There is always something about the first home game of the season that gives things an extra buzz around the place, and most went into the last night's game with the expectation levels ratcheted up after recent events and the win at Upton Park.
Whilst perhaps not meeting the high expectation level, last nights performance was certainly good enough to take the points and displayed some positives that should last well beyond the honeymoon period that the new management and ownership are currently enjoying.
In the early stages lst night I thought we looked a little disjointed, and more the sort of performance expected from a hastily assembled side and Derby were perhaps the brighter of the two in the opening quarter of an hour or so - albeit without threatening Kaspar Schmeichel's goal.
As the half wore on though we got more of a grip of the game, but struggled to break a side down whose primary objective was to try and nick a point and apart from the odd foray from Petrov and moment from Elano overall we struggled to carve anything out.
The goal however was a moment of quality and it was a neat exchange between Johnson and Elano (set to become a familiar phrase?) creating acres of space which led to Johnson being played in to execute an excellent finish to put us ahead just prior to half-time.By and large in the second half we controlled the game and weren't threatened apart from a half chance which Schmeichel got a good hand on. Some of the spells of football were of a high standard and the patience and ball retention was noticeable as we were willing to retain the ball and bide our time rather than simply hit and hope as Derby were often resorted to doing.
I though Derby offered little, more endeavour than anything else and will struggle away from home which could prove costly over the course of the season. At times I thought the 4-5-1 perhaps left Bianchi isolated but his willingness to run and create space was intelligent and far and away above anything seen last season - I also noticed he follows every shot up to sniff out a chance.
Another three points and a generally comfortable evening. I predicted that we should have enough craft and creativity to beat teams of Derby's calibre and so it ultimately proved. Another clean sheet is a bonus and incidentally leaves us as the only side yet to concede.
On a off the pitch note it was interesting to see Richard Scudamore from the Premier League flanked by Alastair Mackintosh and Thaksin Shinawatra at the game - no doubt plentyto discuss but positive in that the league don't seem to be trying to distance themselves at least.
Back on the pitch it was good to get a first look at the new signings and overall it was definitely impressive - some areas to work on but all look to be able to bring something to the side and my match ratings are as follows:
Schmeichel 7 - Good anticipation and pulled off one smart save.
Corluka 7 - Impressed me both in defence and moving forward.
Garrido 7 - Strong and linked well with Richards and the midfield.
Dunne 7 - Usual solid self but a litte careless in possession.
Richards 6 - Didn't have the most comfortable of nights.
Petrov 6 - Flashes of quality but a little bit out of the game for me.
Hamman 7 - Played a vital role in allowing others to create.
Johnson 9 - Man of the match. Well taken goal and imposed himself well.
Ireland 8 - Far more creative and confident than at any time last season.
Elano 7 - Quality touches look a class above. Still to get fully fit I think.
Bianchi 7 - Looks a proper striker and willing runner.
Geovanni 7 - Neat cameo and adds touch of class.
Bojinov 7 - Looked lively when he came on.
Mpenza 6 - No time to make impact