that what you will.
Danny Haynes joined him 8 minutes later in place of the unusually good Lee Johnson. It was another surprise given Marvin Elliott had clearly chucked his passing radar out the window of the M42.
Derby continued to forge ahead with the direct Lee Croft sending a 25-yard shot wide of an open goal after Basso’s horrendous miskick let Hulse in.
Substitute Paul Dickov shot wide, Croft fired straight at Basso and Hulse saw his agile effort drop wide of the the post.
Former Villa man Lee Hendrie entered the fray on 78 for his Rams debut and continued the trend of woeful finishing from the home side, missing the target when well placed inside the box.
But we could all feel the goal was coming as shapeless City offered nothing on the counter attack and were cut open with consumate ease by the home side after our best player Evander Sno was subbed on 82.
So it was no surprise with five minutes left that winger Gary Teale drove inside from the left and onto his favoured right peg to arrow a dipping 20-yard effort inside Basso’s near post.
Derby hearts were in their mouths when Paul Dickov nearly gave away a last-gasp penalty with a ‘forwards challenge’ right in front of the linesman and Paul Connolly saw his backward header flash inches wide of his own net but the home side held on for a thoroughly deserved win.
DERBY (4-4-2): Bywater, Connolly, Barker, Leacock, Moxey; Croft (Addison, 90), Savage, Livermore (Hendrie, 79), Teale; Vaughan (Dickov, 65), Hulse.
CITY (4-4-2 or anyone with a better guess?!): Basso, Orr, Fontaine, McCombe, McAllister, Elliott, Hartley, Johnson (Haynes 65), Sno (Sproule 82), Maynard, Saborio (Nyatanga 57).
REFEREE: Mick Russell (Hertfordshire)
Adriano Basso 4
His kicking was poor today as it kept finding touch. He was rarely tested, asides from distance, but dropped the ball at the feet of Hulse who should’ve scored second half.
Bradley Orr 6
Got up and down to good effect. Swang in a few decent crosses and was defensively sound.
Jamie McAllister 7
Probably our best defender on the day. He linked well with Hartley in the midfield and also got forward well, much better than in recent weeks.
Liam Fontaine 6
Tough afternoon for Fonts. He looked shaky for once and had his hands full after McCombe went off. Not his usual assured self.
Jamie McCombe 1
Could have gifted them a first half goal with a bambi-like slip. He also tried cheating the ref in the incident that led to his stupid first booking. Exposed for pace, yet again, and proved beyond doubt that he isn’t up to scratch at this level. Terrible.
Paul Hartley 7
Got stuck in, like he said he would pre-match, and kept the ball moving at all times. Tried his best to bring in what men we had wide.
Marvin Elliott 6
Not Marv’s best performance. He defended well and won a lot of the ball in midfield but almost on every occasion he gave away possesion with woeful passing today.
Lee Johnson 6
His best performance of the season. He got into Derby’s faces during the first 20 minutes but soon faded.
Evander Sno 8
Absolute class act. He held the ball when he needed to, played simple, two-touch football at all times and had the skill in his locker to beat a man when he had to.
Nicky Maynard 6
Really tough day for our top scorer. He didn’t have a sniff all game due to having two Derby markers on him at all times. They clearly knew he was main threat and marked him out of the game.
Alvaro Saborio 7
Looked a handful and linked the play well. He brought in other players but spurned several good chances including one sitter.
Lewin Nyatanga 5
He was partially at fault for the late goal after backing off Teale when he should’ve challenged but clearly wasn’t anywhere near 100% fit.
Danny Haynes 7
Was dangerous when he came on. Looked to keep it simple and was always looking into get in behind the defence both from wide and central positions.
Away Form Nightmare Continues…
Didn’t do anything when he came but, again, had no time to make an impression.
GARY JOHNSON – 4/10
This isn’t an official vote of no confidence from me but it’s pretty damn close to one as questions will rightly be asked about the team’s performance tonight.
Today, we had a near fully fit squad to chose from and the only change from the narrow looking City side that drew with Scunthorpe last weekend was Louis Carey taking the place of Cole Skuse on the bench!
Johnson has the personnel to do well at this level but clearly doesn’t know how best to use them.
The first 20 minutes were good but it was all down hill from then. We were too narrow again and lacked any plan B once the stupid Jamie McCombe was sent-off.
The substitutions were again dire, Derby scored second’s after Evander Sno’s withdrawal and Nyatanga didn’t look fit to be on the bench in the first place.
NIGEL CLOUGH – 6/10
Picked square pegs in square holes and did the best he had available to him. Clearly gave his boys a rocket at half-time and they responded to it with a dominant second half performance.
One Demensional Again
When is Gary Johnson going to learn? That’s one of many questions I would like answered tonight.
We have no wingers at the club, so why play four central midfielders in a midfield four for the second game running?
No disrespect to Derby but they were there for the taking today with the four defeats on the spin. We needed to play with a system that suits the players without them being out of position.
Once the first plan didn’t yield a goal in the first 20 minutes, heads dropped and Derby got a head above steam. We, on the otherhand, offered nothing in return.
At this rate, it’s going to be tough season which needs to see our away form improve drastically… and soon!
LJ Good For The Team?
Lee Johnson played well today but I can’t help think back to what someone told me in the pub the other day.
In the six games LJ has started this term, we’ve played 6, won 0, drawn 3 and lost 3, scoring a paltry 2 goals in the process. Prior to that we were in the top six and winning games.
Whilst he isn’t of course solely to blame for this record, it’s too much of a coincidence for it to be ignored. Right now, we’re blessed with quality central midfield players but Gary Johnson needs to get away from playing his boy and sign, or play, people who can get into wide positions because the longer this goes on, the worse it will get.
Away Form Nightmare Continues…
So that’s another away day where City have failed to register a win.
The record now dates back to February with the 2-0 win at Reading and we’ve only taken 3 points from a possible 33 in the last 11 away games since.
I think we’ve had some of the easier away games of late (Cov, Swansea, Derby) but with Newcastle, Forest and West Brom all up in the coming weeks, how much longer are we going to have to wait???
Answers on a postcard please!