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10th January 2015

Ipswich Town               0                 Derby County    1

                                                            Chris Martin 57

                                                            John Eustace sent off 90

A committed and impressive performance saw the Rams win this crucial Championship match against Ipswich Town, replacing the home team in 2nd place and inflicting upon the Tractor Boys their first defeat in twelve matches.

This felt like a vital and possibly pivotal game in the build up and so it may well prove.

Ipswich were two points ahead of the Rams at kick off. The statement we made in winning at Portman Road sends a message out about our intentions for the rest of the season and was very encouraging following the defeats against Middlesbrough and Leeds United in away games before Christmas.

Being involved in yet another lunch time kick off meant that we could sit back and enjoy the afternoon results which pretty much all fell in our favour as Bournemouth lost for the first time since we beat them in September, Middlesbrough drew and Watford lost making our win even more valuable.

The Rams were unchanged from the last league game, the 2-0 win over Leeds United with Darren Bent taking the place of the now returned to Blackburn Leon Best on the bench.

There were few chances in the whole game but Derby started nervously and presented Ipswich with an opportunity within five minutes as the offside trap broke down but fortunately, for us, Jay Tabb missed.

Our first hint of a chance came on the quarter hour as Jeff Hendrick had a shot blocked and Cyrus Christie fired over. A few minutes later Johnny Russell came close with a free kick he had himself won through his own efforts.

The game settled down after the early nervousness and the Rams showed admirable composure and control for much of the rest of the match with the back four well lead and marshalled by Richard Keogh and Craig Forsyth also having a good game. Cyrus Christie struggled at times though and was put under some pressure defensively.

John Eustace received an early yellow card but continued to discharge his defensive duties well and his presence in the team has a good balancing effect on our midfield with Will Hughes particularly having a good game influencing our play and prompting creatively.

Eustace got away with a sly barge on David McGoldrick just before the break however, which if the referee had seen otherwise might have lead to big trouble for the veteran midfielder and us. McGoldrick was booked for his responding foul and the half soon came to an end with Mick McCarthy doing his usual angry bullying act towards the officials as they left the pitch.

Having seen McCarthy pull off this trick before there were a few murmurs of concern about whether Ipswich would subsequently get every decision in the second half, but due credit to referee Kevin Wright who had a good game, including not awarding a penalty to Ipswich when the ball struck Keogh on the chest early in the second half despite howls of protest from the home players and crowd.

Shortly afterwards came the key moment of the game, Cyrus Christie cleared the ball and Ipswich centre half Tommy Smith misjudged the ball allowing Chris Martin to nip in and clinically put away his 18th goal of the season, and also the 100th goal of his career in his 303rd game. (Interesting to note that in the last season and a half our number 9 has scored 43 goals in 82 games underlining his importance to us yet again)

After our goal we continued on the front foot and carved out a number of half chances. Jordan Ibe worked hard and showed a pleasing appetite for tracking back and Johnny Russell gave his all as ever for the cause.

Despite the high stakes involved Ipswich never really upped the ante and threatened after we scored. Inevitably as the clock wore down there was an element of increased pressure on our goal but few if any clear chances were carved out and Lee Grant was calm and in control of his area.

This reflects well on the professional job that we did in winning this game, Steve McClaren spoke after the game of our “maturity” in seeing the game out and that seemed spot on.

Because of a clash of heads that took Jeff Hendrick out of the game we had 6 minutes of injury time to navigate and navigate with ten men after John Eustace received his marching orders for pulling back McGoldrick as he threatened to break clear. But the 6 minutes passed without further alarm and an important away win was banked.

As well as all the positive points already mentioned it is great to see the return of the clean sheets that so underpinned our best run earlier in the season – today was our fourth in a row and is another reason to be optimistic as we prepare to face the noisy neighbours in a week.