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21st August

Birmingham City     1       Stephen Gleeson 45

Derby County          1          Johnny Russell 61

This was an exciting game with quality on show from both sides but the wait for a first win for Paul Clement’s Rams goes on.

The game statistics confirm that this was more of the same for Derby in that the Rams had;

63% of the possession

20 attempts on goal

Hit the woodwork four times

But only had Johnny Russell’s superb finish to show for it at the end.

Disappointment at not having won put aside, we looked better again in this game and there were long periods of the game where we attacked with tempo and created a lot of problems for the home team.

Tom Ince had his best game of the season so far, was involved throughout and hit the woodwork.

Birmingham played well and are a good side under Gary Rowett, and they will also be rueing the chances they had. Scott Carson had an excellent game in goal for us and made two great saves in the first ten minutes to keep the Blues at bay.

Richard Keogh had another good game and even a change of full backs for this game, with Cyrus Christie and Craig Forsyth brought into the team for this game, did not disturb that.

The swaps at full back were two of four changes made for this game. Johnny Russell started after his goal against Middlesbrough and Darren Bent made his first start of the season.

Chris Baird moved from right back to accompany George Thorne in the centre of midfield, Stephen Warnock and Andi Weimann dropped to the bench and the injured Jeff Hendrick and Jamie Hanson missed out.

We lined up in a 4-4-2 for this game and perhaps that determined the choice of full backs.

Stephen Warnock had a good game against Boro and Cyrus Christie was not even on the bench on Tuesday night but perhaps the mobility of Craig Forsyth and Christie determined their selection with more required from those positions to support the midfield.

Fozzie had a decent game all over the pitch, providing his usual threat going forward. Christie looked better going forward than defensively at times but this was an improvement from him.

After the home team’s energetic start the Rams hit a purple patch from the quarter hour onwards with opportunities in short order falling to Russell, Darren Bent, Bent (again), Tom Ince, Bent (again) and Ince (again)

The woodwork, good Blues defending, a fatal delay in shooting when the opportunity presented itself and rank bad luck all took their turn in preventing us from capitalising on these chances.

While the build up play was good there was a creeping sense of unease about not taking the chances when we had them in this most competitive of leagues.

The game quietened down towards half time but the Rams failure to close down on Stephen Gleeson as the ball was cleared from a corner cost us as his shot from distance took a deflection and found its way into the net to put the hosts ahead just before the break.

Birmingham made a strong start to the second half and came close to taking what may have been a decisive two goal lead heading a chance over and putting a shot wide – the Rams recovered though and hit another lengthy purple patch that lasted for a good twenty minutes.

Craig Forsyth hit a fine shot that Tomasz Kuszczak somehow managed to keep out and away from Darren Bent.

The pressure told for us just after the hour when George Thorne won a terrific tackle to regain possession in our half which in turn led to Tom Ince playing the lurking Johnny Russell in on the left of the Blues area.

With great power and precision JR fired into the roof of the net and we were level.

For a moment on 68 minutes it looked as if referee Lee Mason had awarded the Rams a penalty when Chris Martin went down in the area but, countering the old cliché that refs never change their minds, Mason then booked Martin for diving.

Was it a pen? – Seen them given….. Was it a booking? – Probably not.

It struck me as a Premier League ref in a Championship game feeling the need to make a “big” decision

Andi Weimann was brought on with twenty minutes to go replacing Darren Bent, but not before Bent had hit the woodwork again just after the equalising goal. On another night Bent would have personally bagged four.

The game closed with both sides still eager but both tiring to an extent.

Still unbeaten in the league but no wins for the Rams then.

The evidence on the pitch looks promising with development in each game – we are looking more threatening and our attacking game seems to be moving into gear.

We look particularly good when we move with high tempo.

Our old friends from Yorkshire next then.

                                                                   Played GD    Pts

  1. Wolves                                                       3       0       4
  2. Derby County                                           4       0       4
  3. Nottingham Forest                              3       0       4
  4. QPR                                                               3      -1      4
  5. Cardiff City                                               3       0       3
  6. Leeds United                                            3       0       3