Sweet Dreams
Derby Day Tensions

The last missive on here from me was after the Burton game when I said we needed 11/12 points out of the next 6 games to kick start our season and get us on to 17/18 points (play-off spot form) before the October break.

Well we’ve made a decent fist of trying to do that so far. The Forest game was a bit more like it – started well, could have been 3 up after 10 minutes, got ahead and took the two chances we had in the 2nd half. Not the brilliant performance overall that some have presented it as but good nonetheless. I thought Brentford were excellent, a nice mix of high press and sitting deep and exploited their pace when the ball turned over, the one thing they missed was fire power, if they had it we might have been done at half-time. As it was the Reach pass and the Hoops finish got us back in the game and we improved 2nd half to see out the win. In the first half at Cardiff we were very good with the only criticism being that we didn’t really create enough goal scoring opportunities out of the domination we had. It was a good goal though – great burst forward from Joost, lovely cross from Reach and classy finish from Hoops. Cardiff upped their game 2nd half and after the Fletch miss I suspected our vulnerability to giving one away might come back to haunt us. The lovely ‘Colin’ annoyingly called it right in saying we’ll “have the measure of most sides between the boxes”. In other words, he implied - not enough goal threat and always a risk of conceding a goal. For me unless we sort those two deficiencies we won’t threaten the top 2 and worst case might even miss out on the play-offs. Had we won at Burton and Cardiff (as we should have done) we would have been equal top on points.

It’s been lovely to see Keiran Lee back as he does make such a difference. Barry Bannan has been very good, and Fletcher and Hoops are an excellent front two at the moment. David Jones has been very steady and Adam Reach has improved. Jack Hunt has stepped up. I have been impressed with Joost (Joast) on what I have seen of him so far – looks very comfortable on the ball, good passer and generally reads it well. If we got the ball into the opposition box a bit quicker and with a bit more quality we can score goals but that has been a perennial problem last season and this.

So we face the dreaded Sheffield derby on Sunday. I hate the whole thing – far too tense for me and I will be pleased when it’s over, of course I will hoping I can bask in the glory of a win or at least a share of the spoils. In recent years the Blunts have appointed managers who have just got it wrong, unfortunately they now have a good one who gives his teams a shape and identity and I’m sure will have them  fired up for it – like a mini Warnock. His David Brent impression at the weekend was very good though – was it him losing his rag or just a bit of kidology making himself the focus of media attention rather than a home defeat? Anyway it will be a very tough game and a nervous affair. Our experienced players will need to bring the lessons from derby duels from other places with them, Carlos has experienced big derbies from his Lisbon and Istanbul days too – however his record of 1W, 4D and 3L could have been better! Something else to make the nerves jangle!  It’s highly unlikely to be a reprise of the Boxing Day Massacre and I will settle for a narrow win or dignified stalemate right now! When I put my head on the pillow on Saturday night I shall try to ensure I dream of Boxing Day, Curran at their place, Owusu’s single touch of fame, the Wembley semi-final, Tudgay’s screamer to give us the double and Chris O’Grady’s header and charge towards Meggo. No late night cheese for me!

Then after that we go to Birmingham with possibly a new manager in charge at St Andrews – always tricky, and the visit of Dirty L**ds who have been looking good so far despite the loss of their star striker. If we can see the next 3 games out and have 5 more points at the end then we’ll be on 18 points and averaging 1.64 points per game and looking like possible play-off contenders. I won’t venture into the “what if we get less or more” just yet – there will be plenty of time to take stock on all that during the international break. We know from the first 20 minutes against Forest and the first half at Cardiff that we are capable of keeping the ball and blowing teams away, we also know from Fulham away that we can be disciplined and well organised, we just have to summon all that up more often, and add the killer instinct to it.

If you can enjoy the derby, please do so!

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