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25th April

Millwall      3       Lee Gregory 26, 36 (pen), 50 (pen)

Derby County   3  Tom Ince 42, Chris Martin 70 (pen), Jeff Hendrick 85

This game was overshadowed by the sad sad news prior to kick off of the death of Colin Bloomfield.

Always a warm and engaging broadcaster and clearly a much loved & respected colleague & friend the news hung over the day heavily. I have huge respect and admiration for Ed, Owen and Craig for managing to hold it together on Radio Derby when remembering their friend prior to kick off

A further reminder of the trivial nature of football was the minute’s silence before kick off in memory of those that lost their lives in the Bradford City disaster in 1985.

It is difficult, therefore, to get too upset at yet another series of self inflicted defensive disasters in this game which required another Tom Ince inspired rescue act to scrabble together a point against a limited team.

It is unbelievable that we have scored seven goals in the last two away games yet only taken two points from those games.

Like any other Rams fan I am finding it difficult to think of new ways of describing the awfulness of our defence in recent weeks, no matter which players happen to be on duty.

The season has gone off the rails since we beat Charlton so comfortably 2-0 on 24th February – an awful run of performances and a complete absence of defensive structure since then.

Since that Tuesday night our record is –

P 12  W 2  D 6  L 4  F 17  A 20  Pts 12

Which is bang on relegation form.

Injuries of course have affected us – but the complete loss of confidence and competence when we are defending surely has deeper roots than missing personnel.

There are probably as many theories around about why this has happened as there are Rams fans but a lot of my favourite theories centre on Steve McClaren and what has or has not happened in the last three months involving Newcastle United.

Something has happened for sure, a feeling that was personally only strengthened by what I saw and heard at the fans Q&A at the iPro last Thursday evening.

We were hit again by absences when selecting the team for this game. In addition to the injuries that Craig Bryson and Zak Whitbread picked up in the Huddersfield game Darren Bent was also missing owing to illness.

With Chris Martin only fit enough to be on the bench this meant the return of Conor Sammon to the starting eleven. The scarcity of options for the Rams was also illustrated by Lee Naylor returning to the bench.

Milwall came out strong, walking the line between firm and foul with early robust challenges on Stephen Warnock (twice) Will Hughes and Simon Dawkins.

Real opportunities in the first 25 minutes were absent in a game where the Rams were comfortably gaining control but just when we should have been looking to press on we unerringly found the self destruct button once again.

Lee Grant messed up a clearance from a back pass finding Millwall’s Lee Gregory, Craig Forsyth proved unable to make a goal line clearance as the ball bobbled in.

Ten minutes later, with the assistance of the referee, we were at it again. Jeff Hendrick surrendered possession too easily and Milwall broke on us, Richard Keogh made an excellent block in the area but the ball flew from his foot onto his hand and a nonsensical penalty was immediately awarded.

Lee Gregory put the spot kick away and we were 2-0 down.

Rams working on the now established principle of starting to go for it only when we’re two goals down pulled a goal back just before the break.

We won a free kick on the edge of the area and resident rescue act Tom Ince belted it in for his eleventh goal of his loan spell. Goodness knows where we would be without him and his goals in this later part of the season.

Whatever was said at half time clearly had as much impact upon our defence as all of the good advice and instruction they’ve received over the last few weeks as we went 3-1 down within five minutes.

Another self inflicted wound as Lee Grant gave away an unnecessary corner and shortly afterwards Jeff Hendrick wrestled Nicky Bailey to the ground; the inevitable penalty was awarded and put away by Lee Gregory for his hat-trick.

It was welcome back to Chris Martin who came on after 64 minutes and it was him who pulled us back to 3-2 thanks to a soft penalty we received when Tom Ince tumbled under some contact.

Our equaliser came from some excellent work from half time substitute Johnny Russell and Tom Ince, Ince heading the ball across the box for Jeff Hendrick who volleyed the ball into the top corner with five minutes to go.

There was some unsurprising nonsense from Milwall fans with violent scenes at the end of the game. So much has changed in football over recent years but some things that have remained the same, the unpleasantness of Millwall being one of them.

Another curate’s egg performance then, a point gained but we still require a point from the last game against Reading to secure a place in the play-offs.

If we got that point, and the way we are playing there is no great confidence of that, how would we cope in the play-offs?

That is a thought for a day other than this.

Played GD Pts
1. Watford 45 +41 88
2. AFC Bournemouth 44 +47 84
3. Middlesbrough 45 +31 84
4. Norwich City 45 +38 83
5. Ipswich Town 45 +19 78
6. Derby County 45 +32 77
7. Brentford 45 +16 75
8. Wolves 45 +12 75