Huddersfield Town 4 Gobern 38, Hudson 41, James 45+2, Wells 72
Derby County 4 Ince 16,79, Dawkins 52, Lingard 61
It’s never easy being a Rams fan is it?
The Rams travelled to sunny Yorkshire on a four game unbeaten run with hopes of consolidating a play off spot against a Huddersfield team drifting in the safe waters of lower mid table.
Straightforward game? Not a chance.
After taking the lead with a Tom Ince cracker some appalling amateurish defending in the first half saw us go in 1-3 down.
We hauled ourselves back to 3-3 only to gift the Terriers yet another goal which required another Tom Ince rescue mission to save a point.
The game was littered with injuries for the Rams, Craig Bryson, Zak Whitbread and Will Hughes being forced off at various points in the game – exactly what we do not need considering our injury problems this season.
Before we knew about the mayhem that would unfold Steve McClaren kept us on our toes by naming an unchanged back four with Shotton, Keogh, Whitbread & Warnock continuing.
Not that circumstance allowed us to keep that unit together for long with Zak Whitbread being forced off with injury after 27 minutes at which point the roof fell in for the rest of the first half.
Midfield saw a change with Will Hughes returning after suspension with Simon Dawkins making way and dropping down to the bench.
I was surprised at this as Dawks has played well on Tuesday against, the admittedly limited, Blackpool, looking composed on the ball.
No sign of Chris Martin in the match day squad suggesting that the “setback” mentioned on Tuesday night could be as serious as we had feared.
Missing also from the 18 was Raul Albentosa who has been selected intermittently after the long wait to see him in the team.
We worked very hard to sign the big Spanish defender and apparently spend a lot of effort planning our signings but things have not gone well which makes you wonder what is going on in the background, especially considering our need for defensive leadership is desperate.
Any debates about the rights and wrongs of Simon Dawkins being left out were soon neutralised as Craig Bryson was on the receiving end of a heavy Joel Lynch tackle on five minutes that ended his participation, Dawkins replacing him and having another good game.
The Rams started steadily, looking composed and Tom Ince gave us the lead with a belting shot from distance that arrowed into the top corner on 16 minutes. We looked comfortable and while not in control, certainly in a good position.
Everything went rapidly downhill when Zak Whitbread fell awkwardly after a coming together with the always physical Ishmael Miller and had to be substituted immediately with Cyrus Christie coming on at right back and Ryan Shotton moving to centre half.
Zak Whitbread has always looked a good player to me but whether he can stay healthy enough to be the calm head we need in that back four is a question – no report yet on his injury from this game but we have looked better with him playing – and looked chaotic without him yesterday.
We conceded three awful goals in eight minutes towards the end of the half and it was not only the number of goals that we let in but the manner of the surrender that was alarming.
Possession lost by the desperately shaky Cyrus Christie lead to goal one, an unchallenged header from a corner lead to goal two and a corner allowed directly into the net saw us go in 3-1 down at the half to a, no disrespect intended, middling team with nothing to play for.
The defence was yet again playing like strangers and with no confidence or structure – it is really shocking and disappointing to see and talk of promotion with displays at the back like this sounds delusional.
The second half showed no immediate improvement as Nakhi Wells should really have put the hosts 4-1 up as he went clear on our goal with only Lee Grant to beat. He only managed to catch Grant squarely in the face with his effort the ball going out for a corner.
And then just when hope was disappearing Simon Dawkins got himself on the end of a Stephen Warnock cross to bring us back into the game at 2-3 and suddenly the mood changed.
Dawkins having an excellent game contributed to the (first) equaliser helping to pull us back level at 3-3 laying off for Jesse Lingard who put away his second goal for the Rams since joining on loan.
A chance then for us to push on and win a vital 3pts ?……..not with the way our defence is playing.
Ryan Shotton gave the ball away under no pressure, Sean Scannell skinned Stephen Warnock again and from the ensuing melee the ball was bundled into the net for the hosts to take the lead again 4-3.
One final twist thanks to Tom Ince coolly putting away his second goal of the game and his tenth since joining us to bring it back again to 4-4 and at that point the scoring madness ended….though not before we played with fire at the back again and the Terriers had an offside winner ruled out.
Steve McClaren sounded either tired or disengaged in his post match interview – seemingly at a loss as to what to do and musing about taking the players away for a warm weather break this week to gee up team spirit.
Personally rather than catching planes and coaches here and there I’d be happier to hear about some focused work together at Moor Farm for the week to up the team spirit and get us ready for the last two games of the regular season.
We’re hanging on to our play off spot but it feels like by our fingertips at the moment.