On the Rampage
So here it is, the start of a new season. Tinged with all of the usual excitement but also worries. Are my team ready? What am I thinking trying to be so attacking? Could I have done more to get some fresh faces in? Have I honestly just signed a Hearts reject and that's it? It's Brighton first, they're going to tan me and the save will be dead. Why did I call myself Clough?
These fixtures will be the largest barometer of where we are at as a club, much more so than pre-season. In typical Championship style it's hectic with 6 games this month plus a possible second cup game. Relentless.
Derby County 3-2 Brighton HA (Champ. G1)
Nugent (34,43) Pallardo (75) – Hemed (37,83)
A feast of goals that is something that Derby fans may need to get used to this season. 3 clear cut chances apiece, our 2 half chances to their 1 and we rattled the woodwork too – in total 38 shots combined! Our first two goals came from good pressing winning the ball back then quickly moving it forward to our attackers who drove towards the goal. In between, perhaps a sign of things to come. A bodged clearance was lifted straight back over our defence into the path of Hemed, poor marking and a lack of pace to rectify the poor concentration. A scruffy goal from debutant Pallardo had us cruising but panic nearly set in when Brighton caught us trying to be too cute at the back late on.
Carlisle 0-2 Derby County (EFL Cup R1)
/ Keogh (43) Vydra (48)
A heavily rotated team did the business but it took a while to get the breakthrough goal. I let Keogh atone for his error and he did. We were massively on top all game peppering Carlisle's goal. Keogh showed his worth by heading in a free kick lofted into the box to put us 1-0 up. Shortly after the break our lead was doubled through a fantastic finish from Vydra. Numerous direct attacks were recycled back to Pallardo sitting deep and intelligent passing gave Vydra the space to run at the defence, he took one man on before rifling the ball into the back of the net from the edge of the area. It was a case of how many more were we going to win by but it finished without any more goals.
Barnsley 3-3 Derby County (Champ. G2)
James (36,50) Hammill (58) / Hughes (4,49) Nugent (48)
Two league games in and I'm already starting players on 90% fitness. This could be a cause for concern. An entertaining first half was nothing compared to the hectic second half. Hughes got us off to a flyer with a perfect goal for his instructions – he was involved in the build up play before spraying the ball wide and moving forwards, the ball was drilled into Nugent on the edge of the area and Hughes carried his run past Nugent, received the ball, and finished coolly. Brilliant. Soon after Matty James on loan from Leicester scored a worldy before we looked to wrap up the game. Early second half goals from Hughes and Nugent put us 3-1 up. Unfortunately we allowed Barnsley back into the game with poor game management. Still, at this stage of the season I'd rather find out our weaknesses before I try and tinker.
Preston NE 0-2 Derby County (Champ. G3)
/ Nugent (p69) Butterfield (90+2)
Preston lined up in a very negative 3-4-3 – three Cbs plus 2 Wbs and 2 Dms then a front three of LAM, RAM and ST. Never seen that formation before. Maybe they were scared of our potency in front of goal? As you can guess we huffed and puffed for a while struggling against their defensive shape but we were breaking them down. Nugent missed a couple of sitters and finally made the breakthrough after being brought down in the area. I don't like scoring through penalties or set pieces when we are struggling but they all count. We deserved to be ahead though without question and made the scoreline look better late on. A worry is 15 long shots suggesting a lack of patience in the final third - a by product of A) Preston's shape and B) our very high tempo and mentalities.
Derby County 4-1 Aston Villa (Champ. G4)
Johnstone (O.G. 27) Shackell (59) Nugent (73) Vydra (90+2) / Meyler (20)
Wow, what a result. I feared the worst when Meyler opened the scoring with a howitzer on 20 minutes, the second worldy we've conceded so far. I shouldn't have worried though as we battered Villa all game. Chance after chance. I really like how our forwards press and force a long clearance which we pick up and quickly build an attack. 50% long shots again but not nearly as bad as away from home.
Bolton W 2-1 Derby County (EFL Cup R2)
Le Fondle (75,89) / Russell (85)
Another rotated team. Frustrating. We were as leaky as a sieve but the balance of chances favoured us. Nugent had a mare but Bolton deserved to be in front on the basis of how rubbish we were. I brought Russell on and he equalised so I thought great, we'll go on to win now as they tire. It wasn't to be and The Fondler bagged a sickening last gasp winner.
Burton Albion 2-0 Derby County (Champ. G5)
Atkins (73) Naylor (90)
A local derby. Up against Nigel Clough who may be my brother, or my cousin, I haven't worked that out just yet. Two Sunderland lads with something to prove. I didn't prove anything. Third time we've failed to win away from home. A very scrappy match with not many shots at 14 (compare that with the earlier game). Only 7 on target, more long shots for us too. We didn't deserve to win but going 1-0 down was harsh. What was harsher was them popping up with a second late on. We don't like it on the road but we'll move on.
3rd after 5 games even with two sloppy games is better than I thought we would be so I'm pleased. I've seen enough to do something about these long shots so I've added a PI for the front 4 and attacking DM to shoot less often. Thought about leaving the ST to do his own thing. A disappointment is the EFL as a win against Bolton would have met expectations. I may need every bit of help that I can get to keep board confidence high. Adds pressure to the FA Cup draw.
Fairly happy with my squad but is a demanding playing style. I just hope we can keep fitness levels high over the 46 games. Another 5 games next month even with International break with the pick probably being Newcastle at home.