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Derby County 1-2 Burnley

Posted by Stuart Hughes on August 29, 2011 at 5:30 AM Comments comments (0)

There’s a saying that goes “You can’t win them all” and that was true enough on Saturday as Derby County’s winning start to the season came to an end following a
2-1 defeat to Burnley.

The Rams struggled to click up front and were second best in a first-half that saw the Clarets create the better chances.

Theo Robinson and Lee Croft replaced Steve Davies (back) and Jamie Ward (hamstring) during the break and there was more of an impetus to the Rams attacks.

Mistakes by Mark O’Brien and Frank Fielding allowed Charlie Austin a brace, the second shortly after Robinson had equalised.

Burnley hit the woodwork twice. Derby had two cleared off the line.

The Rams had further chances in the closing stages but it wasn’t to be.

Rams Man of the Match: Not an easy choice with few stand-out performances.

I’m going for John Brayford. The Rams looked at their best first-half whenever Brayford broke forward.

After the break, he combined well down the right with Croft and Craig Bryson to create numerous chances.

Couldn’t be faulted for either Burnley goal.


How did the ref do?

Referee Andy Haines didn’t have the best of games.

He started okay but as the game wore on his lack of authority saw the game threaten to get out of his control.

His tendency to either waive play on, or completely miss blatant fouls, often left more than one injured player strewn across the pitch as play continued.

Should’ve done more to clamp down on Burnley’s blatant time wasting tactics too.

Published in the Derby Telegraph 29th August 2011.

Rams Panel Preview: Derby County v Burnley

Posted by Stuart Hughes on August 26, 2011 at 12:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Victory over Doncaster Rovers meant Derby County started the season with four wins out of four. Unbelievably, a sequence Rams fans haven’t witnessed for over a hundred years.

On Saturday, Derby County have an opportunity to stretch their winning sequence to five games when they entertain Burnley. The Clarets have not won any of their three league games so far, drawing two and losing one.

If Derby County can reproduce the same level of commitment and effort as in previous league games, there’s every reason for optimism ahead of the international break. Prediction: 2-1.

Clarets danger man: Striker Charlie Austin made his name at Swindon Town where he scored 31 goals in 54 League appearances. Burnley snapped the striker up in January and he has already scored three goals this season.

Favourite Rams memory against the Clarets: I recall an F.A. Cup 3rd Round game at the Baseball Ground in 1992. I was working up in Accrington at the time. Some of my colleagues were Burnley fans and I drove them down for the game. The match was abandoned late on due to fog with the Rams winning 2-0, I think. At least when the game was replayed, Derby won.

Published in the Derby Telegraph 26th August 2011.

Derby County 3-0 Doncaster Rovers

Posted by Stuart Hughes on August 22, 2011 at 12:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Well who would’ve thought it? I certainly didn’t expect this start to the season when players were queuing up to limp or crawl into the treatment room during pre-season.

And even if the Rams manager Nigel Clough had a full squad to pick from, I still wouldn’t have expected it. After all, you have to go back to the 1905/06 season for the only other time Derby County won their opening four league games of the season.

But the league table doesn’t lie. Derby County are 2nd in the npower Championship – played four, won four, scored seven, conceded one, points twelve. Maximum points from four games. The league table makes good reading.

I think it’s a sure sign of what I’ve gone through as a Derby County supporter that I wasn’t optimistic ahead of a home game against Doncaster Rovers. After all, Doncaster Rovers are our bogey team. All I could think of was the unpredictable, inconsistent, Derby County I’ve supported down the years.

Played three won three against played three lost three … there’s only one way this game’s going!

But this sceptical Rams fan was wrong. Oh so completely, so wonderfully, wrong. Doncaster Rovers played like a team who had lost three straight and had both their main strikers out injured. Despite missing eleven senior players themselves through injury, Derby County played like a team who had won three on the bounce.

The Rams oozed confidence and were comfortable throughout the entire ninety minutes. Ben Davies had a tremendous game – his best for Derby County in my opinion – and showed why Nigel Clough was so keen to sign him. The former Notts County player was involved in all three goals, making two and scoring one.

The first goal, as early as the 6th minute, saw loan signing Kevin Kilbane head home a Ben Davies corner for 1-0.

For the second home game running, the Rams scored straight from the second-half kick-off. This time it took 25 seconds. Kevin Kilbane played the ball down the left flank, Ben Davies beat his man and delivered an inch perfect cross for Steven Davies to head his third goal of the season. 2-0.

Finally, fittingly, Ben Davies rounded off a man of the match performance in the 62nd minute with a 20-yard shot of his own, after good work by John Brayford, Steven Davies and Lee Croft. 3-0.

Ben Davies deservedly took the man of the match but the rest of the Rams team weren’t far behind. For me, it was the most balanced, rounded, composed and impressive Derby County team performance I’ve witnessed for a long time.

Published on Derby County Mad 22nd August 2011 and RamZone 23rd August 2011.

Derby County 2-3 Shrewsbury Town

Posted by Stuart Hughes on August 10, 2011 at 4:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Derby County were knocked out of the Carling Cup at the first round stage yet again. League Two Shrewsbury Town visited Pride Park Stadium and left in jubilant mood after a 3-2 victory over the Rams.

Make no mistake about it, Shrewsbury Town thoroughly deserved to win and the odd-goal-in-five score line flattered Derby County.

The Rams defence had been outstanding against Birmingham City three days earlier, but were unrecognisable in a first-half that saw the Shrews rack up three goals in the opening 36 minutes.

Former Rams player Lionel Ainsworth ran Irish international Kevin Kilbane ragged, created all three of Shrewsbury Town’s goals, and would have scored a brace himself had he had his shooting boots on.

Kilbane couldn’t stop Ainsworth getting the ball into the penalty area but a combination of poor marking and standing still ball watching by Jason Shackell, Mark O’Brien and John Brayford allowed the Shrews attackers time and space to score at will – Marvin Morgan on 15 minutes, James Collins on 33 minutes, and Morgan again on 36 minutes.

The Shrews fans were in dreamland as Shrewsbury Town totally outplayed Derby County and deservedly led.

And it should have been more. The Shrews had two good penalty shouts after shots hit Kilbane’s arm. The assistant referee even signalled that the first one was a penalty but referee Darren Drysdale said no.

Derby County frankly had no idea. The Rams passed the ball between the back-four and the midfield quartet, as well as back to goalkeeper Frank Fielding, but were unable to produce any telling passes into attacking areas.

Quite simply, nobody from midfield made any forward runs, the full-backs did not get forward, and strikers Steven Davies and Theo Robinson could not get into the game.

Steven Davies was left to try and recreate his spectacular long-range strike from Saturday a few times but none of his efforts were on target.

After the break Derby County did, at least, make more of an effort. Midfield players started running forward, full-backs overlapped, and the Rams did create some good chances.

Chris Maguire rounded off a neat passing move to head home within a minute of the restart. Theo Robinson scored a good goal on 77 minutes. Other chances went begging too.

But Shrewsbury Town missed second-half chances themselves. Marvin Morgan missed two glorious opportunities to complete his hat-trick, shooting wide from four yards, then running through with only the goalkeeper to beat and shooting over the bar.

Derby County played better after the break with Chris Maguire and substitute Tomasz Cywka influencing the play.

Had the Rams played like that for the entire game the result may well have been different … but take nothing away from League Two Shrewsbury Town because the Shrews thoroughly deserved their victory.

Published on RamZone 10th August 2011.

Derby County 2-1 Birmingham City

Posted by Stuart Hughes on August 7, 2011 at 4:20 AM Comments comments (0)

I have to be honest and admit that Derby County surprised me with their opening day 2-1 victory over Birmingham City in the nPower Championship. Surprised me because I wasn’t expecting it. Not in the least.

I’m usually an optimist on opening day – if you can’t be optimistic on opening day, when can you be? – but the fixture list fates had rewarded Derby County’s struggles last season with a home game against newly relegated Birmingham City. Our opponents, despite spending most of the summer wrangling with their neighbours over compensation for former manager Alex McLeish, had made a good managerial appointment in Chris Hughton and retained the majority of their Premiership players.

I’d been in Mallorca for 10 days, only getting back on the Friday before the game, and wasn’t too surprised to discover the Rams had a huge injury list.

The irony of manager Nigel Clough’s team selection wasn’t lost on me either – nine new signings to improve the side and the Rams were starting with last season’s forgotten man Lee Croft, a player who had an unsuccessful loan spell at League One side Huddersfield Town during the first-half of last season and wasn’t even given a squad number for the second-half.

Despite a bright opening ten minutes by the Rams, my pessimism appeared well founded when nobody picked up Curtis Davies’s run into the penalty area, allowing him to head home a 19th minute corner.

All of last season’s failings appeared to be resurfacing, most notably the uncanny ability to give the ball away to the opposition cheaply and an inability to defend set-pieces.

To their credit, Derby County didn’t let their heads drop and, lifted by a 27,210 Pride Park crowd, stepped it up. Jason Shackell, captain for the day on his debut, headed the equaliser on 26 minutes and Steven Davies hit a sensational long-range winner on 42 minutes that beat Blues goalkeeper Boaz Myhill all ends up.

Back to the forgotten man for a moment; Lee Croft was a revelation. I’m not going to say he put in a world beating performance because he didn’t. The former canary was more guilty than most for giving the ball away cheaply, but he did put in a real “shift” as Robbie Savage was so fond of saying. Croft’s performance was whole-hearted, hard working, and he never stopped running for 90 minutes. He hustled, he bustled, he closed players down, and he tackled – yes, you heard me right, Lee Croft tackled – and he was involved in much of Derby County’s attacking play. His total commitment to the cause helped lift the crowd and, in many ways, typified the overall team performance.

As for the three debutants, well central defender Jason Shackell proved a colossus at the heart of the Rams defence. I don’t think he missed a header or a tackle all game long and showed composure on the ball. On top of that he scored his first Derby County goal, and made two perfectly timed late challenges inside the penalty area to deny Birmingham City two almost certain goals. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it was the most impressive debut by a Rams defender since Paul McGrath pulled on a Derby County shirt at the Baseball Ground.

Kevin Kilbane settled into the game at left-back the longer it went on. In the first-half, when Birmingham City held the ascendancy, he was too easily beaten down the left-flank by Blues players who appeared to just run past him. In the second-half though, when Derby County were looking to see out the game for the three points, Kilbane’s experience shone through as he did the right things at the right times. Add to that a composure on the ball, and a willingness to overlap and contribute to the attack, and Kilbane should be a good loan addition to the squad. Whether he’ll be able to hold down a first-team place ahead of dead-leg victim Gareth Roberts remains to be seen though.

I thought Craig Bryson had a good game in central midfield but some of the fans around me were calling him for not getting involved enough. Personally, I thought they were being somewhat harsh. For me Bryson tackled well, passed the ball neatly and efficiently, and had a good “engine” as Robbie Savage was also fond of saying. In some ways I can see what they were getting at but I felt this was down to Bryson trying to get used to the 4-1-3-2 formation the Rams played. Bryson seemed more comfortable when defensive midfielder James Bailey was alongside him (in a more traditional 4-4-2 set-up) than behind him.

Finally, I have to comment on the outstanding performance of 18-year old Mark O’Brien. The youngster replaced Russell Anderson (groin injury) in central defence on 35 minutes and didn’t look out of place. For a young-lad he plays like an old school defender – no frills, no spills, just head the ball clear or kick it into the crowd. Like Shackell, I don’t think O’Brien missed a header or tackle and he threw himself in front of the ball to block a goal bound shot late in the second-half. A very assured performance by a young lad who underwent surgery to repair a valve in his heart in October 2009.

Birmingham City fans will no doubt point to a number of missed chances, and the fact that they had the better of things before the break, in saying they were unlucky.

I believe in the old adage though that you make your own luck. Derby County looked the more likely to score after the break, would’ve scored even more had Jamie Ward converted either or both of two very good second-half chances, and comfortably saw out four minutes of added time in Birmingham City’s half of the field.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Rams won their opening fixture in the previous two seasons and both of those campaigns ended in relegation dogfights.

That said, this was a hugely impressive team performance against strong opponents. With ten players unavailable due to injury, there was a balance and resilience to this Derby County performance that hopefully bodes well for the season.

Published on Derby County Mad 7th August 2011 and on RamZone 8th August 2011.

Interviewed by Morgen Bailey

Posted by Stuart Hughes on July 12, 2011 at 5:13 AM Comments comments (0)

I have been interviewed about my writing by Morgen Bailey.

Check out the interview.

Good Reads UK Book Club

Posted by Stuart Hughes on July 12, 2011 at 5:02 AM Comments comments (0)

I am now on Good Reads UK Book Club.

This is a book group for GoodReads users in the UK, but members from other countries are welcome too so long as all posts are made in English.

The group is for anyone who likes reading widely and books from various genres are discussed. Anyone can add books to the group's shelf and members of the group are encouraged to post and visit the group often.

We are a friendly and approachable group that welcomes readers and writers alike to join and participate in our discussions. We support our authors and value their contribution so have set up a board for "Authors" on which books can be advertised and issues related to the experience of writers can be discussed with other members.

Check out my Author Profile.

Steven Dunne - The Reaper

Posted by Stuart Hughes on June 30, 2011 at 3:28 PM Comments comments (0)

On the 20th June 2011, author Steven Dunne visited Derby Scribes to talk about his work.

Steven is the author of two crime thriller novels. I’ve read both of them and can thoroughly recommend them. The first, The Reaper, tells the story of damaged Detective Inspector Damen Brook who collides with a brutal killer. The follow-up, The Disciple, is a sequel and the second in a planned trilogy.

Steven is currently working on another D.I. Brook novel, this time with a different killer as the planned trilogy is currently on the backburner because Steven has changed publishers and there are problems over the rights to the trilogy.

There was a good turnout for the Derby Scribes session – the first author visit at our new venue the Brunswick Inn – and Steven answered numerous questions and read from both The Reaper and The Disciple.

Living and working in Derby, the city is the central location for both novels, although some of the action also takes place in London, Brighton, Leeds and the United States of America. In fact the road outside the Brunswick Inn and the surrounding buildings, including the Midland Hotel and the railway station, play a central role in The Disciple.

Steven was inspiring, entertaining, and a thoroughly nice man. How his first novel came to be published can serve as an inspiration to us all. Unable to find any takers for it, Steven self-published it and incredibly sold 1,600 copies. He uploaded the novel to the authonomy website and HarperCollins picked it up from there.

As Steven says, “I believed in The Reaper and deep down I knew it deserved to be read by a larger audience. Thanks to authonomy I’ve been given that chance.”

Derby Scribes will be delighted to welcome Steven Dunne back in 2012 when his next novel is published by his new publisher. As he sold a number of books on the night, we’re hoping Steven will be equally delighted to see us again.

Nigel Clough - what does he have to do?

Posted by Stuart Hughes on June 23, 2011 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)

RamZone asked me, “Now it seems that Nigel Clough is getting the budget and players he wants – with his contract expiring at the end of the coming season – what is the minimum he must achieve in 2011/12 for him to continue as manager of Derby County?”

Without wanting to avoid answering the question, Nigel Clough needs to keep his employers General Sports Entertainment (GSE) happy. Ultimately that means convincing Andy Appleby in the U.S.A., and Tom Glick over here, that he is the right man to lead Derby County beyond this coming season.

Tom Glick has said that Derby County are going to have a real go this season and GSE have backed the manager with money to spend in the transfer market, money that Clough could only have dreamed of previously.

The Rams are leading the way in the Championship this summer with their transfer activity. Already signed are six players – Frank Fielding, Jamie Ward, Theo Robinson, Craig Bryson, Nathan Tyson and Jason Shackell, with a seventh, Chris Maguire, due to be confirmed when his contract with Aberdeen expires at the beginning of July.

And there’s more. Glick is promising a further four additions. Two strikers, Maguire, presumably, being one of them and Martyn Waghorn appears to be the top target for the other; a veteran, defensive midfielder to replace Robbie Savage, with John Eustace looking like the main target; and a left-back to complete the jigsaw – here Glick has hinted at waiting for the Premier League squads to be confirmed and then going after a young left-back who misses the cut.

Even then the transfer activity may not end there. Glick has confirmed that the club are looking at opportunities to add young players with potential to the squad. Torquay United youngsters Saul Halpin and Lathaniel Rowe-Turner were taken on trial towards the end of last season, both played in a reserve game and Halpin impressed by scoring a hattrick. The Rams are also meant to be leading the chase for Burton Albion’s player of the season Adam Legzdins.

Clearly GSE will be looking for a return on this investment but Glick has said that it’s not a case of promotion or bust.

Even so, a significant improvement on last season will be expected by GSE. Will top ten be enough for Clough to earn himself a new contract? As long as the Rams are consistently in the top then my hunch is yes, but everybody will be hoping for better than top ten, seriously challenging for the playoffs.

One thing’s for sure, this coming season Nigel Clough will have no hiding place. Somewhat belatedly, GSE have delivered investment in the playing staff and Clough can have no more excuses. With, effectively, a whole new team of players arriving, the manager and his backroom staff must get them playing as a cohesive team, preferably sooner rather than later.

Is Nigel Clough the man for the job?

I sincerely hope so and, make no bones about it, this coming season we will find out.

Published on RamZone 24th June 2011.

I made the back page

Posted by Stuart Hughes on May 19, 2011 at 3:06 PM Comments comments (0)

The Derby Telegraph contacted me, asked if I'd renewed my Derby County season ticket, and then asked for a quote. I made the back page.