Good old Gael. I knew if he prayed hard enough, he’d eventually get through.

Biggy

Now I’m not sure how much day-to-day control God has on dodgy penalty decisions or deciding how football luck is distributed (I imagine he delegates that part of the job to FIFA or something), but however it came about – fanks God. It’s been a while.

That stroke of penalty luck gave us a nice helping hand, but I do think we looked capable of winning the game regardless. There were a few moments when Derby found the gap between midfield and defence and caused us some problems, but I still always felt we were likely to grab a goal ourselves at some point anyway.

Few were surprised when new signing Cody McDonald made the team sheet. It’s been a month since I spoke last of the need for a spark in attacking areas – and a new face was enough to make you feel as though we weren’t quite so tame up front. Whether he was fit or not, I saw no scenario where Thorn was going to leave him out.

It wasn’t a wonder debut by any means. McDonald isn’t close to being match-sharp just yet, and this was demonstrated by plenty of iffy touches and slow reactions. But what you could see was that a) he’s clearly got the knack of finding dangerous positions in the box, and b) his ability to create space for others was genuinely impressive. It was a selfless debut in many respects, as he wasn’t having the greatest of games with the ball, but was still able to have an influence with what he did off it. He showed good movement and constantly occupied their defenders’ minds. C’est promising.

Our central defensive partnership is another area Saturday showed us we should be pleased with. Those of you who’ve read this blog for a while will know that I had the occasional strong word about Richard Keogh last year, as I felt he was prone to lapses of concentration at right back and cost us goals, all whilst losing complete control of what his body was doing. This season (and since his move to centre back) I see a different Richard Keogh. He no longer has to concern himself with any of that running-down-the-wing nonsense – he’s passed the attacking burden on to someone younger and faster – so he can simpy focus his efforts on doing a single job; defending. This is good for him, as he’s now playing like the soppy lad in the playground who you tell to do a job, and who sticks to those instructions rigidly – refusing to do anything but mark the good kid all the way through lunch.

Cranie on the other hand, is the same old Cranie. Mr Dependable, and has been a star over these opening games. He’s so quietly efficient in everything he does, you barely notice him compared to the bull in a china shop approach employed by Keogh. But don’t underestimate the job these two have done together. Early doors, but we’ve the best defensive record in the bottom half of the Championship (having only conceded 5 in 6 games), and only Brighton can better that in the entire league. For a central defence comprising two players who spent most of their time last season at full back, that’s a mighty fine way to go.

You’ll have to calm me down, that first win has rendered me ultra keen. But for the first time this season some of our promise was actually rewarded, so it is pleasing. And the fact that Clarke Carlisle had some complimentary things to say about us on Sky shows that we might be okay to feel a little bit better about our team (even if he is the world’s most eloquent plonker). It’s still going to be a mighty tough season, but there were positives on the pitch against Derby, so I’d like to get them down in writing before we lose again and I forget what any of them were.

Is your banner fire retardant?

I’m trying to employ an “only talk about football” rule as much as I can, but the level of crossness at the Derby game means it’s very difficult to omit all mention of what went on in the stands.

What a nonsense the response to the protest banners has been. They really must think we’re stupid?

I’m not one for giving grief to stewards – they’re just doing their job, most of the time. The instruction they’ve been given to run around pinching everyone’s banners is ridiculous though. It causes nothing but tension between supporters and the people supposedly keeping them safe, whilst further antagonising those fans who are wound-up most of the time anyway, so require little prodding to encourage them to get involved in a bit of argy-bargy.

Look, whether SISU like it or not, fans are going to continue to protest. They’ve made a pigs ear of things, and people are going to let them know. Attempts to silence supporters will only further alienate the owners, cause even more unrest, and we’ll wind up with yet more scenes like Saturday.

While the brawling with the police didn’t appear to be something that was directly related to the banner-thievin’ that was going on, the response by those fans who stormed in was no doubt provoked by the feeling of injustice that was sweeping the stadium.

I was nowhere near the incident, so don’t really feel I should comment too much. Here’s the thing though. The mass reaction to that chap falling down some steps – whether he fell or was forced – was dangerous, irresponsible, and clearly exasperated by a large group whose eyes lit up at the prospect of a good scrap. There were families and kids down that way – scenes like that are just not on. Everyone needs to get a bloody grip. Starting with SISU and their heavy-handed tactics.

Oh and another thing – that oversized shirt is going straight in my bag next time they send it round.

Fire retardant, my foot.

 

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