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| Your Report added at 18:15:30|
I think that few of us slept well last night, turning the events of the game over and over. This time of the year is as much about character as it is about football, and the character we forged in last year’s epic relegation scrap is turning into incredibly useful armour this time round.
Derby’s opening goal was like some kind of weird training ground exercise, full of clever runs and unexpected passes. This fluidity and movement tore Nottingham Forest to shreds, and was coupled with a strong pressing game in the first half, prohibiting us from getting a foothold. In contrast, our response was to focus on shape out of possession, allowing the Rams time and space to develop a tempo.
When Sam Allardyce plays loathsome negative football, the destruction forms a coherent part of an overall game plan. Derby’s negativity was their undoing. The first half became quite stop-start, and the interruptions for the many injury breaks prevented them establishing a rhythm and enabled us to get to half-time very much in the game.
It was manifestly obvious that Bryson, Hendrick and company were systematically trying to cripple Jonny Williams, and that Chris Martin was performing some form of Grant Holt tribute act in doing the same to Christoph Berra. “Martin’s certainly got the crowd going” was MrsH’s comment after he hacked into Berra on the half-hour mark.
Mick was accompanied by 16,000+ of us in his half-time conversation with the referee as they left the pitch. Derby fans on their forum thought that he had performed some weird Yorkshire-Irish alchemy on him, tuning him into a ‘homer’ for the second half, but he was completely correct to point out what was happening.
I felt that the referee had a quixotic game. He ducked two red card decisions, but was happy to dole out fussy yellow cards, like a magistrate giving the same community service orders to different people for burning a house down and putting the bins out on the wrong day. Yet he allowed play to flow, and was not kidded by the Rams proclivity to collapse in a heap every three minutes.
Derby fans were right in saying that their crossing was poor and set piece play was not their strong suit. As the game wore on, it became clear that they had one tactic, albeit an effective one, breaking with movement from midfield. We were at our obdurate best when the game opened out in the second half.
I thought that Hyam was in the vanguard in breaking up their play, but I don’t think that he is a playmaker. When he wins the ball, as he often does, we need to give him a simple option and work to his strengths, as there was a chance that the opposition could receive his hard earned possession straight back.
Wordsworth was no angel. Just as Derby were setting about our danger-men, he gave George Thorne, the Rams holding midfielder, a rare old evening, and was lucky to get away with ‘a few words’ late in the game when a yellow was an viable option for one challenge. Thorne is a decent player, but faded from the game in the manner than Jonny Williams didn’t.
It is pointless adding to the superlatives elsewhere about Jonny on the website. However, there was one facet worth highlighting, and that is to watch his positioning. He has an instinct to read where play is going to break, and was available so, so frequently to link play in the centre or pop up on the by-line.
He was being flung around like a rag-doll at times, but five minutes from the end pinched a ball just inside our half that he had no right winning, and you could see the belief radiate around his team mates.
Mick must have spotted on the Derby match videos that they switch off at free kicks. The set piece which delivered our equaliser was the third time we tried that in the game, one from an equally dangerous position in the first half. The Rams defence has been really solid, and it was a tiny detail which enabled us to breach their castle wall.
Palace fans are funny. On their forum last night, some of them were saying that he couldn’t do that in the Premiership. Well, keep believing that boys. It was telling at the end that he and Terry had a massive bear-hug. I think that our assistant manager has been instrumental in transforming his fortunes.
I know and accept that Stephen Hunt can be ragged, but he does give us spark and invention. He is also very good at getting inside the heads of full-backs, and he played an important role last night in keeping Craig Forsyth, who is a real danger at marauding forward, at bay.
I was delighted to see Noublinho using his strength, pace and trickery to cause Derby problems on both flanks when he came on. There was one moment in injury time when, with a break on, he simply stopped with the ball rather than risking a loss of possession, showing great calmness and maturity.
It was so fitting that both our goals were scored by the players who were given the most ‘treatment’ by the opposition. I had said to Mrs H that we were struggling to get anything in the air in attack, whereupon two minutes later a wonderful Cresswell looping corner saw Christoph send the place into pandemonium.
Leaving the ground, I excitedly called my Italian mate Vince, a Napoli supporter who is no stranger to exuberance at football matches. He had been following the game on the radio. “Great result, mate” he said, “but it’s time for Ipswich to stop hiding. You have been stalking the play-off places for a while. Now is the time to strike.”
| Your Report added at 14:04:23|
Confidence is a funny thing. For the first half hour, our energy levels were low and we were clearly playing within ourselves, whereas the Glovers clearly had their tails up. We were giving them time and space in the way they were denying us time and space on the ball.
If Ishmael Miller and James Hayter had brought their ‘A’ game with them, we could so easily have been a goal down in this period. Despite all of their early pressure, Gerkin didn’t have that much to do, as the defence was restricting the Glovers to half chances. Gerkin’s good working relationship with his centre-backs underpins the confidence of the back-four, and I think that this is why Mick goes with him.
Berra in particular had an immense game, for his defending as much as for his goal. Both centre-backs had each set of strikers in their pocket. They dominated them in the air, and matched them on the ground as they didn't really have the pace to frighten us.
The axis of confidence markedly shifted once our goal went in. Suddenly Yeovil were the team in the relegation zone not quite getting the weight right on their passes and yielding us time and space. Whereas in former days and under former managers I would have been praying for half time to consolidate a 40th minute lead, the wind was in our sails and five minutes injury time would have been welcomed.
Although our goal came from a good spell of pressure, it was hardly deserved on the balance of the game at the time. At half-time, my West Country chums and I were looking sheepishly at each other, grateful for a possibly undeserved lead and feeling as if we had found a £50 note on the pavement and should we tell someone about it.
Yeovil fans were grumbling when their strikers were both substituted at half-time, but it was a back-handed compliment from Gary Johnson to Smith and Berra for the manner in which they were contained, as Moore and Hoskins were brought on to “add more mobility.”
The goal loosened off the shackles of the game, and things opened up more in the second half. As the Glovers pressed forward harder for an equaliser, there were times when we started sitting too deeply, with no-one available for an out ball. This would have been asking for trouble against more dangerous opponents.
A word of praise for Skuse and Hyam. There will be more difficult encounters in the coming weeks, but they quickly got a handle on Reuben Palazuelos. The Spaniard showed flashes of his technical and spatial awareness during the Glovers bright opening period, but they had his measure as the game wore on, and he simply wasn’t given the time and space to operate.
By the end of the game, I felt a measure of sympathy for Luke Ayling, the Yeovil right-back. Having had Stephen Hunt run him ragged for an hour, he then had Mings, Cresswell and occasionally Williams keeping him company in the later stages of the game. He could have been helped better by Adam Morgan, the substitute right-midfielder, and I think that Mick spotted this.
Anderson will have slept well last night, having been in a right old game, and having a few bruises from his battle with McAllister who got under his skin at times. Murphy and Ebanks-Blake did well. Although the latter is still shaking off the cobwebs, one senses that it is only a matter of a short amount of time – and a goal – before he gets going.
Then we come to Jonny Williams. When McGoldrick’s knee gave way against Blackpool, I felt that much of this season’s hope went with it. McGoldrick didn’t just bring goals. His footballing brain raised the level of everyone’s creative thinking and often his team mates would raise their game to his level.
Williams brought this magic back to the team, and elevated our game within a few minutes of his arrival. You could see the whole team respond to his energy, hunger and relentless industry. Yeovil did not know how to deal with him at times. It was inspired of Mick to move him into a more central role and bring on Mings who was sprightly and eager to try ideas out.
The endgame was a story of missed chances. It was tempting to think that McGoldrick would have put some of the late chances away, but from where I was standing, it was hard to tell how clear cut they were, and how good Stech’s saves were.
Then they hit the post, or, more accurately, tried to remove the post from its moorings, given the ferocity of Moore’s shot. How many times - Bristol - Birmingham - Burnley - have our hearts sank in the second half as we have watched the net ripple from the opposite end of the field and three quarters of the ground erupt?
For once – mercifully – it was not to be, and it would have been unfair if they had equalised. It is somewhat Irish logic, I know, but we showed the quality and control after the goal that would have merited the goal we hadn’t deserved to score.
On the way home, I worried for Yeovil. They have a small squad, and their strike force was clearly weary after Saturday’s heroics. They may struggle purely because the games come so thick and fast over the next six to eight weeks.
The games will be coming equally thick and fast for us, and I feel that many of our hopes will hang on the resilience of our squad, which has much quality but lacks depth.
Nevertheless, there was so much to take heart from last night. We were bright and full of energy, if a little rough around the edges. There was good rhythm and tempo to our game, especially as it wore on, and then there was this diminutive Welsh wizard who just might give all of us something to dream about.
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