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14th April

Derby County     4         Craig Bryson 3, Tom Ince 28, Darren Bent 29, 65(pen)

Blackpool            0

This proved to be just the game we needed after recent disappointments and frustrations.

A relegated Blackpool suffering the kind of off-field traumas to draw the sympathies of right minded football fans everywhere put up minimal resistance and also created one of the goals for us along the way as the Rams sauntered to a 4-0 win.

The match was played on a beautiful spring evening and the warm sunshine that bathed the iPro was a joy to behold. Pitchside the temperature was positively balmy and had me thinking idly what is must be like to watch your football in La Liga as I considered the latest changes to a Rams starting line up.

Four changes today as Zak Whitbread, Ryan Shotton, Simon Dawkins and Jesse Lingard started replacing Raul Albentosa, Craig Forsyth, Johnny Russell and Chris Martin.

Another new back four line up for this game with Richard Keogh moving back to centre half alongside Whitbread, Shotton returning to right back and Stephen Warnock carrying on at left back.

Blackpool posed little threat and were poor ( not that this has stopped us struggling before) but before the value of the clean sheet we earned is this game is totally written off it should be remembered that the Seasiders only lost 2-3 to Ipswich Town last Saturday, the Tractor Boys needing a last minute winner to seal the win.

As has been the case for a few games we started well on the front foot. Unlike recent games though, we scored an early goal which set the tone for the rest of the game.

Craig Bryson picked up the ball in midfield in the third minute and pressed forward unchallenged to the edge of the area letting fly with a strong, but bobbling shot that evaded keeper and Elliot Parish and hit the net.

Bryson’s celebration was very obvious and very pointed “shhhhhh” to all comers which suggests that all is not well with the midfielder, though this is no surprise to us who have seen but a shadow of the player who bagged 16 goals for us last season.

Tom Ince was busy and threatening and a lovely shimmy on the quarter hour saw him free up space and shoot over. His “I’m not celebrating “goal celebration was not long delayed however as he put us 2-0 up on 28 minutes.

For want of a better description our second goal was created by Ryan Shotton’s fake long throw as he gave every impression of preparing to fling the ball into the area but instead went short to Ince who dropped a shoulder, lost a defender and deliciously passed the ball into the far corner for his eighth goal of his loan spell.

Our third goal took a further 30 seconds or so to arrive as Blackpool kicked off and Charles Dunne catastrophically misjudged his pass to Darren O’Dea and served only to play in Darren Bent who gleefully slotted home to make it 3-0.

The relaxed air around the game made it easy for Rams fans to express our support for the hardy band of around 100 Blackpool fans who had made the trip south. Numerous chants inviting Karl Oyston to take his leave from the club were aired as well as the amusing “Oyston for Forest”

It was good to see us support fellow fans who have seen their club abused by those who have a responsibility to run the club and set up for relegation even before the season had started.

To read some of the Twitter reactions of Blackpool fans after the game was genuinely heart warming as shivers of recognition when thinking back to our own traumas of the past.

The second half was routine, even including our efforts to gift Blackpool a goal. Jesse Lingard skied a very good chance but looked threatening and, to be honest, seems to offer us more at the moment than the lion hearted Johnny Russell.

Ryan Shotton earned the fourth goal, fouled in the area as he rampaged along and Darren Bent walloped the resulting penalty into the top corner for his twelfth goal since January – an impressive return considering that we are still working out how best to play to his strengths.

I was a little concerned at Jeff Hendrick’s substitution – some bellowed exchanges with Paul Simpson preceded the change and to me he seemed to be gingerly holding his side / stomach as he left the pitch.

Surely not another injury?

I was pleased to see Zak Whitbread play and feel he offers us some defensive know how allied to an ability to play a decent pass. Yes, the opposition was poor but Ryan Shotton played well and Stephen Warnock looked much less ragged than on Saturday.

Jamie Ward made a late appearance and almost managed to start a fight when going in hard on one of the Blackpool players, A frustrated Peter Clarke looked like he wanted to punch someone, anyone, he did not seem too fussed, in response.

You can always rely on Jamie to add a little niggle to proceedings.

After the game Steve McClaren, when explaining the absence of Chris Martin, said that our iconic number nine had experienced “a setback” in training.

Considering our luck this season when it comes to injuries “a setback” could mean anything from a stubbed toe to having been abducted by aliens who have promised to bring him back in “2-4 weeks”

Hopefully he will return (again) soon.

As is traditional in recent weeks every team above us in the league that was playing won their games meaning that fifth place is looking about as good as it will get for us this season.

Another spin at the playoffs is not to be scorned but we need to recover the momentum and form that took us higher in the league against opponents who will not be as obliging as Blackpool were.

Played GD Pts
1. AFC Bournemouth 43 +47 83
2. Norwich City 43 +39 82
3. Middlesbrough 43 +31 81
4. Watford 42 +36 79
5. Derby County 43 +32 75
6. Ipswich Town 43 +18 74
7. Brentford 43 +14 71
8. Wolves 43 +11 71