Rams Wreck Our Hopes
By Robert Nichols
Sunday 03 Nov 2019 12:33:00
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Boro fell to another defeat away at Derby after once again failing to score a goal. It was ten men Boro for the majority of the game after combative midfielder George Saville saw red for going in high and recklessly within plain sight of the referee. But it could have been so different if Britt had tucked away an early, early opportunity after rounding the home keeper. A defensive block blocked our main opportunity and it was ultimately to be another crushing defeat.

Boro fans trecked south down the M1 to the Riverside south, Pride Park, where a 26000+ crowd and a big away following made for a top Championship atmosphere. We were maybe coming in hope rather than belief. But while there is hope....

There might have been a cloud over Derby in the wake of the drink driver duo and the sacking of injured passenger skipper Richard Keogh. Yet the advice from the stands was emphatically to walk home next time. Just typical that Tom “you should be in jail” Lawrence was the player to score the goals that leaves us stranded third from bottom.

There is much that leaves a bad, sour taste about Mel Morris ownership of Derby. Boro fans raised their game to defend Steve Gibson as he was roundly verbally assaulted by home fans backing their maverick Candy Crush tycoon, who “does what he likes.” Yeah, great. He bends and flouts financial fair play that protects fans from owners making a Bury out of their hollowed out clubs. He also protects drink drivers and instead sacks their passengers. Bitter, me... nah.

Boro started brightly and the pressing game almost brought immediate dividends when Tav and Britt pounced on hesitancy in their defence. Britt bolted forward, rounded the keeper but fatally hestitated himself, only a second or two but enough for the defender to get round and block his shot for goal. It was a tremendous piece of defending but is the kind of early gift-horse we have to seize upon if we are to bounce out of the grip of this relegation vice.

Boro continued to play well. Marvin Johnson tormented down our left. Saville kept on bearing down on opponents and Tav was buzzing and buzzing. But despite winning corners and exposing more uncertainties from the Rams defences we were still lacking the surety in that final pass or shot.

Middlesbrough were opened up like a can of sardines for the opening goal. The guilty Tom Lawrence poured through the gap and working his way into a shooting position. Ainsley Pears will feel disappointed to have been beaten by a sharp snap shot down low to his right. Pears would later make up for this with a string of high quality saves, particularly a double to left and right deep into the second and period. In general he is very commanding of his box for such a young, inexperienced keeper but sadly he couldn't prevent Lawrence dropping us into serious trouble.

Put quite simply, we now had to score, a feat that has been totally beyond us this past month. The hole we were in became a chasm when Saville over reached and thudded into the calf of a Derby player. The referee immediately raised a red card and Boro were reeling with ten men.

I suppose we could take some heart and inspiration from the performance of ten men Fulham against us last week. But then again our visitors that day could just defend they didn't need to score. Boro withdrew the unlucky Marcus Browne, replaced by Dijksteel, and then we became organised, defending deep but looking to spring forward. Dijksteel was probably as good as anyone on the pitch for the rest of the game, rampaging forward and having the legs to get back as a last line of defence. Boro competed well but rarely looked to have a goal in us. Most swift breakaways petered out within sight of the County lines.

Derby were more dangerous now with their numerical advantage. Lawrence continued to pose problems. Pears danced across his line to tip over a header and then leapt to defence of the airspace above his box.

Both Wing and McNair squandered good free kick opportunities, in iether half. Their chief crime was failing to hit the target and work the keeper from dangerous positions just outside the box. In another opportunity, Howson did well to head the ball back across the penalty area but there was no one to finish. There were further blocked shots and late substitutes Hayden Coulson and Stephen Walker provided extra firepower. Coulson left players in his wake as he hammered on the doors down the right.

Pushing on was bound to leave us more vulnerable to Derby's attacks and well, it just had to be Lawrence who surged beyond us to place the ball beyond Pears and clinch all the points.

At the end of only two minutes added on Jonathan Woodgate and Leo came across to applaud the away fans along with all the players. It was an important moment of bonding after defeat. Can we stick it out and stay in this together?

At present there is a dark cloud or relegation hanging over us and taunting us but what a difference a goal would make. From anyone or anywhere at all. There is a gap growing between us and fourth from bottom but at the moment it is not a chasm. But where on earth will the next goal come from let alone the next win?

Derby County 2-0 Middlesbrough

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