To misquote the great Barry Davies: “You have to say that was magnificent”.
For a team who had been so bewilderingly poor, who had been completely written off and who were, let’s be honest, widely tipped to roll over and have their bellies tickled by Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City to put in that level of sheer effort was fully deserving of both the three points and of maximum praise.
Against Boro, they put in the work, but were punished for their mistakes and looked much too blunt in attack. Against Cardiff, they had the rub of the green on two occasions at the back. Bradley Johnson got away with his latest brainfart because there’s no VAR and Gary Madine missed his kick when a strong connection from his left foot probably would have billowed the net for 2-0.
But Derby were the dominant force for most of the game. They pressurised a notoriously miserly and physical Cardiff defence and, by banging at the door long and loud enough, forced them into a series of game-changing howlers. It wasn’t pretty, but my word, it was stirring stuff when the levee finally broke.
They didn’t create any goals through pure quality. They just summoned them into being through sheer force of will.
It started with a panicked Aron Gunnarsson muffing a clearance when a cooler head – an “Iceman”, you could say – would have realised that ‘keeper Neil Etheridge could have claimed the loose ball comfortably. It reached its delirious zenith when a dozy Yanic Wildschut failed to realise that Andre Wisdom, playing as right wing back, had pushed right up to him, nearly on the Cardiff goal line. If I’d been in the Dutchman’s shoes, I’d have skipped the dressing room, walked straight out into the car park and hailed a taxi back to Cardiff, rather than face Warnock’s wrath.
But most appetisingly, most satisfyingly of all, it ended with Warnock’s captain and leader of men, “Mr Big Willy” himself, Sean Morrison, suddenly being obliged to reassess the relative scale of his genitalia, as the clearly handsomely proportioned Cameron Jerome thrust him aside and stabbed the ball under Etheridge’s dive for a truly hilarious clincher.
What a night. What a turnaround. And what a colossal shift the Rams put in to make it happen.
Cardiff are horrible to watch, but horribly effective. Suddenly, after weathering five minutes of pressure, there they are, in and around your penalty area, testing your physical strength and tenacity with crosses and long throws. They play something more akin to rugby, or gridiron, punting it forward to gain yardage before heaving the ball over the line. Even throws from their own half are hurled as far as possible away fro