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Derby County moving forward steadily

The iPro Stadium saw the best average attendance in the SkyBet Championship in season 2014/2015 and the crowd was in high expectations ahead of Paul Clement’s first competitive match in the dugout of the home of the Rams.

Article by Fred Gough

Derby County [1] Charlton Athletic [1] - Attendance: 29,045

The 43 year old, reshuffled his squad after the midweek defeat to Portsmouth in the League Cup, returning to the starting eleven was Scott Carson, Richard Keogh, George Thorne, Tom Ince & Chris Martin. There was also a start for bright young talent Jamie Hanson, the 19 year old playing in a central midfield role alongside Thorne and Hendrick as the Rams employed a 4-3-3 formation to combat a Charlton Athletic side who had beaten Queens Park Rangers on the opening day and Dagenham & Redbridge in the League Cup on Tuesday both at their home stadium The Valley.

Derby started on the front foot, playing the tidy and mixture of short and long passes to try and keep possession against the Addicks. With Derby using their midfield three effectively, their final ball or attempts of making the Charlton goalkeeper Pope sweat were minimal in the early stages.

Derby’s possession was at least twice that of Guy Luzon’s men, but still could not find that killer touch. Good work by the wing backs of Baird and Forsyth making the London side play deeply, opportunities by Russell and Martin fell short of the anticipations of most Derby County fans as the Scotland internationals miss fired the ball when it fell at their feet. A flowing move dictated by the vision of the young man Hanson found Ince whose hard work beating two defenders found Martin who dragged his tame shot wide before Irish midfielder Hendrick drilled a shot narrowly the wrong side of the post.

Charlton’s first half attacks were limited to trying to catch Derby off guard by counter attacking against the run of play but never side could break the deadlock before the half time whistle.

Half Time: Derby County 0 Charlton Athletic 0

The second half started with a couple of half chances falling to the home side inside the box but neither tested the goalkeeper, so when the first goal at the iPro Stadium was scored it stunned the home side. Tony Watt who had joined Guy Luzon’s side from the Israeli manager’s former side Standard Liege after starting his career at Glasgow Celtic in his native Scotland, in early January had found the back of the net in the opening two games and made it three in three after his 20 yard strike got deflected and looped high into Scott Carson’s net. The former loanee and player of the year of the Addicks was left stranded in a game he was rarely threatened in.

Image - Fred Gough
It was a few moments later that Derby finally tested the opposition goalkeeper, Chris Martin’s header was easily saved but still the Rams pushed forward to try and get an equalizer.

High line pressure from captain Baird encouraged Tom Ince to find Hendrick in the box whose sluggish timing meant his shot was cleared as it was poked towards goal. At the other end, another deflected shot went inches wide as Derby’s patient play irked the home faithful as it looked like Charlton were going to sneak the three points.

Clement decided to throw on Andreas Weimann for Johnny Russell after the hour mark and the former Villa man took up the front line role with Martin and Ince.

Two minutes later, a quickly taken free kick by the former Liverpool youth player Ince found Jamie Hanson who slipped the ball to Chris Martin, who prodded the ball home to score his 49th goal since joining the Rams in the spring of 2013 and his 99th appearance.

Giant Danish striker Simon Makienok on loan from Italian side Palermo headed over from a corner, but the Addicks were still heavily pressed backwards by the Rams who were denied what could have been a controversial penalty when Weimann was body checked in the penalty area.

Two free kicks from Tom Ince failed to make the net ripple once more for the East Midlands side as they looked the more likely to grab a winner as both Thorne and Martin stung the fingertips of Nick Pope.

The game ended in a fair draw for both sides, and Paul Clement still chasing his first win as Head Coach. However he was encouraged by chances created and level of possession had by his side as well as the character displayed after going behind.

It is going to be a slow and steady start to the 2015/2016 campaign, however the start to the season echoes that of Jim Smith’s first season at the helm of Derby County, who arrived in similar circumstances to Clement apart from the more experience in the management side of the game.

The Rams started the 1995/1996 campaign with two draws and a narrow defeat in their first three games but once they found their gear, they continued that momentum to lead them to a second place finish behind a side from the North East (in that case, Sunderland rather than this season’s SkyBet Championship favourites Middlesbrough), is history going to repeat itself? Only time will tell.

Middlesbrough come to the iPro on Tuesday evening and will certainly offer the Rams their first real test of their capabilities of getting back into the top flight.

Some Derby fans might be critical of the fact it hasn’t been as easy it appeared when the signings were made over the summer period, but the ideology and principles of Paul Clement and his men will be tested in the Championship and so far, I feel they are moving in the right direction.

Full Time: Derby County 1 Charlton Athletic 1


DCFC [4-3-3] –Carson, Baird (capt), Keogh, Shackell, Forsyth, Thorne, Hanson (Christie -87) , Hendrick, Ince, Martin & Russell (Weimann – 67); Substitutes – Grant, Christie, Shotton, Warnock, Dawkins, Weimann & Bent.

Charlton [4-4-2] – Pope, Solly (Capt), Diarra, Bauer (y/c – 76), Fox, Berg Gudmudsson (Ba – 90), Kashi (y/c – 84), Cousins, Ceballos (Bergdich – 61), Watt, Makienok (Jackson – 88) ; Substitutes- Jackson, Sarr, Gnoochanjehad, Ahearne-Grant, Bergdich, Ba & Mitov.

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