Well that will do very, very nicely.
After the snooze fest that was Saturday, tonight I just wanted to see a bit of impetus, energy and quality. There are no free hits in the position we’re in, but I’m sure most fans expected a loss coming into this game, so I just wanted to see an improvement on Wigan Athletic. And we definitely got that.
It was on the whole quite an open game, particularly in the first half, with chances at either end. Derby County are clearly a quality team in this division and are bang in form, but we limited them to very few clear-cut chances - in fact, I can’t remember David Button making a save.
At the other end of the pitch, we looked really aggressive in the press from the outset and were causing problems for Derby, winning it in dangerous areas, but again we just lacked that cutting edge when we needed it most.
The second half continued in much the same nature really. Derby had more of the ball, but we looked really organised defending them and dangerous when we won the ball back.
There were some really good performances all round tonight: Harvey Knibbs, the returning Charlie Savage and Lewis Wing in midfield were all impressive. But throughout Paul Mukairu and Femi Azeez on either wing were the danger men.
Having two energetic, quick, direct wingers who can take people on and go either way was really refreshing to see. Whenever either of them got the ball tonight their first thought was always a positive one, looking to take on their defender and create something.
And it was the two of them that combined for the only goal of the game. Mukairu picked the ball up from a throw-in, distributing it out wide to Azeez who took on his man, struck the post and - where we failed to capitalise on the loose ball from Andy Yiadom’s post-bound effort in the first half - Mukairu was there to finish what he started and slam the ball home.
Of course Derby tried to put their foot down after that, but as much as they tried, they still failed to create anything clear-cut. Similar to ourselves on Saturday, if they’d have had a bit more quality where it counted then they probably would’ve gone home with something, but credit still has to go to how we defended.
Tom Holmes, once again, was superb. He’s going to be a really, really key player for us for the remainder of this season - and you have to give him credit for how he’s bounced back from a difficult start to the campaign and performed since his return to the team.
But it wasn't just Holmes tonight - there were 7/10s and 8/10s all over the pitch. The aforementioned Azeez and Mukairu of course, Sam Smith did his dirty work really well and looked so much more effective when the service into him was actually half decent (who'd have thought?), Wing and Savage showed touches of quality and composure in midfield, Knibbs was absolutely everywhere and the defence were superb.
It was, overall, a really good performance against a really good team, ending in a monumental three points. And, for the first time in a long time, it looked like a Ruben Selles kind of performance.
It reminded me of the opening few games of the season when of course the results weren't there, but you could really see what Selles was trying to do with the high-press, high-energy football - trying to win the ball back high up the pitch and punish teams. That ideology has had to be sacrificed a little since then; we’ve gone a bit into survival mode and just tried to pick up points however we can.
But tonight we looked like a Selles team. And I reckon he thinks that too, judging by how he reacted at the full-time whistle. Watching on iFollow the camera immediately zoomed into the manager at full time, watching his outpour of emotion, fist-pumps (to himself more than anything) before marching onto the pitch and hugging every single player.
Look, we’re still in the mire, don’t get mistaken. But tonight was a strong performance and a huge three points. I don’t think anyone expected this, so let’s celebrate it a little shall we.