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Three Points, Three Goals and a Large Slice of Humble Pie – Derby Reflections
Here are my reflections on the match between Blues and Derby at St Andrews
A Good Win
After a frustrating evening against Blackpool when I felt we could have won it was good to see Blues complete a win at the next attempt. It was the archetypal cliché of a performance of two halves which saw a fairly abysmal first half outweighed by a fairly decent second half with a highlight of ten minutes of excellent attacking football.
Credit must go to Lee Clark for changing things around at half time – clearly things weren’t working and a few players (notably Lovenkrands in particular) were having off days. It may have been seen as a measure of desperation at the time to have all three subs made by 63 minutes but the substitutes turned the tide of the game and confirmed my belief that one goal against Derby would bring more. The Rams were a poor side and it was only Blues and the Ref making valiant attempts to be poorer that made this any sort of a contest – had Blues played like they did between the 60th and 70th minutes all game it would have been a mauling.
I wonder if Wes reads OP? Yes, I slated him the other day but I’m a big enough man to admit that maybe I was wrong. Thomas was everything today that he hadn’t been previously – he led the line well, got forwards and hassled the defence and took his goals really well. I think it’s worth pointing out neither finish was a scrappy effort; both were well-taken finishes worthy of any striker and you could visibly see the confidence the first goal gave him.
The performance alone should keep him in the first team – with his first run forty seconds into the second half Thomas surpassed all the achievements of Peter Lovenkrands in the first 45. What Thomas needs to do now is build upon this game, and show that he can hit these sorts of levels every week – even if the goals don’t come if he can play with this level of pace and skill he will be very much worth his place.
Do you remember when Nathan broke onto the scene against Nacional with a doozy of a finish, cutting in from the left before slotting it home right-footed? After a fairly long period out we saw it once again from Nathan; mazy runs, committing defenders and then a run which saw him cut in from the right before slotting it home left-footed. The sheer emotion that Redmond showed when he scored shows how much that goal meant to him – it’s been a long time coming this season and he’s needed the confidence boost but it was just as good to see him playing with the same passion, the same energy and the sheer joie de vivre that helped him explode on the scene 18 months ago.
I was impressed again with our baby-faced loanee from Newcastle. In what is a less familiar left-back slot Ferguson showed his ability getting forwards and crossing once again but he also combined that with some good defensive work to give Blues balance on the left. With Wade Elliott not being a pacy winger it was imperative for Ferguson to get forwards and to provide width and he did that frequently; likewise, Ferguson had to do his job at the back and he did this with no less aplomb than we’ve seen from any other full back this year. If, as expected Rob Hall’s loan is terminated next Saturday we could do a lot worse than persuade Newcastle to allow us to keep Ferguson until the end of the season.
I’m not a massive fan of the old-stager playing left-back because of his age and lack of pace but in the middle Robbo can get away with that a bit and let his tough tackling and old wily defensive head shine through. He’s not as mobile as Curtis Davies but there are not many players as brave as Robbo and I thought at times he carried his central defensive partner who was a bit erratic and a bit shaky. With Caldwell only just returned to training and Ibanez MIA it was absolutely imperative Robbo stepped up to the defensive plate and he did so very well.
It wasn’t the prettiest at times but it was a much-needed win and it lifts Blues into fourteenth, seven places clear of the bottom three (although two of those sides have games in hand). It gave a lift to the fans and the team and by my reckoning means Blues will now only need maybe 2 wins from their remaining nine games to confirm their status in the Championship next season. Clark can take a lot of positives from this performance and I think players like Ravel Morrison, Nathan Redmond and Wes Thomas will all be demanding starts in the next game. The question is whether to accede to that or to continue using those players as impact subs.