Playing a frustrating game - 26/11/2002
Rightly attracting attention from the Premiership
It may have been a poor result against Brighton but Steve Elliott can be pleased with his game.
I thought all the back three did well but it was Steve’s first start for 10 months and he was our best player.
I was delighted for him. He is Derby born and bred. If you were to cut him open, he would be black and white inside. He’s a great lad.
He has had to wait a while for his chance and been through all the emotions.
Steve was delighted when he got the number five shirt in the squad numbers, then down because he was not involved. He was injured, got himself fit and then had to sit and wait on the sidelines.
Danny Higginbotham dropped out of the Brighton game with a virus and Steve came in and took his chance.
I’d also like to mention Ian Evatt who has come on leaps and bounds.
Everybody knows about the likes of Chris Riggott and Danny, but Evo is not a player who was too well known before the start of the season.
But he has also come in and taken his chance well.
Everybody is frustrated with our season so far, particularly the supporters.
We keep saying that we are not too far away from the top six and how a run of good results would make all the difference.
But we were saying that after six, 12 and now 19 League games. We have to start proving that by winning more games and moving up.
I believe the next few weeks will be crucial because the table is starting to pan out.
The top two or three teams are looking strong and winning games. Then there is a group of four or five underneath them, followed by a middle-of-the-table group and those towards the bottom who are fighting for survival.
What we don’t want to be is a team in the middle of the table that moves close to the top six one week, only to lose the next game and drop back again.
Losing to the top side in Portsmouth and the bottom team in Brighton in a week shows what an open division this is.
There are plenty of games, while suspensions and injuries can make a big difference to many of the teams. That is why a number of clubs have a chance.
We really need to start looking at an improved position to take into the New Year because – and I know we have to prove this – I think we are capable of coming on strong in the second half of the season.
Of course, results like the one we had at Brighton do not help matters.
With all due respect to Brighton, we should be beating teams like them. They have improved under Steve Coppell and had an excellent draw at Wolves just before we played them.
Coppell has obviously instilled some confidence and organisation and they have brought in one or two experienced players like Dean Blackwell and Alan Rodger.
But we let a lot of people down.
We should really have won the game in the first half but did not make the most of our possession and opportunities.
Scoring goals is still the hardest part of the game and that is why clubs pay fortunes for strikers. If we had gone ahead against Brighton, I’m sure it would have been a very different game. I am sure we could have won.
I know it is an old, tired cliche but goals really do change games.
Having Malcolm Christie sent off early in the second half did not help matters and I though the referee could have shown a touch more common-sense over the red card.
But we can not use the sending off or the referee as an excuse.
The manager certainly made his feelings known and we had plenty of time to think about things on the coach journey home.
It was very disappointing and made worse by the fact that we have had to wait nine days to put things right with the game against Wimbledon having been moved to Monday night.
Mart Poom wants to play in the Premiership and could get his chance if things work out well for him at Sunderland.
His two-month loan and possible move is hard on the team and fans but there has to be some understanding of the club’s financial situation.
We will miss him if he does make a permanent move to Sunderland because he has proved himself to be a top class goalkeeper. He is a big player for us and a big part of the club.
He is one of the most hard-working goalkeepers I have known. He would be out there training from 9am to 6pm if the light was good enough.
Poomy has come from Estonia to this country and established himself. So much so, that a club like Manchester United were linked with him earlier this season.
I know that he is a big favourite with the fans as well.
Clubs who have been relegated from the Premiership are finding life tough, ourselves and Leicester City being examples of that.
Our financial situation means that players have to be sold. In an ideal world, you would want to keep your best players – and Poomy is one of them – but these things have to happen given the club’s financial problems.
Poomy’s loan spell is also an opportunity for Lee Grant and Andy Oakes to fight for the number one position.
Lee came in and did well against Nottingham Forest and Portsmouth but was not happy with his performance at Brighton.
He will learn from that. Goalkeepers seem to improve with age and he is only 19. He looks a very good keeper to me and has a bright future.
Andy has not been helped by a number of niggling injuries this season but has come through that.
We have two good keepers fighting for Poomy’s place.
Derby Evening Telegraph
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