They Always Win One Nil
Still, it was a pleasing line up as big Johnny Mac was back in defence (for Sinclair) and Kyle was in the starting line up for the outgoing Gifton, off on an 18 month holibob to Spain. Good luck to him. We also saw Joey get his first start in a Claret (well, yellow) shirt as McCann found himself on the bench.
To accommodate Joey in the centre we played five across the middle with Ade as the lone man up front - let's hope he would be fitter than he was against Stoke – with Kyle out on the left wing with a view to drift in and support Ade.
“If we can just avoid conceding early then I think we can… oh” I was saying as Howard appeared unmarked at the far post. Four minutes gone and Derby had already reached their target, 1-0. Naturally, some people in the stands blamed Thomas but it was Duff who'd lost his man, claiming afterwards that his shirt was pulled. Mr. Riley was unsympathetic – maybe if it had been the last fifteen minutes, Duff and Howard would have both been off, but more on that later.
One thing I was looking forward to was the sight of Mo Camara dazzling the stadium with his pace as he heads for the nearest advertising hoarding. What I didn't bank on was seeing him trying to emulate Ricky Hatton as he threw his arms up to Joey, clearly using violence to make up for his lack of skill. Still, despite this being a red card offence, Mr. Riley was again saving all this for later.
Instead of Derby sitting on their 1-0 lead, they actually looked like extending it as Jones had a shot just wide, Fagan hit the post and Duff had to clear off the line from Teale. Our first shot on target came from Ade but unfortunately it was towards his own goal as he let the ball deflect off his studs straight at Pollitt. Teale was also looking good down the right for Derby as Harley struggled to contain him with Pollitt saving well low to his left after a good cross.
We did come into the game slightly in the latter of the first half. We won a couple of free kicks (taken nicely by Joey but too close to Bywater) and the usual pointless corners but, with a still unfit Ade as the lone striker, we never looked like making the breakthrough. Then, to the delight of some away fans, Thomas was forced off injured to be replaced by Foster. Hopefully Foster would think the huge cheers were for him and go on to play a blinder.
The first half petered out with neither side looking like adding to the scoreline and even the strange looking Derby mascot started to get bored as he started wandering around vandalising the stadium, giving the advertising hoardings a good smack. Perhaps he was trying to give Mo some more room?
The second half saw Kyle pushed up alongside Ade with Harley and Foster instructed to get forward down the wings. This seemed to pay off as we finally took hold of the game with O'Connor and the Djemba Twins winning tackles in the middle and Kyle looking alert up front. He was looking impressive in particular as he often drifted deep to retrieve the ball and tried to beat his man at every opportunity, with some success.
Good play by Foster down the right resulted in a cross to the back post where one of the Borrowers, sorry, one of our midfielders was lurking. A looping header from O'Connor landed safely in Bywater's hands. We were now getting plenty of balls into the box but all too often there was nobody on the end of them; Ade was lacking in sharpness and it was often Kyle himself putting in the crosses. Where was Gifton? Oh yeah, he's gone for some sunshine and sangria. Good luck to him.
Billy Davies was obviously having none of this. How dare we come to his stadium and use his ball to attack his team? At the first opportunity he got, he hoofed the ball away from one of our players as we won a throw-in. Off you go Mr. Davis, bye bye. He took his rightful place in the stands where there was less room for charging about and feet stamping.
We continued to press for the rest of the half, actually getting some shots on target. Mahon came on for the disappointing Elliott (who failed to repeat his showing the last time he faced Mo) and was linking up well with Joey as both were playing clever balls into the strikers. One nice passage of play resulted in a shot from Kyle following a lay off from Ade; Bywater definitely had to be more alert now Kyle was up front as he looked hungry and was definitely showing an eye for goal.
Then, as the last quarter of an hour was upon us, things (or more precisely, Mr. Riley) seemed to go mad. After showing leniency to the players for 75 minutes (in particular the Mo incident) he suddenly started producing cards left, right and centre. Mahon, Harley (who was shortly replaced by McCann) and Foster (for being stood on) and the Djemba Twins were all booked, along with two Derby players. Then, he must have got confused with the Djemba Twins and assumed he had to book them both as he flashed another yellow card to send both Djembas down the tunnel.
We weren't able to find the goal we needed amongst all this anarchy but at least we were spared the customary last minute Peschisolido goal as he remained on the bench. Of course, this would have ruined the 1-0 scoreline. But, there was still time for Cotterill to join Davies in the stands. Camara (you'll notice I've now dropped the affectionate first name terms) was again using his new found pettiness (it's either the new hair or he's just learning from his manager) to push Lafferty. Naturally, Steve questioned this but must have forgotten about Mr. Riley who must also have learnt something from Davies whilst sending him off. You can't go round asking questions to the opposition players and Steve was also banished to the stands. Surely with no managers on the bench the match should now be abandoned? Isn't there some kind of rule? Okay, maybe not.
When the whistle blew (and then being sent off for being too loud) I was actually quite pleased with the performance as we'd controlled virtually the whole of the second half. However, it's blatant where our problems lie as we had a striker on the left wing for the first half and a centre-half at right-back. Hopefully Jones can return soon to fill the left wing void and there's even Branchy who can play there but it's clear that, if we do add to the squad before midnight tonight, a right-back should be priority.
I'm going for Kyle as man of the match. James O'Connor also had a decent game but, as he did against Stoke, he seemed to fade. Kyle was constantly looking to attack the defence and get shots in and he's certainly looking no short of confidence at the moment. We've definitely got a gem if he can keep developing.