North End fell to a 1-0 defeat to Phillip Cocu’s Derby County side at Pride Park on Saturday. A ground which we haven’t won at since 2008 but the performance, especially in the first half, was very disappointing.

West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United both grabbed late winners in their respective games which added salt to the wound and we now find ourselves in 3rd place.

A big game awaits on Wednesday night against Hull City. In a game where we can’t afford another defeat, it is the start of a run of 5 games in 19 days. A period that you would imagine will have a big say on our first half to the season. Anyway, here are 5 things we learned from the Derby County game…

We Struggle After An International Break

After the comfortable win against Huddersfield Town before the international break, North End headed into the break full of confidence and seemingly raring to go for the next game. However, as we always seem to do after an international break, Alex Neil’s side was slow off the mark and it cost us.

A poor first half led to Derby taking the lead and in truth, they could have had a couple more. Neil acted at half time bringing Billy Bodin and Paul Gallagher into the fray. It galvanised the team but despite all that effort, they couldn’t find the equaliser. It’s hard to pinpoint why we were so sluggish, perhaps when games come thick and fast the players carry their form from one game to the next much easier.

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Luckily for us, we have a good number of games coming up in the coming weeks and there isn’t another international break until March now. If we want to stay up and around the top end of the league, we are going to have to bounce back quickly.

Neil Needs the Right Midfield for Each Game

With Ben Pearson, Paul Gallagher, Daniel Johnson and Alan Browne all staking strong claims for a regular place in the side, it’s hard for the manager to fit them all in the side. Gally almost always has an impact on a game but at 35 years old, his playing time needs to be managed.

He made a difference in this game when he was brought on at halftime but perhaps he should have started the game. Johnson looked a bit off the pace having just returned from the injury he picked up at Charlton but that is to be expected. The attacking display certainly picked up in the second half with Gally playing in that ‘quarterback’ role that we have seen him in so many times before.

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With DJ our top scorer, Pearson a key part of our defending, it makes it hard for Browne to fit in and indeed he only really does at the moment to try and keep Gally as match fit as possible. However, I expect him to come back into the side on Wednesday.

We Need to Score More Away From Home

Our home record this season has been spoken about a lot and rightly so. With 7 wins and 2 draws, we have yielded 5 more points than anyone else at home (Derby having the next best record – 18 points). In those 9 games we’ve scored 25 goals, more than any other team in the top 4 leagues.

In contrast, we’ve scored just 6 goals away from home. We have only conceded 8 goals in those games but it’s led to us losing 4 games by just a 1 goal margin. We still create plenty of chances away from home but we need to be more clinical with them.

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West Brom have already picked up 20 points away from The Hawthorns this season and if we want to keep pace with them we need to start producing the goods away from Deepdale as well.

The Fans Will Back This Side All The Way

Around 2,500 North End fans made the trip to Derby to back the yellows. Great travelling support in the corner of Pride Park backed the boys to the hilt. Indeed we have always had a decent away following in comparison to the home attendances we pull in.

However, now the team has had a great start to the season and there is a real sense that something special could be on the horizon the fans are travelling in their numbers and creating a great atmosphere for the players to play in front of.

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Every game seems massive now, and every tackle, save, and goal seems crucial and that reflects in the fans support and reactions. If you’re not coming to watch this team yet then give it a second thought and if you are able to do an away trip as well then jump on board and back the lads.

There Are Plenty of Sides Underperforming

Derby County have had a mixed start to the season with plenty of off-field problems to contend with as well. In a recent talk of teams challenging for promotion, it would have been considered that Derby’s slow start has already hindered them too much. However, the Championship is an impossible league to predict.

In truth like Derby, there are plenty of teams still with quality squads that can start to climb the table. The Rams are now only 5 points off the playoffs tied on points with another side who have hit a good run of form in Millwall.

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Since Gary Rowett took charge at Millwall he has picked up 10 points from 5 games. What it does confirm is that despite our good start, we need to keep on chugging along. We can’t let our foot off the gas. This is a long season and we need to be consistent for the full 46 games.

Finally, if you haven’t already, follow us on social media. We are on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We have just gone over 1,000 followers on Twitter so if you’re already following us on there, thank you for your support.

There’s also Episode #3 of From the Finney Meets… with Neil Mellor. If you haven’t listened to that yet, hit the play button below and give it a listen.