Derby earned a crucial victory against arch-rivals Forest
Derby win East Midlands duel
DERBY are accustomed to dressing room incursions. Two months ago, the arrival of chairman Mel Morris presaged the demise of Paul Clement and set in motion a catastrophic loss of form.
This time, the intervention was far more welcome as a new ‘football advisor’ Harry Redknapp sparked victory over troubled rivals Forest.
Drafted in to help rookie boss Darren Wassall, Redknapp – manager of QPR when the Hoops beat Derby in the 2014 Championship play-off final – watched a moribund first half from the directors’ box before descending to dispense a bit of wisdom at the break.
The result was a vastly improved display, a beautiful goal from full-back Marcus Olsson and a third home win on the spin that lifted the Rams to within six points of second-placed Middlesbrough.
“Harry has been with us since Thursday and we’ve welcomed him with open arms,” said Wassall, who is in charge until the end of the season. “I mean, who wouldn’t want a man of that experience?
“He worked with us on Thursday and Friday, getting to know the players and the staff. I told him I want him wherever he feels he can help.
“He was in the dressing room before kick-off. I was happy to take some advice, but he said ‘I’ll leave it to you’ and that’s what he did.
“At half-time he came down with Kevin Phillips. Like every week, we had a talk about what they’ve seen upstairs, whether we need to change anything. It was business as usual, but with Harry offering his suggestions.
“His years in the game will improve all of us and if he can help us in our promotion push – even if that’s just one or two per cent – we’ll be absolutely delighted.
“He wants to be part of something successful here and, besides, he owes us one because he beat us in the last play-off final!”
Defeat was harsh on Forest, just as the 1-0 scoreline flattered a wretched game. Rarely can these ancient rivals have met in such a miserable state and the parlous mentality of both was evident in a cagey mess of a match.
Last week’s home battering at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday spelled the end for Forest boss Dougie Freedman, sacked on the back of one win in seven games.
Derby, meanwhile, contrived to squander a 3-0 lead to Rotherham in the final eight minutes, reaffirming a reputation as the division’s biggest chokers. Avoiding defeat was, therefore, high on the agenda for both sides and explained why crunching tackles and hopeful punts far outweighed chances and creativity.
Gary Gardner and David Vaughan excelled at the base of Forest’s midfield, as did George Thorne for the Rams. Michael Mancienne, too, was immense against the bruising, bullying Chris Martin.
Yet openings were scant. Besides a couple of pot-shots from Tom Ince, Dorus De Vries had nothing to keep him warm for an hour.
Poor Scott Carson, meanwhile, could have sat in the stand against a toothless Forest side whose only effort on target was a weak Jamie Ward strike in the 93rd minute.
Though weakened by the baffling withdrawal of Chris Cohen and increasingly forced into reverse, it took a mistake to settle matters.
Ryan Mendes dwelt in possession, allowing Ince to bundle in and play in Olsson. The left-back, a menace all day, kept his cool, bending a precise strike into the far corner with his supposedly weaker right foot.
“It had 0-0 written all over it,” said deflated caretaker Reds boss Paul Williams. “One incident changed the game but, overall, I was very pleased with how we performed.
“We know our shortcomings.We know we need to be scoring more. But from the back four to the front three, in terms of closing people down and being brave with the football, I couldn’t ask for any more.
“I’m disappointed with the result. But the positives are that we’ve got players coming back. Britt Assombalonga travelled with us. And if we get that level of performance every week we’ll be fine.”
LEAPING FOR JOY: Marcus Olsson celebrates his all-important goal
MAGIC MOMENT: Marcus Olsson scores Derby County’s winner