The Slow Train to the Next Level
Despite putting in a very low quality performance, the Rams were not particularly outplayed by Reading last night. Neither side really deserved to win and it was clear if anyone scored it would be tough for the other side to come back.
However the predictable way the second half panned out, the ease in which Reading saw out the game after their goal and our now established mid table league position has prompted a new round of “where are we going?” type comment and conversation.
Let’s start with a positive and be clear, this season has been a massive step forward. We’re nowhere near the bottom of the table and have indeed been involved and flirted with the top 6 for most of the season.
Billy Davies always says you need three good runs in a season to be successful in the Championship. We’ve had two already and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we could string another run together before the end of the season. That probably won’t be enough to get us into the top 6 now, but should be enough for a single digit finish, which, in reality, is exactly where we deserve to be.
There is no doubt that the core of the team is good and we are definitely now “difficult to beat”. However, accepting several of them are coming back from injury, none of our strikers still look like they are capable of scoring 15 goals a season. Half of them don’t look capable of playing 15 games!
Moving into midfield, the right side has all of a sudden become a problem position. Whilst its nobodies fault that Brayford got injured, why couldn’t Ben Davies have done a turn instead of Hendrick, Tyson or Bryson (all of which looked lost)? Whilst he deserved to get dropped when he did, he had a great start to the season and, say what you like but, our set pieces have been awful since his demotion. Assuming Greeny is leaving, right midfield is almost becoming the new “must have” for the summer (left back is sooooo last year).
In central midfield, I have no problem with Tom Carroll and he looks a good player but, to use Nigel’s own philosophy, is he better than Hendrick or Bails? The short answer is no. I can only think that we assumed Greeny was leaving and something has gone on with Bailey. Random transfer speculation swiftly followed by a random benching (don’t forget he was MOM against Stoke) are both signs of a possible issue. On the basis that we are not going up or down, surely an experienced head or twenty games for one of our own youngsters would have been a better idea.
The next few games look tough and we need to get scoring some goals again soon. However, being positive, I am confident that overall we’ll win more than we lose before the end of the season which, as I said earlier, would be definite progress.
I’ve already heard Nigel speak a couple of times about “what we want to do in the summer” and I am sure he already has his targets and plans in place. I am pretty sure this summer you will see a quality not quantity policy and you may even see us cash someone in like Brayford, Bailey or Bennett (those Man City rumours won’t go away), if we need the funds to get the creativity and ruthless finishing we now so obviously need to get to the next level.
Keep the faith everybody. It’s a long and frustrating ride, but we’ll get there.