Most of the time, the life of a football fan is far from pleasant. Whilst the affection you feel for your club is unwavering, a stream of last-gasp defeats, glaring errors and gilt-edged chances missed, can test your loyalty to its limits. Occasionally though, you embark on a run of form which removes any sense of trepidation from your thoughts, provoking dreams of further successes to come. This morning, life feels good.
With the relief that came from our victory over West Ham on Tuesday, there was a sense that the momentum gained could act as a catalyst for an even better performance against Cardiff yesterday afternoon, thankfully our players didn’t disappoint. From start to finish, we were desperate to impress, taking the lead after just six minutes thanks to a close-range header from Cameron Jerome, before Marouane Chamakh sealed all three points with just over half an hour left to play, in between those moments, we didn’t take our foot off the pedal for a second.
In what was arguably our best performance of 2013, our players proved that Tony Pulis’ style, although scoffed at by many, is in fact extremely effective, when adopted with the correct work ethic at a team’s core. Stylistically, it was so simple, with two banks of four supporting a deep lying striker and a more advanced all-out frontman. Whilst it may sound crude, there is no way of denying it’s effectiveness, as each passage of play, whether it be in defence or attack, was carried out with an astounding level of tactical discipline.
With every player continuously on message, our play never seemingly deviated from the overall plan, leaving Cardiff to grow increasingly frustrated at the figurative brick wall that had been placed in front of them thanks to the mightily impressive defensive shift we put in. In direct contrast to the final days of Ian Holloway’s reign, the number of second balls we are now picking up is incredibly pleasing, as every well-timed defensive header appears to be subsequently seized upon by a covering teammate. It may not be a footballing purists dream, but of late, it’s giving the opposition nightmares.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that every member of the starting eleven deserves praise for yesterday’s display, but for me, Jerome, Chamakh, Bannan and Ward produced the outstanding performances of the afternoon. Whilst the aforementioned pair were teasing the Cardiff back-line with probing runs and incisive forays towards goal, Bannan and Ward were offering a genuine touch of class to proceedings in support.
Bannan, who signed with a less than stellar reputation in the summer, has been a revelation in midfield, making a difference in both defence and attack throughout his time with us. Yesterday saw him desperate for the ball at all times, seemingly never wasteful in position and linking well with both strikers whenever we looked to hit Cardiff on the break. In a side which is flourishing on the basis of hard-graft, Bannan is proving that there is more than enough room for those with natural flair to succeed.
If Bannan offered a key to the Cardiff treasure chest, Joel Ward proved to be the padlock securing ours. Moved out of his natural position at right-back early on to accommodate Dean Moxey’s departure, he seemed to improve his already blossoming reputation by putting in a performance of ruthless consistency on the left. Time and again, he snuffed out the visitors’ attacking efforts with casual efficiency, seldom wasting the opportunity to advance play when he found the ball at his feet, with his defensive intervention and subsequent pass in the build-up to our second goal proving to be a microcosm of his play throughout.
After weeks of uncertainly, it feels as though we’ve well and truly turned a corner, with a settled team thriving under Pulis’ guidance and the January transfer window edging ever closer. With the likes of Guedioura and Murray still to return, and the prospect of two or three new faces amongst the squad by the time the window closes, there is a sense that we may just manage to pull this off, which after the turmoil we faced just six weeks ago, looked like a task bordering on the impossible.
Throughout the opening stages of the season, pundits and fellow fans alike, were keen to remind Derby County’s record low of 11 Premier League points. Whilst there may have been one or two worried glances from our fans early on, yesterday’s victory saw us surpass that total in imperious fashion, with the prospect of far more being added to our tally in the weeks and months to come, our fans are riding high on the crest of a wave.
Next up is a trip to face Jose Mourinho’s wobbling Chelsea side at Stamford Bridge. We couldn’t could we?