|linhdi added 15:27 - May 7|
Mullet added 17:38 - May 7
An unfamiliar back four saw young Kenlock again deputise for the missing Knudsen ahead of POTY Bart. In front of him was fellow youngster McDonnell, Bishop joining him with Skuse in a midfield three that sometimes became a four thanks to Sears as a left-sided outlet, Feeney sparked down the right whilst McGoldrick buzzed in the middle.
Despite all that spending from deep pots of gold Derby failed to glitter in the sun. After two minutes Kenlock was caught inside from a move sweeping towards him. Hendricks' inward pass was turned at goal forcing Bart to save low. It was a brief period where the hosts playoff hopes secure before kick-off had slim chance of changing between 4th and 5th.
Whilst that become moot as the Tigers mauled Rotherham in the meantime, Town set about stalking the Rams. Whilst the speed and desire was evident in Derby, Town were relaxed and set about the game with nothing to prove.
Good link up between the young midfield allowed the game to move and flow. Sears forcing a fine save from Carson on the left earned Town one of several corners and glimpses of a lead. Whilst both penalty areas often ended up crowded thanks to countering football, McGoldrick made a good go of testing his opponents first as the move was reversed eventually Ince would blast over in one of several wasteful humps from distance from the home side.
There was a sense as Town worked we saw what we might have won in squinting bursts of sun-kissed play. Bishop looked every bit the senior player he should have been this campaign, hustling and marshalling whilst Skuse was familiar in his contempt for the runs and reckoning of other teams' players so often dispossessed and left disappointed. But the real boon was our number 10.
Back for some time, but today back more to his best. McGoldrick can bend a ball, a run and somehow even time to pick his moment to pounce. Setting off Feeney in a sleek move that saw the loanee dance and jink down the line before drilling low across goal and Bishop was denied in a goalmouth scramble. The circle of strife that was our injury-plagued season encapsulated a lost past in that brush with glory.
It was a half of football where both sides had their moments, but around the 20 minute mark Town were in full flow. McDonnell drifted in and out of the game but not too far from Kenlock and his highlight came when he raked a beautiful long pass across the pitch and it dropped just a yard too far for Feeney to make use of down the line.
When Derby applied some pressure though, it was unfortunate that again the ref cracked have looked excellent for the opening 15. Once when awarding handball against the midfielder for simply being too close to a blasted effort, and then booking him towards the end of the half for winning a 50:50 a little too athletically.
In the former incident Chambers was booked for pointing out the wall was placed roughly 15 yards back, only to see the effort smashed over by Martin. The latter one saw McDonnell himself carded rather breathtakingly once Town had already gotten ahead too.
When one considers that Town's lead came from another good spell of football and didn't result in a booking let alone the clear red for Keogh it is a wonder to think how often Derby finish with more men against Town in recent seasons, than seems correct.
The Irish international was the last to catch Teddy Bishop not long after Chambers had been cautioned. Town had gone on the offensive and as Teddy skipped into the box and was through to face Carson, his legs were ripped from under him. The ref took an eternity to point to the spot.
Blue smoke billowed from the back of the stand. Amidst the chaos and confusion and a cartoon red bucket being passed from hi-viz to hi-viz the bumfluffed offender was bumrushed and escorted out just before Carson also went the wrong way. Oh David McGoldrick, how we've missed singing your name as you raise an arm aloft in celebration. 1-0 Town and all was well.
With McDonnell soon booked and Bart tipping the free-kick away it was finally Keogh's turn to see his ass and then some lenient form of justice. Town had attacked far better today than in recent weeks, but again McGoldrick was given the ball with a lot of running and a lot of men to beat. Taking on three of them with fleet foot and flowing intent, it was left to Keogh to recklessly chop him down as he looked to threaten the goal.
Another peacekeeping intermission ensued as the Rams circled the ref and their own shadows in outrage and again red was not administered when the rules call for it. Half time soon came, the best moments belonged to a mix of both sides. Skuse aggressively cutting out one move, was countered by Chambers being cheekily backheeled against by Hughes for corner. Such was the even nature of an end of season dead rubber.
When the second half came out neither did Skuse who was replaced by Hyam. Presumably a knock the reason. Keogh too made like his luck and failed to run out. A reshuffle saw Buxton take his place at the back.
Tactically both sides twitched rather than switched too much. Realising perhaps that Kenlock was a rookie, the wingers swapped again and he was charged with keeping out Ince and beyond him Christie. There's no doubt in my mind he showed himself an able player. One move midway into the second half saw Myles step up and stand-out. Winning back the ball and interplaying with his senior colleagues to beat his man twice before letting McGoldrick take the move forward. In the mean time he did well to shadow and see out much of what was put in front of him.
Town's lack of stability in the middle must have told after maybe ten minutes, when Mick pulled McDonnell in for Douglas. The young Irishman looked as green as you might expect but didn't disgrace himself with the odd good pass and tough tackle. A summer may yet see him bloom.
Derby had maybe three efforts off target from Bryson and the gravity-sensitive Martin who for once hit the deck trying to win something other than the ref's attention. The bag of pipes, gristle and moans headed way wide from a corner. His last contribution would be to get a silly booking for trying to bully Hyam before being replaced for Darren Bent.
It is a topsy-turvy world when such sheer bestial power is favoured over the likes of the former Town favourite. At the same juncture Teddy took his bow as Town fans took to their feet and roared him off and Pitman on. Mick moved his men to a stricter 4-2-3-1 that we saw so often this season.
Kenlock had his moment of glory in a half that saw Town push forward but fail to land much on target. Derby meanwhile bombed forward and bombarded the defence with balls that span in the glare of the sun all too often. Bart was often charged with clearing up rather than punching clear as Bent in particular found it hard to spring an offside trap so well oiled between Smith and Berra.
Whilst McGoldrick danced and Sears and Pitman produced able back up and support to his efforts. It was really a nasty incident that saw the game roll into a long and lazy 8 minutes of added time. Douglas who had sat deep and dug the ball out of the middle for much of his appearance, was challenged by Thorne in the Town box following a scrappy bit of play. When the Blue walked away unscathed but all around called for the stretcher, not for the first time did it look like someone's season was over due to injury after coming off worst against a McCarthy midfielder.
Derby finally down to ten men yet again, but in all the wrong fashion. Maybe the Gods of football have a sense of humour? Whatever their mistakes, Town made their advantage count for little more than comfort. Stroking the ball forward and working nice runs that allowed Chambers to join the forays forward for the first time all afternoon and supply the again impressive and industrious Feeney to feed the strikers.
Overall when the game ended, and the season with it, the massive applause and songs of praise rang out loud and long. Just like that day on the terrace of Griffin Park all those months ago. The spreading warmth of Spirit in the Sky and Super Mick McCarthy between Ipswich Til I die and so many more felt like the lifeblood of a fan base getting its feeling back after months of regret and recriminations trickled down the trouserlegs of what might have been.
Despite all the needling and pinning of hopes and blame on circumstance and individuals. A win might have been taken and deserved this time, but as Town sit 7th, 5 points clear, that game back in August was the start of so much good and bad that coloured another Championship campaign. Chambers fisted, McGoldrick waved, Tommy smiled and we all walked away. So long, but so soon until we go again. Here's to 2016/17 and another year of wondering.
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