Defending has returned!
Well, wouldn’t you know it - this lot are capable of defending well after all!
Immense credit has to go to Donald Love, John O’Shea and Lamine Kone in particular - all three men gave their best performances of the season and went back to basics with their approach.
Playing a four man back-line helped us immensely and everyone looked much more comfortable - if we can keep that defence together and working in tandem we have a much better chance of picking up decent results.
Donald Love in particular was fantastic, and I was really happy for him to have turned in such a solid performance. As a wing back he’s struggled but having been given the simple instruction to get rid of the ball when we were in danger, he dealt with it well, and early in the game when the scores were level he made a tremendous interception to prevent Derby from scoring.
Much, much better - keep it up!
Gooch shows what we’ve been missing
I love nothing more than seeing lads that are passionate about our club doing well. Lynden Gooch has been largely overlooked this season, and whilst he’s not the most supremely talented player he gives it his all.
Last night he turned in a performance of a high standard and he’ll surely now hold his place in the team for Monday’s mammoth clash with Sheffield Wednesday.
He even showed a bit of quality, turning Craig Forsyth inside out before winning the foul which led to our penalty - a goal that effectively killed the game off.
I’m not expecting miracles of him but it’s important he stays involved now, whatever happens between now and the end of the season. He’s going to remain part of this side going forward and you want players like Lynden complimenting others, like Aiden McGeady, who can create chances and score goals.
Jekyll & Hyde from Fletcher, but he shows he can do it
Ashley Fletcher didn’t have a bad game, really. He had a real topsy-turvy evening but even despite his missed chances, he’ll be happy with his work on the night.
Early doors his lack of confidence showed as his poor touch spurned a chance just minutes into the game, but then having been afforded an opportunity by Richard Keogh he dribbled past three players before finishing well - the first bit of real quality he’s shown since arriving.
He then missed an absolute sitter from five yards out, before growing again in confidence as the game wore on, unfortunately rattling the post with a superb effort having cut inside from the left.
It’s a start. He’s got the monkey off his back now that he’s scored, and Chris Coleman deserves credit for sticking by him when many - myself included - had called for him to make changes up top.
Great Escape mode initiated!
We can still stay up. There, I’ve said it!
There’s no reason why we can’t beat Sheffield Wednesday if we play like that again. The Owls picked up an impressive victory themselves yesterday but with them virtually safe on 44 points, it’s possible they’ll take their foot off the gas slightly and it could be a good time for us to be playing them.
It feels absolutely mental to be saying this but come Monday night we could be level on points with Barnsley. Quite how we’re not completely cut adrift at this stage is beyond me, but there we go - survival is still very much ours for the taking and the true test of our mentality will be centred on whether or not we can follow up one good performance with another.
The players will be more confident now and are no doubt relishing the next match - I just hope the pressure to perform isn’t too much for some of them.
It’s the hope I can’t stand!