Once free-scoring Derby make it four without a goal but shouldn't be downhearted

Madejski Reading

The Royals and the Rams played out a goalless draw at the Madejski this afternoon, as Reading continued their trend of not winning at home and Derby continued their trend of not scoring anywhere.

The Madejski is never an easy stadium to visit, and history has shown especially not for Derby. The hosts got off to a bright start with some early pressure, but Derby started to come into it around the 10 minute mark.

The game was remarkable in that two usually clinical finishers, Patrick Bamford and Adam Le Fondre, passed up some great opportunities to get their team the points. 

The draw saw Reading fall out of the play-off places, but for large parts of the game they managed to stifle Derby's play and cause the Rams to continually go any way but forwards. The away team are now without a goal in four, but that could've been different had their own players have not ended up blocking the ball from entering the Reading net on two separate occasions. 

Reading may have stolen the points late on, but Steve McClaren expressed bemusement to the clubs Youtube channel after the game at the failure to score yet again despite numerous chances. 

A large part of Derby's impressive goal tally this season has been due to the barrage of balls into the box from Jamie Ward, Andre Wisdom and Craig Forsyth. The latter seemed afraid of getting a nose bleed in this particular match, as he rarely strayed past the halfway line and failed to put in a single delivery.

This was perhaps due to pre-match instructions as Steve McClaren would've made clear the importance of maintaining the gap between themselves and their promotion rivals. For me this was the area Derby could have scored from – but it often looked like the area from which Reading could have done the same.

Patrick Bamford came on in the second half and almost made an instant impact, as the ball was played to him in space just inside the area and his curled right footed effort went just wide. He had another chance soon after as Jamie Ward played him in behind the Reading defence – one of the few times the Rams managed to stretch the home-side – but the Reading keeper McCarthy made a fantastic save. Steve McClaren also showed respect to the opposition by not opting for his usual 4-2-4 tactics when in need of a goal.

Two players who are becoming Derby's unsung heroes of the season performed brilliantly to make sure Derby didn't end up losing the game, veteran and 'daddy' of the group John Eustace, and the man who has become known as Buckenbauer in recent weeks – Jake Buxton.

The passion from the latter is evident every time he plays and his performances have gone up a level since Steve McClaren took over. As for John Eustace, from the nine games he's not started this season Derby have taken just 11 points.

He's a key component to a team whose players are geared towards going forwards and helps give us the balance we need to win games – as well as the all important protection so we don't lose them.

Derby fans would have hoped for three points before the Forest game next week, but considering the opposition a draw and a clean sheet are not bad to take back to the Midlands. Last season Derby probably would have left here with nothing.

Steve McClaren described the performance as: "Dominating a team going for the play-offs in their own stadium," and though I'm not sure I would have described it the same way, Reading couldn't have complained had they of lost. 

For all those who made the journey to Berkshire from the east Midlands, today's game would have been out of mind very quickly and all focus put on the east Midlands derby next weekend. 

The Rams could start with the same XI if all are available (Hughes went off in the first half and disappeared down the tunnel) but in a game that has every chance of lacking real quality, Johnny Russell should in my opinion get the nod over Simon Dawkins.

His lackadaisical performance was a far-cry from that seen against Bolton, and with Russell you know you're going to receive 100% effort and just as much quality every time. 

Automatic promotion looks to be too much now for Derby, and as the teams below them begin to close the gap, a win next week is made to seem even more important than usual if they want to hang on to their play-off position come May. 

Rams fans, would you change anything ahead of the Forest game?

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