1pt, Brentford, Chris Martin, Craig Bryson, Darren Bent, Derby County Football Club, Jeff Hendrick, Rams, Steve McClaren, Zak Whitbread
Derby County 1 Darren Bent 90+2
Brentford 1 Alex Pritchard 28
The Rams smuggled a point away from this game at the death in a manner that challenges the Hatton Gardens safety deposit box raid in terms of biggest heist of the week.
Brentford outplayed Derby throughout, looked better organised and missed a handful of decent chances to leave themselves vulnerable to the late equaliser that Darren Bent bundled home after a Jeff Hendrick miscued shot fell to him in the six yard box.
Satisfaction at gaining a point when it was scarcely deserved and hanging on to a play off spot were the only positives to take from this disjointed and confused Rams performance.
Light relief before the start of the game when I spotted Steve Claridge on the press benches at the iPro. It is safe to say that he is not a fan of doing his pre-match homework as he chatted on the phone and looked idly across the ground as kick off approached.
It was good to see Charlie George make a nostalgic appearance before kick off and be interviewed on the pitch, though slightly alarming to cast my mind back 40 years to remember seeing him play in a Rams shirt.
Chris Martin and Craig Bryson were the two additions to the starting line up replacing the suspended Will Hughes and Jamie Ward who dropped to the bench. A second outing then for the new look defence with skipper Richard Keogh and Stephen Warnock in the full back spots and Raul Albentosa & Craig Forsyth being the central defensive partnership.
The pre-match chit chat suggested we would set up in a 4-2-3-1 with Martin playing the central role but we quickly seemed to morph into a 4-4-2 with Johnny Russell and Tom Ince playing wide.
The first 15 minutes or so of the game was our best period with Tom Ince coming close twice with a whipped free kick that flew narrowly past David Button’s left hand post and then forcing the keeper into a smart save as he cut inside the area and shot towards the opposite corner.
We lost any control we had after that point though and Brentford increasingly came onto the front foot.
Even before the visitors took the lead, just before the half hour, with a very well taken Alex Pritchard strike from the edge of the area following a sweeping breakaway the Bees were looking organised, threatening and comfortable.
Uncertainty and lack of confidence leaked off the Rams players and transmitted itself to the fans. Steve McClaren was again on the sidelines early and in the first half Craig Bryson, notably, came to the technical area twice for an energetic exchange of views with the Head Coach leaving the discussion with an expression that suggested frustration rather than enlightenment.
The second half saw an ill Johnny Russell replaced by Simon Dawkins but there was no improvement and increased confusion as the game progressed.
Andre Gray missed three presentable second half opportunities for the Bees. Craig Forsyth, in his one high point of the game, made a superb goal line clearance to foil Jonathan Douglas and there seemed little prospect of us rescuing anything from the match.
Jeff Hendrick worked hard to get into the game and to try and create something but he was often isolated in his efforts.
For some unknown reason Chris Martin appeared to be stationed wide left for much of the second half which was an unexpected move and limited his involvement.
The suspended Will Hughes was sorely missed as we lacked creativity and control and as a final roll of the dice with fifteen minutes to go Stephen Warnock and Craig Bryson were withdrawn to be replaced with Jesse Lingard and Zak Whitbread.
Craig Forsyth returned to his normal left back berth – and spent much of the rest of the game being harangued by Steve McClaren to get forward.
In his short involvement Whitbread gave an assured and confident performance and I hope to see him starting on Tuesday when we take on Blackpool.
Time was running out when Jeff Hendrick picked up the ball outside of the Bees area and took his shot leading to Darren Bent bundling in his 10th goal of his loan period.
It was barely deserved but gratefully received and it felt unusual to be on the receiving end of some good fortune after our experiences this season.
This result along with wins for all of the top four realistically ends any hopes that we had for finishing in the top two this season. We are now in a battle for a play off spot with the table showing four teams fighting for two places, only a point separating the Rams, Ipswich, Brentford and Wolves.
Changing formations and experimenting with the defence in the final six games of a season is not something successful teams normally do.
There is something amiss at the heart of the team, the confident flowing Rams of last season seem a world away at the moment and we need to find some form quickly if we are to not only stumble into the playoffs but actually give a good account of ourselves in them.
That feels more like wishful thinking at the moment.