Spring is a little late this year
By Malcolm Cowan
This marked a major change for us: we had bought mini-season tickets, and by the time we bought them, the only alternative to the bottom corners of the Rookery, as opposed to our normal position near the back, was to retreat to the main stand. You know, the place where you are expected to applaud as the announcer tells us that "Today, we've got St Trinian's under nines, who have got to the national finals of the welly-throwing championships, let's give them a big hand and wish them luck next Tuesday" or "Our Football in the Community programme was judged best among teams beginning with W. Here to present the cheque for £500 is the commercial director of Value Supermarkets, Giles Barcode."
Even more worryingly, going into an area of the ground I haven't frequented in thirty years means questions like: what sort of queues are there to get in? Is there a stanchion in the way of the view? What will the people round us be like? Where is the tea bar? How congested are the loos? Still, leaving the back of the Rookery means not having to listen to the ten-year old who swears all match every match, under the benign gaze of his father and elder brother.
Some things never change, such as the ritual booing of Tommy Smith by a few. However, a novelty was the officials wearing a subtle shade of luminous green for their shirts, and the lino on our side sporting a baseball cap in the second half.
After a number of matches where we only get going after Adie has thrown the teacups at half-time, it was good to see us settle into a pattern early on, except the pattern was to miss a series of chances. Bouazza found the side netting, Young failed to beat the goalie when put through one-on-one, and from the save, missed a header that would have found an unguarded net. Then a Spring shot was deflected into Camp's grateful hands.
Soon after, Jordan Stewart failed to deal with a through ball, Kevin Lisbie managed a weak shot towards the corner of the goal, bur Clarke Carlisle, in for DeMerit, seemed to think it was going wide and let it hit the post and rebound in. After that, Derby understandably improved and looked a match for us as we ran out of creative ideas. Several times the defence appealed in vain for offsides that looked correctly judged by the lino from where we sat.
After thirty-five minutes, Marlon King received a long kick from Foster (aren't they all?), controlled it, took just half a dozen touches before lashing it into the corner of the net from eighteen yards. Then Bouazza received a helpful headed back pass just six yards out, turned and found Row Z.
The second half started like the balance of the first, with too many long hoofs upfield, mostly finding the more-than-ample frame of Darren Moore, lots of time-wasting from Derby, and the lack of Henderson being very clear. Bouazza had been withdrawn for Bangura, and the move to 4-3-3 with two wingers, who along with Spring, had their lack of upper body strength exploited by a fairly physical team, did not seem to be likely to lead to many goals. Spring in particular was being caught in possession.
Young shot just over after fifty-eight, and soon after, King hit the post, but chances were relatively rare.
Macca came on for Eagles but saw little of the ball. Carlisle was pushed up to add height, but Derby took the lead on what we thought at the time was the 86th minute, as they went down for treatment whenever they felt like it.
Six minutes were announced as added time to compensate for some of Derby's time-wasting. Then suddenly, Bangura popped up to slam home a twenty-yarder. I won't say he was pleased, but after he had removed his shirt, half removed his vest, and the game restarted, the fourth official intervened to make sure Al was booked for celebration, even though he hadn't left the pitch. A couple more attacks followed, but Derby had been professional enough to curb us without looking anything beyond average.