Headline Grabbing Savage
Headline grabbers are hard to quosh and Derby County’s trip to Reading last night provided a big example of such showmanship as Robbie Savage spent the best part of an hour between the sticks, his first spell in goals in his career.
The disruption to the Rams’ evening allows only for assessment with caveats. Savage was the fray’s third incumbent in the goalkeeping position. Stephen Bywater’s dorsal problems led to his departure after a baker’s dozen of minutes and ex-Burton debutant Saul Deeney’s only significant contribution was to haul down Jay Tabb in the box. That said, the first half was a veritable sheep dip for the Rams.
Anyone who has seen a lot of Championship football in recent seasons will have seen Jay McEveley exposed on countless occasions and although he occasionally linked up well with the beefy Stephen Pearson down the left, he was no match for the whippet like Malian Jimmy Kébé. On the opposite flank, Nicky Hunt, on loan from Bolton, was his usual solid self and might actually claim that he had the best of a dual with Royals’ Icelandic starlet Gylfi Sigurðsson. A general lack of pace across the backline was proving problematical for Derby though – Jake Buxton has done well to negotiate the leap from non-league football but he and the very disappointing Shaun Barker were continually outsmarted, the latter looking dishevelled and disoriented, sporting a few days’ growth of facial hair growth: not so much a midlife crisis; more a mid-sized club crisis.
Pearson lined up in a five man midfield, with Arsenal youngster Gilles Sunu on the right. His deliciously curved shot, bent in with the very outside of his boot, briefly put the Rams on terms and there would appear to be promise there from the former French under-18 captain. An initially crowded centre midfield struggled to cope with the industry of the diminutive Jay Tabb and Brian Howard – Michael Tonge strode classily in the game’s early stages, bidding part-successfully to relaunch a floundering career and Paul Green showed form in bursts. Savage completed the quintet until he was redrawn and showed once again how underrated he is as a passer of the ball.
A hamstring twinge almost denied Rob Hulse involvement as a lone striker and he did very well in holding and retaining the ball – unfortunately, these abilities were generally displayed thirty yards or more from Adam Federici’s goal, so little threat was posed. The extra man began to tell after a bright start to the second period for Derby but it should not paper over the fact that they were resoundingly second best. Absentees Kris Commons, Lee Croft and Miles Addison will be available to augment the Pride Park club’s line up another time and they have done well at times this season, especially at home – but Nigel Clough’s revolution is a work in progress to put it mildly.