Andy Munro looks back on a disappointing few days at St Andrews.
It was supposed to be the bounce bac’ game against a team who hadn’t won since, it seems, Nigel Clough’s dad was in charge. In fairness to Chris H, he went for two up front and two wingers aiming for a positive result.
Derby won the toss and, annoyingly, opted to play towards the Railway End, denying the Tilton Roaders the usual second half floorshow. Early on we spluttered a bit but it was entertaining end to end stuff with both sides going close. Eventually Blues made the breakthrough following some impressive play from Andros Townsend. A shot was fired across for our Norwegian ‘Woods’ to open the scoring.
In the second half, we started brightly and it was no surprise, after some great work again from Townsend, that Marlon K made it two to silence the usual away fan taunts. At that point I unzipped my back pack to take out the dressing gown, pipe and slippers to enjoy the rare luxury of a stress free last thirty minutes as Blues cruised home. Unfortunately this wasn’t to be after a free header reduced the arrears. Boaz Myhill could possibly have done better in trying to keep it out.
It got worse as Derby sprung our offside trap (or so the linesman thought) and suddenly their fans encapsulated it all with the chant, “Two up and you mucked it up” …or something similar. Blues pressed forward for the winner but never really convinced with Ziggy bursting through to no effect and Nathan Redmond unfairly being given just ten minutes to try and make an impression. Although we had one off the line in the dying seconds, it just wasn’t to be.
Now this isn’t a crisis and I still think that we’ll make the play offs which, in the circumstances, will be a great achievement. Despite this there were still a few Tilton Road muppets having a whinge.
As regards the players, the defence looked more vulnerable than usual although great credit goes to new boy Ramage, out of position at full back but as solid as a rock. However, with him and Spector instead of the ‘naturals’ in the shape of Carr and Murphy, we definitely lacked the usual fluidity going forward in wide areas. This obviously limited the effectiveness of Burke and Townsend although the latter had a very impressive game and a hand in both goals. The centre of midfield wasn’t functioning as well with the returning N’Daw a bit off the pace but that will, no doubt, come. Mutch, though, lacked any real spark and, to be honest, we missed Keith Fahey.
Up front, our Norwegian international started brightly but flattered to deceive while Marlon put away his goal with aplomb although still looked lethargic at times. Ziggy, meanwhile, was more an enema than an enigma when he came on and that four goal salvo now seems like a distant dream…surely it wasn’t??
Then our dream of three Wemberlee appearances was distilled down to a potential one following our defeat to the Chelski Blues. I suppose it was predictable that AVB would lose his game of Russian Roulette just in time for our cup-tie. While Di Matteo may not be exactly a Mourinho or Clough, he was certainly more likely to secure respect and therefore enhanced performances from the set of prima donnas that are Chelski. It seems a senior manager that’s done it at top level is now almost a requirement to run a top level club.
Anyway, to the game itself, and it was slightly disappointing that our Blues fielded an almost second string side. Admittedly some players were cup-tied and some injured but one would have thought Chris H could have taken it more seriously. Putting on Burke as a makeshift fullback later on certainly wasn’t! Yet if there had been a supporter poll, I reckon the vast majority would have opted to go for the win, and a step nearer Wemberlee, with all guns blazing even if it meant risking a play-off/promotion place.
However, Blues started off confidently and looked composed at the back despite the absence of first choice full backs and Caldwell. There was a moment of clumsiness by N’Daw in his unaccustomed fullback role but credit to both the back line and the midfield for keeping the shape.
Up front, Ziggy had one of his better games and could have easily netted. While not red hot he was certainly more than luke warm – maybe he’s the man for the big occasion and perhaps sees it as a shop window, even though for most Championship matches he’s more like the shop dummy.
A second half purple patch by Chelsea did for us and in a few minutes we were trailing two nil. It could have been three as the tide turned but Colin Doyle again distinguished himself with another penalty save. He will make a lovely first choice keeper for somebody. Maybe we should keep him, give Myhill back to the Baggies and then demand our rightful £5 million plus if they want to keep Foster.
As I said after the Derby result,I t’s not a disaster but not winning can become a habit so three points in the next game is vital if we are to regain our momentum. Chris H said he was proud of his players in their defeat but I can’t help feeling it was an opportunity lost.
Anyway, with financial mayhem rumoured to be round the corner it’s a case of ‘Don’t panic Mr Mainwaring’ and continuing to trust in our excellent manager to steer the ship during these difficult times.