There was always going to be melodrama. There was always going to be controversy. There was always going to be a villain.
As inconsistent and questionable as Robert Madley’s refereeing was, it was ultimately a lack of invention, creativity, and incisive passing that saw us bullied and clattered out of a bruising game.
Though it proved disheartening to see a team managed by a ‘Clough’ give an exhibition in clogging, any football fan will tell you the performance, and the way you win a game in a derby match is wholly irrelevant, just as long as you win. That’s what the Rams’ fans will be bleating about up the A52, anyway.
We have had our day of mourning, to rightfully bemoan a puzzling red card, and the bookings received by Simon Cox and Henri Lansbury. Watch the game back again, and you will see they were literally booked for standing still.
Now bigger questions must be asked. Questions of character, spirit, and grit.
Though there are still a couple of performance-based issues that need to be ironed out, you would be a fool to think this is the beginning of some unfathomable downward spiral.
If it was any other team but Derby, we would easily be able to write this off as ‘one of those days’.
Everything that could go wrong did. The one time the back four were caught out, they conceded. They certainly looked more composed too, one of few consoling crumbs of comfort to take from yesterday.
It won’t be easy for the fans, but the team have to completely dismiss this game. If not for the controversy, it would have been one of the most forgettable games I have ever watched.
It speaks volumes for a match when Conor Sammon has the best chance in a first half.
Now it’s over, the dust has settled, and the sorrows have been drowned. This is the real world; it is unfair, tough, and you very rarely catch a break, but you move on. I want to see an abrasive, bullish attitude coming from the team in the next few days, ready for Blackburn on Wednesday.
Our midfield is arguably one of the best in this league, so don’t expect that drought in attacking opportunities to last much longer.
With Billy Sharp expected to partner Cox for the next few games in Blackstock’s absence, we have two of the deadliest finishers at this level in our ranks.
It may be bare faced bravado to expect an instant response, and to plough so much faith into an untested front line, but early season optimism still sits well with me.
We are financially stable with a stellar squad. This is a luxury we did not dare dream of nine months ago. It is always important to maintain perspective, and in a league as open as The Championship, a few consecutive wins could end up changing your season.
Reading F.C are the perfect example. Last season, they were second from bottom in September, but a run of 17 wins in their last 23 games saw them majestically ascend the table, and achieve promotion as champions.
Though I’m not sure we will quite match those dizzy heights, I still see us climbing the table, and perhaps becoming play-off outsiders.
And if that fails... Well, we are due a cup run, aren’t we?