Rams v Fulham - Report
Rams go down fighting
Derby County 2 Fulham 2
The Rams relegation from the Premier League was confirmed as they could only draw 2-2 at home to Fulham, but pleasing was the way the Rams fought out the match scoring one minutes after the Cottagers had taken the lead late on.
Tito Villa deflected in Dean Leacock's shot to give Derby the lead after 10 minutes, but Diomansy Kamara's header put Fulham level 14 minutes later.
Fulham went back in front 12 minutes from time when Hameur Bouazza's shot deflected in off the unwitting Leacock. But the Rams showed spirit to level one minute later, Villa heading his second from Mile Sterjovski's cross.
But, with Birmingham beating Manchester City, the Rams brief stay in the top flight was over.
Rams boss Paul Jewell made two changes to the side that lost at Boro last time out, with Tito Villa and Hossam Ghaly replacing the injured Jay McEveley and Robert Earnshaw who again had to do with a place on the bench.
Derby knew a victory was vital if they were to delay the inevitable drop, and began well and they were ahead after 10 minutes.
Leacock's 25-yard drive was heading wide, but it struck Villa inside the area and left Fulham keeper Kasey Keller totally wrong-footed.
Another big Rams crowd of 33,034 was on their feet to celebrate a rare Rams goal.
It was almost 2-0 on 23 minutes, Keller had to be alert to save a curling drive from David Jones after 23 minutes, but 60 seconds later Fulham levelled. Simon Davies was the provider with the perfect cross from the right, and Kamara headed powerfully past Roy Carroll.
Fulham`s shot stopper was in action again moments later, Jones sent Kenny Miller clear but Keller was out bravely to save at the Scottish Internationals feet.
It was Millers final contribution as limped off after 35 minutes to be replaced by Robert Earnshaw.
Fulham began the second half well with Bullard wasting two free-kicks, as the Rams players and supporters began to look nervous.
Bullard then almost put his side ahead after 53 minutes with a left-foot shot that clipped the bar after he had been fouled by Ghaly.
The Rams began to get on top and almost restored their lead five minutes later through Sterjovski. The Australian picked up the ball and ran at the Fulham defence, but Keller was alert to turn his shot around the post. And from the resulting corner Fulham failed to clear their lines, and Eddie Lewis chipped a cross against the bar.
The Rams fans suspicions were found to be true when Fulham hit the front 12 minutes from time. Carroll had saved well from Kamara, but Bouazza's shot took a wild deflection off the unfortunate Leacock and flew over the Derby keeper, to the dismay of the big crowd.
If that was the signal for Paul Jewell`s side to wave the white flag, it didn`t materialise and the Rams levelled two minutes later, Villa rose to head Australian international Mile Sterjovski's cross past Keller.
The Rams pressed late with Earnshaw only denied by Keller and with news filtering in of the other results not going the Rams way, Fulham almost pinched the points in the first minute of stoppage-time as Davies rose to meet a corner, but Carroll's reflexes were sharp.
But there was to be no late reprieve and the Rams must now start planning for next season.
Derby County: Carroll, Todd (Mears 89), Leacock, Moore, Lewis, Sterjovski, Ghaly, Savage, Jones, Miller (Earnshaw 36), Villa.
Subs Not Used: Price, Feilhaber, Beardsley.
Booked: Todd, Jones.
Goals: Villa 10, 80.
Fulham: Keller, Stalteri, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Davies, Bullard (Murphy 81), Andreasen, Bouazza (Johnson 81), McBride, Kamara.
Subs Not Used: Warner, Bocanegra, Dempsey.
Booked: Bouazza, Andreasen, Konchesky, Kamara.
Goals: Kamara 24, Leacock 78 og.
Referre: Mike Dean (Wirral).
Rams boss - Paul Jewell
'We have been embarrassed this year; there is no doubt about it. But we have got to use that as a yardstick not just to come back but to come back competitively.
'We never got off to a good start and we've been playing catch-up ever since. We haven't been good enough individually or collectively - but everything we've learnt we have to use to turn things around.
'I have never been more determined to see a job through in my life and make the job successful. This is a brilliant club with unbelievable supporters - and if I give them what they want I'll be a happy man.'
'It has been a long, hard season, a terrible season and a very difficult time,' Jewell declared.
'Now that relegation has been confirmed there is only one thing that matters and that is the start of next season.
'I've seen what a fantastic club this is - with the right players and the right mentality we can move forward. Hopefully this time next season we can put the supporters in a better mood and be back in the Premier League and be competitive.'
'We could have won it - and, of course, we're all disappointed at having scored a late goal which could have easily have been the winner only to let Derby straight back.
'Next week we must look for a much-needed win over Sunderland - and if we get that who knows? Every time we get a win people say we'll make it, and every time we lose people say we're doomed. I'm getting quite used to it.
'We won't be the last team to commit the cardinal sin of conceding a goal just after scoring. It's something we as coaches preach and warn players about - but it is an emotional game.'