Derby County have improved dramatically since they met Brentford at Griffin Park back in September. That match, they put ten men behind the ball for most of the match and ground out a 1-1 draw. Billy Grant caught up with Ollie from Derby County Blog to get the lowdown on The Rams’ much improved season.
Things have turned around since the last time we met … how did the turnaround happen?
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In a nutshell, before we played you, we had lost two away games heavily (Sheffield United 1-3, Bristol City 1-4). It’s also worth remembering that the worst result of Rowett’s Derby spell is the 4-0 drubbing we took at Griffin Park at the end of last season. So, in this season’s infamous game, Rowett – knowing that another hiding would have him under the cosh – simply went ultra-negative as soon as we nicked the lead.
Statistically and morally, we didn’t deserve to win. But that gruelling defensive shift demonstrated that we had the discipline within the squad to grind out results when needed – something the Derby of old were always criticised for lacking.
Frankly, I was embarrassed by the performance at your place. But it has never been replicated in its stark negativity and kicked off an unbeaten run away from home, which is still ongoing.
We spoke to Chris from Steve Bloomers Washing on our podcast (below). We discussed your ten matches unbeaten and 11 away matches unbeaten going back to before the Brentford game in September – that’s a decent run. Have you been looking good during it?
In honesty, there haven’t been too many close calls. We’ve been consistently competitive against everyone we’ve played. Defensively, we’ve been almost impervious, with just two goals conceded in the last ten league games. In attack, maybe we’re not quite as fluid as previous seasons, but we’re still among the division’s top scorers, with enough goal threats that we usually nick a goal when we need one. However, we’ve had three frustrating 0-0s in the past six games – which says that we’ve been getting a bit bogged down at times and can be shut out by well organised defences.
That game in September … we’re pretty gutted we didnt get three points that match. The ball was camped in your half all the second period. Is that typical Rowett tactics this season?
No, not really typical – that was more of a crazily extreme version of the reactive game he likes to play. We’ve never had such a small share of possession since. Saying that, we did beat Aston Villa at home 2-0 with 33% of the ball. If we replicate that result tomorrow, nobody will be complaining.
The problem in that game was that he dropped Vydra, fearing he might be too much of a luxury in away matches after the two previous losses – trying Bradley Johnson as a number ten. Because Johnson lacks any technique, the ball never stuck with him and we couldn’t get out on the counter. It was an experiment – and clearly not a successful one – which will hopefully never be repeated.
It’s worth pointing out as well that Joe Ledley made his debut at Brentford and actually scored, though he must have suffered a nosebleed in doing so. His calmness and defensive sense made a huge difference to the balance of the team. Ledley has been injured in recent weeks, but cult hero George Thorne, back after a lengthy absence, has slotted into the side pretty well to help keep the momentum going.
Gary Rowett seems to have steadied the ship. Meanwhile he has left the Titanic over in Birmingham in rough waters. Has he worked out for the best for you?
We needed Rowett to work out, badly, and so I think nearly all supporters were fully behind him from the start. Basically, it was a case of: “Please Mel (Morris), just give this bloke a full season, at least!” We had an iffy start, as you saw in September, but since then, our form has been absolutely superb.
Any sensible Birmingham fan knows how stupid and vain it was for their ownership to sack Rowett for the sake of names like Zola and Redknapp. Nobody needs to tell them that.
You went on a mini cup run (well one match) which ended at Old Trafford. Was that a distraction?
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We drew Man United away in the third round of the FA Cup and, given that Mourinho had already been dumped out of the League Cup by Bristol City, he went close to full strength. Rowett, meanwhile, rested Vydra and Curtis Davies, which tells you exactly how interested he was in having any sort of cup adventure. With Derby sat second in the league, we simply didn’t need the distraction of extra games and so the result – a 2-0 defeat without disgrace having held out until the 84th minute – basically suited the manager down to the ground.
It was transfer deadline day yesterday. What movement happened in the Derby camp?
On deadline day itself, Chris Martin joined Reading on loan and Johnny Russell joined Sporting Kansas City. Martin’s replacement, Cameron Jerome, had already been signed in advance, as part of Rowett’s plan to encourage Martin out of the door. Kasey Palmer joined on loan from Chelsea at the last nanosecond, to replace Russell.
So Saturday … Brentford haven’t had much joy at Pride Park as of late. The last time we won there was in 2003 in the League Cup. The last time we won at Derby in the league was at The Baseball Ground in the old 1992 Division One. Can we expect a different sort of match that we saw at Griffin Park?
It will be different to that, but I am expecting a difficult and close encounter, with Brentford seeing plenty of the ball for spells. Our home performances haven’t always been sparkling to be honest and we have endured a few tense draws of late.
For Brentford, it’s about whether you can cope with our front four. Particularly Vydra, who is having a fantastic season. Brentford need to be aware that there will be fresh and decent strikers coming off the bench, if needs be – and at the same time, work out how to ruffle one of the division’s meanest defences. Derby can be beaten – Reading and Ipswich have shown that, in very different ways – but this season, we’ve been very efficient and clinical, kept a lot of clean sheets and come out on top in a lot of tight encounters. After a while, that stops about being about luck and starts being about having a good team. I’m predicting a 1-1 draw again.
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