Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Derby County 1 – Notes on a disgrace

You don’t need a full match report from me and I am too angry to write one, in any case. It’s enough to say that to lose to a team as limited as Wolves today was unacceptable.

This shocking result sadly confirmed the suspicion I have held since the day of his appointment – Darren Wassall is not capable of leading Derby County and must be replaced by a suitable, experienced manager as soon as possible.

Wolves were the epitome of a side there for the taking.  Their team shape and tactics were nothing more than textbook anti-Derby – squat in your own half, wait for a loose pass or touch, then spring – these were the sort of tactics that Mel Morris, I guess, got sick of watching the Rams fail to overpower with sufficient style when he binned Paul Clement and sent his football club into its current state of rudderless drift.

An horrendous early Thorne error gifted Wolves a lead they defended with an embarrassing level of comfort, until Chris Martin’s free kick offered Wassall a route out of jail shortly before half-time.  That should have been the springboard for Derby to boss the second half against poor, unimaginative and unambitious hosts, but there was never any penetration to go with the possession.

At half-time, I called for more pace and trickery to be introduced from the bench – but a double change on 55 minutes was a surprising, borderline alarming decision from Wassall. Usually, double switches are reserved for situations where the team is really struggling. Thorne off for Ince was understandable, given the midfielder’s on-going difficulties with fitness – Weimann on for Russell much less so.

For the next 15 minutes or so, Derby looked more than capable of winning the game, as Wolves retreated deep to the edge of their own box and did nothing more than hang in there – but I can only think of a miss by Ince to show for Derby’s clear territorial advantage – and they exhibited an amateurish openness to Wolves’ single hope, the counter attack. More than once, they lost possession (Bradley Johnson) and were left undressed at the back.  Wolves were presented with incredible two-on-two counter attack opportunities, which they lacked the quality to take.

Until you’ve reached the last five minutes of a game and are trailing, in what situation does a professional football team, at this level, leave itself so unguarded at the back – not once, but repeatedly?

Derby’s ineffectual huff-and-puff subsided in the last ten minutes and it seemed like a disspiriting case of ‘two points dropped’, in a poor game against utterly plain opposition. Then an unopposed cross was allowed from the left byline and headed in.

It was yet another savage low in a year which is rapidly threatening to turn into Derby’s worst since 2008.

I am absolutely furious.  I hate any Derby defeat, but this performance was just miles below what is acceptable.  It was actually depressingly reminiscent of the worst of times under Nigel Clough – which, given the hefty investment in players since those mediocre, penny-pinching days of loans and frees, is unbelievable.

We’re just left guessing as to what will happen next.  Maybe Morris genuinely has decided to leave Wassall there until the summer, maybe that was just something he said to buy time while he worked on finding the right candidate.  I have no idea.  Just as I’ve never really understood why Clement had to be sacked – I have listened, impatiently, to all the embarrassing schoolyard gossip about ‘the real reasons’ ‘behind the scenes’ – I do not understand why Wassall is there.

He obviously loves his job as academy director – barely an interview goes by when he doesn’t mention the U’21s, with pride – and that is the role he should be filling.  I sympathise with him and it’s not his fault.  His bizarre elevation to head coach was unfair on him and although he is clearly a positive, optimistic character, this is quite simply not a job for a rookie.

Morris said himself, in a BBC Radio Derby interview, that the next manager should not be ‘an aspiring person’, but somebody with experience.  That experienced manager is needed as soon as possible, because these handsomely-paid players are simply not performing.   The club is heading backwards and will continue to do so until the managerial void is filled.

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