Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Derby donkeys

Derby County 3 - 0 Newcastle Utd

"I really like it when Newcastle play Derby."

Not my words, but instead those of a smug Rams fan of my acquaintance who doubtless took great delight in texting me after our fifteen match unbeaten run was savagely ended last night.

I think it's fair to say that I, on the other hand, don't. Every trip to Pride Park I've made has been marred, either by listless performances on the pitch or the delights of a football hooligan for company (no, not Ben), and in recent years our performances against the Rams have been characterised by our charitable gifts of three points to the home side.

Last night was sadly no exception.

Showing far more adventure than he displayed against Leicester (when the team were there for the taking), Chris Hughton stuck with the same team who tore Cardiff apart on Friday night. Unfortunately, away from home that team was perhaps too naive, too attacking to weather the assault of a home side buoyed by recent results (notably the win against bitter rivals Nottingham Forest).

When Rob Hulse scored Derby's first, on 40 minutes, we still had a chance to get back in to the game, and chances for Wayne Routledge and Kevin Nolan suggested we might just do that (not to mention Bigger Lad getting the ball into the home side's net, only for the game to be hauled back for a foul in the build-up).

However, once Spiderman was adjudged to have fouled Michael Tonge in the area, and Kris Commons had stroked home the resultant penalty, the game always looked beyond us. Shaun Barker's goal merely served to put the final nail in the coffin of the result, and showed that our defence, shorn of Taylor, Coloccini and Enrique, isn't quite as resolute as the one which featured in most of our run of fifteen unbeaten league games.

With the players having flown from Newcastle to East Midlands Airport for the match, it's only to be hoped that they are taking a National Express coach with a broken toilet back to Newcastle by way of punishment for such an abject performance.

The fact that West Brom won by two goals meant that they leapfrogged us at the top of the table - Forest's defeat at the hands of Coventry being the only silver lining to a particularly nasty looking cloud.

Our game against Swansea on Saturday now takes on an added significance - win and we will go back to the top of the league, at least for a few hours (depending on goal difference), but lose and we'll give the Baggies a chance to open up a lead, and encourage Forest to try and close the gap between second and third.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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