The Rams lost their impressive unbeaten run on Friday night in front of the TV cameras. However, this wasn’t any old game, as they lost in disappointing style to their closest and most bitter rivals from the other end of the A52.
For any fan in football, a local derby presents passion, joy, tears, tribulations and pain. It is also in the most part consistently their most important game of the season. Yes, a game of football was lost and Derby also missed the chance to go top of the League on Friday night. Perhaps the most worrying thing about Friday’s defeat however, is the possible long-term effect that this could have on the season, because up until now, it has been moving very steadily.
The Rams were really disappointing against a Forest side who really were good value for their victory. Very often in derby games, it’s the team that wants it more that prevails, and that’s exactly what happened at the City Ground as Derby just didn’t appear to ‘turn up’. The Forest fans’ celebrations at the final whistle with their pitch invasion and letting flares off may lead anyone to mistake them for winning the league. In reality, it was sheer elation after getting their first win in nine games, moving up to 18th in the table and four points above the relegation zone. As previously mentioned, these games do mean so much.
Why so many players had bad days in that game will never be realised, but it’s something they cannot allow to happen too often in this league as it’s already shaping up to be a five-horse race. Last season I wrote Bournemouth off numerous times saying they wouldn’t last the distance, so I’m not going to make the same mistake with another team beginning with B who happen to be on the south coast, in Brighton.
Although we sit very handily in fifth place in the table with only two defeats all season so far, the players have now got to endure yet another international break before they can get this match out of their system. Our next home game in a fortnight against an in-form Cardiff City could quite possibly be the toughest test of the season so far. Should the defeat on Friday night change the way we look at things? By the end of January, we would have played the whole of the current top six, and if we can be within reaching distance of the automatic promotion places by then, I still believe we have a squad capable of taking on the challenge. That one bad game may present another important test of Paul Clement’s fresh managerial skills though.