I rather enjoyed last weekend because we weren’t playing and the news of a possible takeover gave us all a bit of a boost but this evening we’re back to the harsh reality of actually playing again. Derby are in a play-off spot and will be strong opposition while we’ll no doubt play like we usually do. The injury to Asoro is a blow and with one goal in the last four games we need all the fire-power we can get and Fletcher certainly doesn’t look like he’s going to score soon. Burton lost this afternoon and Barnsley only drew at home so we could make up some ground on them but I can’t really see it happening. Cameron Jerome and David Nugent are back for Derby and I think they’ll cause us a lot of problems. I’m hoping to watch the game on the box in my favourite bar but I’m not sure if they’ll actually be showing it. Anyway, my match prediction is 3-1 to Derby.
I got to Bradley’s Spanish Bar, just off Oxford Street, about twenty minutes before kick-off and got ensconced at the bar with a pint of Mahou and a good view of the telly. There were no big surprises in the starting line-up, which had Gooch Fletcher and McGeady upfront-ish, but Maja was on the bench as was Lualua. On seeing our position in the table the bar manager said, “I didn’t know it was that bad, Ian!” But it’s even worse than it looks. There was no sound on the TV and nobody else was watching the screen as we kicked off.
We had a great move in the second minute when a through ball found Fletcher running towards the edge of their box but he let it get a little too far ahead of him and the ricochet from the clearance bounced off him and over the bar. Derby won the first corner two minutes later and Camp hardly instilled confidence by flapping around but no danger ensued. We won our first corner in the ninth minute and from a Honeyman shot our main man OG, in the shape of Forsyth, was there to head it neatly past Carson to put us ahead. A stat appeared onscreen saying that we’d never lost this season when we’d scored first. Could that really be us they were talking about? We were looking pretty comfortable actually with the occasional alarming mispass of course just to keep us in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed. We were mainly content to let Derby do most of the pressing while making the odd foray but they never really threatened us in the first half-hour. Ten minutes before the break something most unexpected occurred; not only did we get a second but it was a beaut and it was scored by the much-pilloried (and rightly so most of the time) Fletcher. He intercepted a poor pass in the middle of their half and then held off the attention of three Derby defenders to slot a low shot past Carson. I started to feel a glow and that’s not a football-related feeling I’ve had for a long while. Three minutes before the break Derby pulled one back when we allowed Vydra too much space in the box and he lashed it in. In stoppage-time Fletcher missed a great chance to get our third when he rushed his shot and hit it wide. Still, you can’t have everything…...where would you put it? Anyway, I was more than happy to take 2-1 at the break.
As we kicked off again I wondered in what unusual way we’d contrive to lose the match but then again perhaps we’d actually get something and the fightback would start here? Four minutes in we won a penalty when Gooch was fouled by Forsyth but the telly in the bar decided to crash and it was left to BBC Sport to let me know that McGeady had put it away to make it 3-1. I really like that Forsyth fella. The TV soon recovered and the replay showed it was a well-taken penna. A guy getting served was intrigued about what I was doing and was very pleased when I told him. “Playing Man City are they?” he said. I had to give him a potted history of our past year when he asked me how we came to be bottom of the second league. The hour-mark passed quite deliciously as the score remained unchanged and we hadn’t really looked like conceding again (apart from when Kone appeared to splatter Jerome in our box but let’s not quibble). Five minutes later it looked like Fletcher was going to have even more of a Roy of the Rovers evening but after a great move his shot came back off the right post. The seventieth minute passed and we were on the offensive. Shortly afterwards O’Shea became our fourth player to be yellow-carded but we still had eleven men on the pitch, which was a bit of a novelty. We still hadn’t used any subs but we were piling up the corners and with fifteen minutes on the clock we got our fourth and it was goal-machine, recently-booked etc John O’Shea who slotted it in from close range when the Derby defence just stood around – maybe they’d been taking a few tips from watching videos of our recent matches? My God, was this still the real world? Surely three points were in the bag. We finally made a couple of switches, bringing on Matthews and Wilson for Oviedo and McNair, and we looked the likelier side to score as we coasted towards the final whistle. Maja came on in stoppage-time but as the seconds ticked away it was all smiles in the rain and we won 4-1.
When I said we’d lose 3-1, I of course meant… oh, fuck it - rejoice!