Derby County’s Season So Far: A Slow Start With Signs of Hope

Derby County

Derby County have had a lukewarm start to the season, sitting ninth in the League One table after seven games. Interim manager Liam Rosenior has cut a frustrated figure on the side-lines after several fixtures so far this season, as an all too familiar pattern plays out.

The Rams have often dominated possession and created several chances while looking comfortable in defence. Despite this, they have struggled to convert encouraging performances into victories.

Derby County’s Season So Far: Rams Failing to Turn Dominance Into Wins

Away Day Woes

Last season, Derby managed just three wins away from home in the league. Having dropped a division and secured some impressive signings, fans were expecting an upturn in form on the road. This feeling has been embodied by a strong fan presence at visitor’s grounds so far this season. Unfortunately for the travelling faithful, the Rams have yet to taste victory in the three league matches away from home this season. But it is not for the lack of effort or dominance.

Across these matches, Derby have averaged 66% possession and accumulated 55 shots, without producing a single goal. Charlton Athletic produced a sucker punch counter-attack from a Derby corner to claim a 1-0 victory. The subsequent games at Shrewsbury Town and Fleetwood Town both finished goalless.

Rams Unable to Finish Chances

Strikers James Collins and David McGoldrick have taken until the sixth and seventh games of the season respectively to find the net for their new club and loanee Lewis Dobbin is yet to score. However, Rosenior is happy with his players’ performances. William Osula, a deadline-day loan signing, made his debut off the bench in the last game and is keen to show what he has to offer.

James Collins has led the line well and performs a key role in the way the Rams build tactically. He was also desperately unlucky in search of goals, seeing efforts cleared off the line, hitting the woodwork, as well as being disallowed. He finally scored his first for the club in a home defeat to Plymouth Argyle on September 3 and fans will hope this will be the first of many.

Lewis Dobbin looks like an exciting player who is being built up to full fitness. After three substitute appearances, he has started four of the last five games in all competitions and has shown off his pace and skill, which will hopefully create opportunities. However, as he is only 19 years old and taking his first steps into senior football, patience will likely be required.

David McGoldrick missed the start of the season through injury and will therefore be looking to pick up fitness from now on. He made his first league start for Derby in the clash with Plymouth following three appearances as a substitute. When fit, McGoldrick can provide a link between midfield and attack which the squad has been missing at times this campaign.

Mitigating Circumstances

Derby County Football Club almost didn’t make it to the beginning of the new season. While other teams were returning for pre-season, Derby had only five senior players contracted to the club. Due to the uncertainty about the future of the club, pre-season friendlies were not able to be arranged until the last minute and so the Rams only had five games to prepare for the new season. By comparison, opening day opponents Oxford United had taken part in eight warm-up matches. As a result, Derby have often struggled to remain competitive for a full 90 minutes and have faded in the second half of matches.

Their possession-based approach relies on wearing the opposition down. While controlling possession is through choice, the war of attrition that has often resulted is not necessarily by design. Derby are seen as a big scalp in the third tier, with opposing teams often sitting deep and defending narrowly. While fitness is improving with each match, they currently seem unable to increase the tempo when required to break through.

With more time gaining experience in Rosenior’s system, as well as improvements to fitness and match sharpness, the team will grow stronger and the goals should come. Assuming the current patterns within matches continue, it is no stretch to say that the floodgates could soon open.

Impressive Home Form and Defensive Record Gives Hope

Derby had the 11th-best defensive record in the Championship last season despite suffering relegation at the end of the campaign. They also had the 11th best home record in the league, with the 21-point deduction sealing their fate despite a reasonable set of results. They often produced spirited and determined performances to grind out results and find late goals, but ultimately fell victim to relegation despite their fighting spirit.

At home, they started this season where they left off, with large home crowds helping the team over the line in tight games. They recorded three wins from the first three home games to begin the season, though a collapse against Plymouth saw them throw away a two-goal lead at the half to lose 3-2. Despite the second-half collapse, the Rams showed enough to make travelling to Pride Park a daunting experience for visitors.

Across all League One fixtures before the Plymouth game, they had also only conceded three goals in six games, which is a strong showing for a team that has aspirations of finishing near the top of the table. While Derby are struggling to find goals, their defence is doing a good job of keeping the team in the game.

The tactical approach that Rosenior has devised is complicated and relies on fine details, which will inevitably take time for players to pick up and execute. Despite a stuttering start, improved fitness and more time spent perfecting this approach could yet produce an exciting season. Derby fans hope the club is not too far adrift from the league’s frontrunners before the goals start to come.