by James Bennett

In today’s sanitised footballing world of advertising, overprotective referees and holier-than-thou journalists, a good old-fashioned blood-and-thunder derby can be a nice antidote. The Brian Clough Trophy match (and I definitely think there should be more pointless trophies for derby matches) is a great example, because Derby County and Nottingham Forest clearly despise each other more than most rivals. This weekend’s match saw its fourth red card in the last four encounters between the two county capital clubs, and was full of niggles and studs-up tackles. The young referee, Robert Madley, had, to use the cliché, his work cut out dealing with all of this. His dismissal of Antigua and Barbuda international (yeah, it’s true) Dexter Blackstock for an elbow just seconds into the start of the second half will have provoked an angry reaction from the home fans at the City Ground, though I personally thought it was a fair decision – you don’t raise your arms up to your opponent’s face like that in front of the referee in a feisty encounter like this.

As for the actual football on offer, disappointingly there wasn’t much to savour, so it was left to the violence to provide the entertainment. Just one goal proved to be the difference, coming from Derby’s Craig Bryson, a simple tap in followed by his best Rachid Yekini impression with the net as the Rams fans celebrated behind the goal. Forest woke up towards the end after bringing on Billy Sharp and Henri Lansbury – beats me why Sean O’Driscoll didn’t start with them, especially in the absence of the suspended Adlene Guedioura – but huffed and puffed but could not blow the proverbial house down.

Forest will probably finish higher in the table this season as they have more depth and more money to spend in January courtesy of their wealthy Kuwaiti backers. They might even push for promotion if they can get a good sequence of results together. Derby matches inevitably ignore form so Sean O’Driscoll would be best trying to get the squad to ignore this one and ploughing on regardless.

As for Derby, they will be doing well to keep their heads above water again with what is a young side with few star names. One of them, Northern Ireland international Jamie Ward, limped off with what looked like a hamstring injury and could be out for a while. Nigel Clough has done a solid if unspectacular job at Pride Park since his arrival, but the team has consistently looked like not taking the next step up and pushing for a play-off place.

It was another fun week at Ewood Park as Steve Kean finally said farewell and disappeared off into the sunset, hopefully never to return to that part of Lancashire again. After a farcical week during which it was claimed that Venky’s had been persuaded not to sack him either because of a phone call from Mrs Kean or the hassle of flying from Pune to England (millionaire life is such a drag, isn’t it?), the Scotsman finally did the honourable thing for once and walked away, albeit pinning the blame firmly on the club.

Life under everyone’s favourite caretaker manager Eric Black began with a draw at The Valley for Rovers, with former Spurs midfielder Johnnie Jackson cancelling out Dickson Etuhu’s earlier goal to give Charlton a point. Blackburn are now 4th, just a point off the leaders Brighton, who suffered a surprise defeat at home to Birmingham, Lee Clark getting the ideal reaction to their 5-0 thumping of last weekend. Cardiff and Wolves join them on a low total of 16 points from 10 matches with wins over Blackpool and Sheffield Wednesday respectively. Leicester move into 5th on 15 points after beating Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.

At the bottom, Peterborough finally picked up their first win of the season, beating Steve Bruce’s Hull 3-1 at the KC Stadium courtesy of an Emile Sinclair hat-trick. However, they are still bottom, 3 points behind Ipswich who drew at Barnsley. With Millwall and Charlton drawing and Derby winning, it was a good weekend for most of the teams at the bottom.

League One, and COVENTRY ACTUALLY WON (exclamation mark). They beat fellow Premier League founder members Oldham 1-0 as Cody MacDonald snatched an 89th minute victory for the Sky Blues at Boundary Park, moving themselves up to a nose-bleed-inducing position of, er, 22nd, just one place behind the team they defeated. In a weekend of surprises, struggling Colchester also won, beating Hartlepool, while Bury got a rare point at high-flying Stevenage, and Portsmouth beat fellow strugglers Scunthorpe.

In the League One Big Game of the Day™, Notts County visited Bramall Lane and came away with a point after Lee Hughes scored a late equaliser to warm the cockles of every football fan’s hearts. Dave Kitson, who may or may not be The Secret Footballer, had put Sheffield United in front – they now sit 8th, 6 points off leaders Tranmere who also drew at home to Brentford. Notts County are 3 points behind the Wirral side, a point ahead of a group of 4 teams on 17 points – MK Dons, Swindon, Stevenage and Walsall, the three of whom I haven’t already mentioned all winning.

There were more surprises in League Two as Gillingham suffered their first defeat of the season at home to in-form Rochdale, who with a couple of wins have shot up the table to 7th. The Gills had been reduced to 10 men earlier in the match which probably dissipates the hope of the chasing pack a little, but at least it prevents them from running away with things just yet. Port Vale reduced the gap at the top to 3 points with a win over Bradford, but Exeter were beaten by Bristol Rovers, who at last picked up their first win of the season to move out of the bottom two.

Fleetwood moved into 3rd after beating bottom club Barnet 2-1 at Highbury. Barnet are now one of only two clubs in the Football League yet to win a match this season, the other being Bury, and are already 5 points from safety, which is going to make their end-of-season escape act even more spectacular than usual. Wycombe now join them in the bottom two after they lost their first match under caretaker player-manager Gareth Ainsworth 3-0 to Dagenham & Redbridge, which must have alarm bells ringing at Adams Park given that the Daggers had been on the same number of points as them before the match. That game in hand against Bristol Rovers is looking increasingly important – a reminder that Rovers had been winning that before it was abandoned a few weeks ago. The rescheduled match takes place at the end of November.

Oh and Torquay drew 1-1 at Chesterfield. Not really that interesting.