September review: Draws, disgrace… and dodgy keeping

In a month where a minority of Derby’s squad dominated the headlines and took a sledgehammer to the club’s reputation, you could be forgiven for allowing our unbeaten September to go unnoticed.

The Tuesday Club, or ‘SeshGate’ as it’s also been labelled, gave Derby County its darkest episode since the ‘Three Amigos’ got their hands on Pride Park in 2003.

Tom Lawrence and Mason Bennett’s court appearances in October, and any outcomes of a separate club investigation, means further difficult days ahead, but the club put on a show to be proud of in their final September fixture. A rollercoaster 3-2 home victory over Birmingham City made a frustrating draw against West Brom and an unlikely one at Elland Road look pretty handy. The Rams are unbeaten in three and can look ahead to a five-game October in which they should be targeting 10+ points.

The impacts of the returning Martin, Davies and Holmes (supported by a clutch of others) got us talking about the football again after several disgraceful days.

It all evens out

In our August review we lamented the two Martyn Waghorn missed penalties and the likely four extra points that would have accompanied them. “It all evens out in the end” may be an overused media trope to excuse poor refereeing decisions, but for the Rams’ August and September it rings true at least.

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If Lukas Jutkiewicz had beaten Kelle Roos from the spot and Mateusz Klich hit the target, the Rams would be four points worse off and a tough week would have got a lot worse. Derby have undoubtedly made progress on the pitch since the Griffin Park grueller, but it remains fine margins with this team.

The leader we need

While Curtis Davies would have been expected to ‘do a job’ in the occasional match this season, the arrival of Matthew Clarke and Krsytian Bielik had made it unlikely he’d be a regular fixture in the back four. Richard Keogh’s ridiculously impressive injury record and consistency (he made 65 appearances last season and 2017/18 was the only campaign in which he made fewer than 50 outings) has been a given at the Rams for seven years.

Derby v Birmingham: Curtis Davies
Back in action: Curtis Davies enjoyed his first league start since last November.

Davies should be the first name on the team sheet now with his leadership, composure and dependability all on show on Saturday afternoon. The adrenalin and desire to prove a point to Phillip Cocu will have got him through those 90 minutes, but he’ll need to dig deep into all those years of experience to keep carrying this team through to January.

Duane’s drive

The unlikely returns of Martin and Davies have allowed Duane Holmes ‘electric start and all round contribution to Saturday afternoon go relatively under the radar. Exploiting space down the right and picking out two inch perfect passes to Martin in the opening exchanges emphasised the pace and dynamism the midfield has been badly missing.

Welcome home, CM(1)9

In pre-season we all laughed off the idea of Chris Martin making any kind of impact in 2019/20. Only his self-belief and desire got him back into the reckoning and his reward has been two timely, vintage Martin goals.

Derby County v Cardiff City
Scott Malone celebrates after opening the scoring v Cardiff.

His first against Leeds was an instinctive finish having used his body and manipulating the space in the box that few at this level can muster. He got lucky against Lee Camp for his first goal at Pride Park since November 2017, but he provides a constant presence in the box and is always able to get a shot off.

An in-form Martin will give Derby County a strike force the envy of most Championship clubs. Martyn Waghorn, Jack Marriott and Martin should be targeting the 15-goal mark, while Wayne Rooney will add a whole other dimension in attack. Rooney and/or Marriott feeding off Martin’s knock downs and intelligent hold up play? Yes, please!

Roos could be a Kell of a lot worse

The Bloomer Boys have been accused of overdoing it on the Kelle Roos bashing, so we were delighted to hold our hands up and recognise an excellent penalty save that could prove to be a season turning moment. In all fairness, while he continues to wobble under the high ball, it could be worse. We could have Lee Camp between the sticks.

Derby County v Birmingham City
Turning point: Kelle Roos saves Birmingham’s penalty.

We’re not sure if he just saves his worst performance for us, or he really is that bad every week but his pitiful attempt to save Martin’s opener was just the latest in a series of Pride Park horror shows.

This month we also enjoyed:

Off the pitch, Mel Morris and Phillip Cocu have shown the way in how to behave when you’re representing Derby County. Calm, considered and humble, they have managed a dreadful situation brilliantly and deserve great credit.

Did I mention Lee Camp?

Goal of the Month:

For the quality of the team move – Jason Knight, Max Lowe and Jamie Paterson – and instinctive, clinical nature of the finish it has to be Chris Martin’s injury time leveller at Elland Road.

 

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