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The Oppo: Derby County

What’s the history between Reading and Derby? Handbags Harris explores.

Cardiff City v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Nine days without a game, and nearly a month without an Oppo, the Royals take to the road fresh with the new face of Tiago Ilori in their ranks to take on the challenge laid down by big-spending Derby County.

Head to Head

The Royals record at big-spending Derby County is impressive, particularly at Pride Park, with seven wins from 12 fixtures at the new stadium, and we’ll undoubtedly be hoping to maintain the average of just shy of two goals per game there.

Of the three defeats at big-spending Derby County’s new stadium, two came in the first three visits there with the opening day 3-0 when the likes of Fabrizio Ravanelli, Malcolm Christie and Robert Lee outclassed the Royals. Just over two years later, Derby won with goals from Marcus Tudgay and Tommy Smith (who else?) but since that September 2004 day the big-spending Rams have beaten the Royals just once on their own turf in the league. Three further points would be most welcome!

Played

RFC Wins

Draws

DCFC Wins

RFC Goals Scored

DCFC Goals Scored

Baseball Ground

5

1

1

3

4

12

Pride Park

12

7

2

3

23

14

Derby Overall

17

8

3

6

27

26

Elm Park

5

4

1

0

7

2

Madejski Stadium

13

7

3

3

23

12

Reading Overall

18

11

4

3

30

14

OVERALL

35

19

7

9

57

40

Memorable Match

Saturday 31 December 2005, the final Sky TV match of the season saw top of the table Reading pit their wits against Phil Brown’s underachieving Rams. The Royals came into the match on a run of 10 successive wins in the league, and had won 20 of their 27 matches so far. Derby on the other hand sat in the lower reaches of the table, just outside of the relegation zone but put were always going to be a tough nut to crack given the 13 draws they had registered thus far from their 26 matches.

A slightly changed Reading side commenced proceedings with Stephen Hunt joining Kevin Doyle up front, while Brynjar Gunnarsson joined Steve Sidwell in the middle. The match was somewhat even up until the half hour mark, although Derby had looked dangerous on their right and it was from the right that they scored the opener, a maurauding run from Marc Edworthy culminated with a through ball played to Tommy Smith, whose run took him beyond the Reading back line and to the bye line. The pull back was perfect for the onrushing Seth Johnson to tap home from six yards, and the Royals fell behind in a league match for only the fourth time so far in 2005/06.

As was the way, however, typical Reading that season was to sit back, take stock, and collectively think "what the hell do you think you’re doing?", and Derby didn’t have a kick before the Royals equalised. Immediately from the kick off, Sonko stepped out of defence and began a six pass move that ended with Glen Little in a similar position to Tommy Smith just a minute before, and his slightly lofted cross was perfect for the resulting deft header from Kevin Doyle for his 11th goal of his debut season. Honours even at half time.

The second half saw more of the same, and 30 minutes after he had notched his opener, Seth Johnson was at it again as he put away a sweet 20-yarder after a the Royals failed to deal with a lofted ball forward and the presence of Adam Bolder. The goal was an excellent strike, Johnson showing technique befitting that of a player who at one stage threatened to regularly break into the England set up.

With the Royals behind in a game for only the fifth time in 2005/06, and struggling to make any headway amongst the Derby defence, Steve Coppell rang the changes, replacing Bobby Convey with Shane Long with 20 minutes to go, and Long made an instant impact, displaying a turn of speed unknown to every defender in the game by getting to a Kevin Doyle lay off fractionally ahead of Andrew Taylor in the middle of the park. Taylor, already on a booking, lunged in recklessly missing the ball and bringing Long down giving the referee no choice but to issue a second yellow card. From that point on it was the Alamo.

Reading sensed blood, and despite constant territorial advantage and more attacking substitutions in the form of John Oster and James Harper (the latter on for Graeme Murty) the equaliser didn’t look like it was going to arrive. Alas, it did though, and as always with the Steve Coppell mantra, a set piece was key. Nicky Shorey’s inswinging corner from the right found a path all the way to Steve Sidwell on the back post whose header back across goal was perfect for Long to display another facet to his game, his prodigious leap, rising above two defenders to nod home from a yard. Pandemonium from the small band of Royals behind the goal, and despite more constant pressure the Royals had to settle for a hard fought but deserved draw.

Defeat would have been harsh on Derby who belied their position in the table, while the Royals would go another seven matches before their second and final defeat of the season, away at Luton. We all know the outcome to that season. Derby had to settle with a 20th placed finish, although with Brighton, Crewe and Millwall all struggling from the commencement of the season, they never really endangered the relegation spaces, finishing eight points above the drop zone.

Grudge Moment

In my previous Oppo for the reverse fixture, I remarked "Reading fans have long memories, and will happily remind supporters of other clubs of their own folly from times past. We are, of course, susceptible to our own folly as pitch invasions against Burnley testify..."

Pitch invasions you say? Yes, our episode against Burnley was rather silly, borne out of faux information that Forest had equalised against Brighton and so we had qualified for the playoffs. However, 3000 Royals bore witness to a Derby pitch invasion in May 2008. Derby, you will recall, finished the season with just one win, 11 points, and were relegated ludicrously early. Having suffered for the 37th time that season, this time at the hands of the Royals who had comfortably despatched the Rams 4-0, the Derby faithful decided a pitch invasion was the way forward. Despite the result, Reading had of course also been relegated, and a sizeable element of Rams decided to congregate in front of the travelling support chanting "let’s all laugh at Reading". Football supporters as a collective are sometimes reknowned for their complete lack of self awareness, and the image of such a sizeable element of Rams supporters in front of us is firmly etched into my memory. A bizarre, and somewhat embarrassing spectacle to say the least.

Fact, Interesting or Otherwise

The Derby anthem, which is played before every half of football at Pride Park, is entitled "Steve Bloomer’s Watchin’". Ever wondered who Steve Bloomer was? Quite simply, he is Derby County’s record goalscorer and widely regarded as football’s first superstar, and if you look close enough next to the home dugout at Pride Park you will see a bust of the very man. Steve Bloomer is, indeed, watchin’.

Bloomer started his career with Derby in 1892 and scored his first goal for the club in September that year. That goal would be the first of 332 for the club, which even for the standards of the day is a huge and impressive total. To add to those goals for Derby, Bloomer would add 59 goals for Middlesbrough, and 28 goals for England from just 23 caps.