Sweet Dreams? – 1/11/14

jerI have been trying to go to bed for quite a while now but it is gone midnight and I am still mooching around downstairs feeling a bit worried and distracted, and I just can’t seem to get Saturday’s match against Derby County out of my mind.

It is the first of three extremely tough (are there any other) games in another packed seven day period.

We travel to a promotion seeking team in Nottingham Forest on Wednesday before returning to London for a daunting trip into the Lions’ Den next weekend.

We haven’t won for three games now, although we came pretty close against both Wigan and Sheffield Wednesday, and with a fair wind, we might also have taken a point in last Saturday’s defeat at Bolton.

The margins are so narrow and every game seems to turn on either a mistake or one moment of magic.

I watched the Norwich City versus Bolton game earlier tonight and the visitors, rejuvenated under the new management of Neil Lennon, as we found to our cost last week, totally dominated the first ten minutes until Norwich scored an incredible goal out of absolutely nothing practically the first time they ventured into Bolton territory.

Cameron Jerome used his strength to win a header on halfway, spun away from his marker and kept running.

Howson’s perfectly weighted pass split the defence and Jerome was away for a perfect two touch finish.

The game was turned on its head in a split second and Norwich went on to win the game fairly comfortably.

That is what happens week after week in the Championship.

You think you are doing well and competing in a game but if you take your eye off the ball or relax for a moment there is every chance you will lose, as every team possesses a potential match winner.

He might not do it every time, and not everything he tries will come off, otherwise he would still be playing in the Premier League, but Cameron Jerome is a prime example of what I am talking about.

He is one of those “nearly” players who is right on the cusp – too good for the Championship but an also-ran at Premier League level.

He demonstrated that at Griffin Park in September when he drifted through the match, but suddenly came alive late in the second half, and we could do nothing to stop him.

A predatory close range header and a thirty yard thunderbolt later, and he had taken the game away from us and confirmed victory for his team.

Derby County possess several such players and we will need to be vigilant, organised and maintain total concentration if we are to get anything out of the match on Saturday.

Their team is packed with talent and we will be facing danger from all fronts.

Can we win?

Of course, and hopefully Mark Warburton, whilst ensuring that his team are made fully aware of Derby’s likely style of play and the threats that they will pose, is concentrating far more on what he expects us to do to them.

We have to play the game on the front foot and seize the initiative.

If we sit back and simply try to absorb their attacks we will certainly lose.

We have our own match winners, and we need to get them on the ball in dangerous positions, and ideally be far more clinical than we have been lately in front of goal when the chances arrive.

Thankfully we have tried to be positive and attack in every game we have played so far this season, and I do not see this match as being anything different.

Mark Warburton does have some selection dilemmas.

Who replaces the crocked Alan McCormack, who we will miss terribly for the next three months?

Will it be Nico Yennaris, still lacking match practice and full fitness but someone who will be given his opportunity to impress, if not on Saturday, then surely, very soon?

He was highly rated at Arsenal and looks neat and tidy, if a bit lightweight, but the jury is still very much out on him, mainly because he has yet to have a proper run in the team.

His time will come and then it is totally up to him.

I suspect that Moses Odubajo will be moved to full back from the right wing.

This means that he will be facing the play rather than waiting to be fed the ball and, even given his increased defensive responsibilities, he should still be able to make some upfield sorties.

Dean or Tarkowski is a question that has been debated to death on all the Fan Forums over the past fortnight.

Harlee is currently the man in possession and has done very little wrong over the past couple of matches.

In theory he should retain the shirt, but I just have a sneaky feeling that Tarkowski will get the nod against Derby.

torJon Toral fully deserves his first start after his excellent cameo and goal when coming on as a late substitute at Bolton last week, and I believe that, if he is given a chance, he will take it and establish himself in the first team.

He really is that good and can do pretty much everything on the field.

Jon is strong, puts his foot in when necessary, is hard to knock off the ball, he can head it and shoot and shows excellent vision with his passing.

All he currently lacks is experience.

Not bad for a start, and I am excited at the prospect of seeing him play.

Toral can slot into the midfield, assuming Moses plays at right back, and that will allow Jota, Judge and Pritchard to act as playmakers and create, and ideally take, goal scoring opportunities.

So who will play up front?

andreThere really aren’t too many options at the moment.

Andre Gray looks like he needs to be taken out of the firing line for a spell as, week after week, he has suffered relentless punishment from bullying opposition defenders without complaint, or much support.

He received a verbal boost from his manager on Thursday, and I suspect that he will start and try and turn the two big and solid Derby central defenders, and make them follow him into the channels in order to create space for the marauding Brentford midfielders.

That might well be the plan anyway!

Neither Nick Proschwitz nor Betinho did much to advance their claims for a starting spot when they failed to impose themselves on the game when playing for the Development Squad in midweek, but for the time being they are all we have got in support of the ever willing Andre.

Sam Saunders made a welcome and long-awaited return in the same match and could well be challenging for a place within the next month or so.

He has been sorely missed since January,

Tommy Smith was a calming influence when he came on last Saturday, and he adds real value from the bench, but we are really missing the hard running and power of Stuart Dallas, who is still recovering from an injury that is taking longer to heal than expected.

Lots of questions that will remain unanswered until shortly before kick off on Saturday afternoon.

Every game represents a mountain for us to climb, but we didn’t expect it to be easy when we were promoted, and to date, we are more than meeting the challenges that we face every week, and I see no reason why it should be any different against Derby.

Time for bed now and more tossing and turning.

In my dreams I am sure we will get all three points but on the pitch….. who knows?

Sweet dreams everyone.


5 thoughts on “Sweet Dreams? – 1/11/14

  1. Despite all the jostling for the top spots at the present time, I still think Derby will win this league with some ease – and Forest will be close behind them.

    The next few days will be interesting, to say the least.


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