I just got home after watching Derby beat Huddersfield, 2-0 at the iPro Stadium, and whilst I am not getting carried away, I certainly feel that what I just witnessed was an improvement on recent performances. We looked threatening going forward, especially as the game wore on, and the dogged opposition tired. We looked slightly suspect at the back at times, and a few good saves from Scott Carson were required in order for us to keep a clean sheet.
I imagine that today was closer to the “Derby Way” that the Chairman is so desperately searching for, and we certainly could’ve had more than the two goals we ended up with. Blackman should have scored after 3 minutes, Ince (who was fantastic all game in my mind) hit the woodwork twice, few deliveries into the box could have been better with goals certainly there for the taking, as Huddersfield looked less than organised at the back. I’d imagine this is something that Wassall and the coaching staff will continue to work on throughout the week, especially for the next two games against QPR and Rotherham, both of whom are poor teams, and could be good opportunities for us to increase both our confidence and our goal difference provided we are at it on the day.
It was nice to see Derby score a couple of lovely goals today too. Chris Martin’s header for the first was a really nice finish, and the assist from Christie was equally good. If Christie can continue to play the way he is, I think he can make a legitimate case for being our player of the season. It’s also great to see Chris Martin back in the goals, and he showed his quality today, not just with the header, but with some excellent touches off his chest, and he showed good awareness to play the ball back to Russell for his goal, knowing that he would be moving into considerably more space. I’m pleased for Russell too, he’s always been somewhat of a streaky player, and perhaps hasn’t deserved his place in the team in recent weeks, but he looked well up for it when he came on. He caused Huddersfield plenty of problems and his finish was absolutely sublime.
A few other performances stood out for me, both good and bad. I thought Hendrick had a really poor game for 60 minutes or so, but once Bryson was next to him, he seemed a different player in my eyes. He seemed more willing to run beyond Martin and just generally seemed to perform better. Bryson again impressed, his energy is so hard to defend against, and it really gets the crowd going when he puts the opposition under pressure by constantly pressing when we don’t have the ball. As I mentioned earlier, I thought Ince was brilliant today, and it’s a real shame he didn’t get a goal, because he seems like the type of guy who will beat himself up when he doesn’t score, and he really shouldn’t after today; Huddersfield simply couldn’t cope with him.
Just a final word on Darren Wassall, who again was determined to show how passionate he was after the game, as well as during. He went bananas after both goals, and you’d have thought we’d just won the league. God knows what he’ll be like if we score a last minute winner against Forest. One of the things that pretty much every Derby fan is talking about right now is who will be the manager next year, and I would (and have) put money on it being Wassall. Whether you like it not, he is clearly very highly thought of within the club and by Mel, and based on how he talks to the players on the sidelines, and how they respond to him, he has a very good relationship with them too.
While it certainly has felt like the club has given up on this season at times, it seems fairly likely that we will make the playoffs, and then it simply becomes a three-game season, and who knows what might happen then.