Thursday, 7 May 2015

Bent Sets Up Derby (Or Bent Upsets Derby)

We finally arrived in Blackburn at 6pm on Friday evening, seven and a half hours after leaving home. It wasn't quite the day-off that I had planned, hoping to get there mid afternoon to explore the delights of the Lancashire town!
Instead we went straight to our accommodation at the Millstone in nearby Mellor - a village inn/pub, following a brief detour to nearby Darwen and after stopping at Ewood Park as we passed by it on the A666.

Paul drove over from Harrogate and met us for breakfast at The Millstone on Saturday morning before heading to the final match of the Championship season, which like the rest of the league was kicking off at 12.15pm.

We parked outside the ground in one of the official car parks and payed £10 for the privilege, what a rip off! The intention was to meet up with Max, who had travelled up with Darren and some mates the night before, but they had already taken a taxi into the town centre, so we just went to the nearby Fernhurst Lodge - ironically where they had all stayed the previous night.

Going into the match our fate was in our own hands, all we had to do was get a draw and a place in the play-offs was guaranteed. Within two minutes of the kick-off Daryl Murphy volleyed a Jay Tabb corner into the Blackburn net, sending the two thousand plus travelling Blue Army fans, plus those watching live on Sky Sports into delirium. It was very one sided with Town on top and seemingly in for a comfortable afternoon. Freddie Sears almost doubled the lead in the fifteenth minute, only to see his fierce angled shot shave the bar.
Elsewhere things were also going our way, Reading had taken an early lead at sixth placed Derby and Brentford, who could overtake us on goal difference were drawing 0-0 at home to already relegated Wigan. Wolves, who realistically, would need a landslide to overtake us were also drawing 0-0, at home to also relegated Millwall.
Then it all changed! Blackburn somehow got themselves into the game and equalised when former Town academy player Jordan Rhodes headed in from a corner. It got even worse, Rovers took the lead through Craig Conway and we're suddenly all over us. Brentford and Wolves were now both winning their matches, half-time couldn't come quickly enough!
The Derby v Reading game, which was also being shown live on Sky Sports, was on the TVs underneath the stand and as I walked by during the interval they were showing replays of Darren Bent missing a first-half penalty in injury time -  how significant would that prove to be later on?
Within a minute of the restart Brentford went two-nil up, meaning that if Derby drew their game we would drop down to seventh spot and out of the play-off positions.
Back at Ewood Park we looked a lot more positive as we searched for an equaliser, but in the fifty-eighth minute Rudy Gestede added a third Blackburn goal to make things even more precarious for us . Shell shocked, were we about to throw our season away?
As much as we battered the Rover's defence the goals just weren't coming, Freddie Sears missed an open goal and second half substitute Stephen Hunt was having a bit of nightmare.
The tension was eased a bit when the unbelievable news filtered through that Reading had added a second goal at Derby, in the seventy-second minute.
With eight minutes remaining Daryl Murphy scored from the penalty spot after Teddy Bishop was tripped in the box, surely we would now go on to get a draw?
With three minutes remaining and with us continuing to lay seize to the Blackburn goal the away end went crazy, Reading had just scored a third goal at Derby - surely now we were in the play-offs?
With time running out Town continued to find a leveller without success and when the final whistle blew it felt like we had just won!

Cheers Darren!

After the game we got a coffee while we waited for the car park to empty, an excited Max (you never stop being a kid) got a few photos with the Town players as they boarded the team bus.
Our trip home was a lot quicker than the one up to Lancashire, we were back home in about four and a half hours.

So after a dramatic final day of the season and for the first time in ten years we are in the play-offs, home and away games v Norwich await us.

'It's where you finish on May the 2nd that counts' - Mick McCarthy

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