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30th December

Derby County              2                  Leeds United                     0

Alex Mowatt (o.g.) 41

Jake Buxton 48

Rarely will the Rams have won a game as easily as this post Christmas affair and the fact that it was against old rivals Leeds United made it all the more satisfying.

Finding ourselves on TV again this match came at the end of the latest round of Championship games that had seen Bournemouth continue their winning streak but Middlesbrough and Brentford drop points making this both an opportunity for us to ease away from them a little but also a requirement to keep pace with the Cherries.

One change for the Rams saw the free from suspension Jake Buxton replace Ryan Shotton and I was not alone in greeting that news with a smile. As well as his comfort on the left side of the central defensive partnership (a position that the very right footed Shots does seem to struggle with) Bucko brings to the team a determination and will to win that we do miss when he is absent.

I am hard pressed to think of a more improved footballer in recent times to have passed through Derby – consider this is a player that did not make it at Mansfield Town but is now a more than competent Championship defender who seems to have stepped up another notch since the arrival of Steve McClaren et.al

A 31,000 plus crowd saw us control this game from start to finish and while we did not carve out chance after chance we created enough to have won a second consecutive game 4-0 had our finishing been sharper.

Leeds looked what they are – a poor team struggling to find an identity in the face of constant change and upheaval and the only negative from me in this game was the frustration at having lost to this mob at the end of November and how those extra three points would have us joint top with Bournemouth today.

Will Hughes had an excellent game, prompting and looking to create. His dangerous cross across the face of the Leeds goal panicked Leeds’s Alex Mowatt into putting the ball into his own net just before half time and then just after the break the returning Bucko freed himself to plant a header home from Jeff Hendrick’s free kick….and it was game over already.

We did carve out a number of half chances after the second goal with Leeds’ keeper Marco Silvestri making a couple of smart saves.

Johnny Russell yet again gave a tireless performance of both attack and supporting the defence and it was a feature of our play that both wide men snuffed out any potential Leeds attacking ploys very effectively.

Jordan Ibe looked dangerous and worried the Yorkshire rearguard regularly and the balance of the team seemed much better than in the recent past. Whether this is completely down to the re-introduction of John Eustace and Bucko is open to question but I think they have made a difference in these last two games.

One of the things I admire about our management set up is their willingness to change things when necessary.

The reintroduction of Eustace after it seemed that Omar Mascarell would be given more time to adapt to the challenge of playing the pivotal DM position and the return of Bucko for this game after it seemed that Ryan Shotton was the favoured player both show a flexibility that will serve us well.

While we were seeing off the old enemy the Tractor Boys were trundling to a 3-0 win over Charlton to keep themselves two points ahead of us in 2nd. Our next league game is against Mick McCarthy’s well drilled troops and while that 10th January game in Suffolk is too early to be season defining it would be a hell of a statement from us if we were to win it.

The January transfer window creaks open this week and there are rumours swirling around about the imminent arrival of Darren Bent at the iPro for the rest of the season, possibly to replace the returning Leon Best.

If true this surprises me for a number of reasons (wages, his fit into the way we play to name but two) – he does seem very much a “play on the last defender’s shoulder” type of striker, very different to what we have.

But…. he is an experienced, still pacey front man who scores goals so could give us those different options that we lack, something different to what we have (and without being unkind he cannot give us less than Leon Best)

So Southport on Saturday and despite my years I have never seen the Rams playing them, so am looking forward to that. The Sandgrounders are bringing nigh on 3,000 fans to Derby so there is a proper cup tie atmosphere to look forward to.

A very Happy New Year to fellow Rams – COYR !