Start counting - one undefeated!
Attendance: 28, 473
After nearly a year without a win at last Derby fans have something to celebrate and celebrate they did at the final whistle, a win in the second week of September has surely never been celebrated with such gusto at Pride Park but it meant so much to everyone in the stadium that no-one could begrudge the scenes at the final whistle. After the shoots of improvement began to show at Oakwell the international break robbed Derby a chance to build on the performance and you would have been forgiven for fearing the worst against an in form Sheffield United who many have tipped for promotion this season. The Rams picked up where they left off and produced a 90 minute performance for the first time in longer than many fans care to remember to record a deserved three points and it could and probably should have been a more comprehensive victory with a bizarre penalty incident ended with the referee changing his mind and instead giving a corner. Overall it was a satisfying evening for everyone concerned with the club and hopefully this will be the turning point that has been talked about so often in the opening weeks of the season.
The Rams started with the same line-up as the previous outing before the international break and there were returns from injury on the bench from Lewin Nyatanga and Wembley hero Stephen Pearson. Sheffield United went with Darius Henderson and Billy Sharp up front so the returning Beattie had to settle for a place on the bench. Derby started well and Kris Commons had the first meaning full effort when he curled a free kick into the side netting when everyone was expecting a cross but in truth the effort didn`t worry Kenny in the visitors goal. Villa then set up Addison with a knock down but the youngster couldn`t quite get his effort on target as Derby looked for the early breakthrough.
Commons was again looking lively down the left and his run was ended by Montgomery who was promptly booked by referee Chris Foy. Paul Connolly launched one of his long throws into the box and a superb first touch and turn by Rob Hulse nearly gave the former Blades striker a dream moment only to be denied by a sharp reaction save by Paddy Kenny turning the ball behind for a corner. Sheffield United then came close through a Halford free-kick from the edge of the area that brushed the angle of post and bar with Carroll perhaps more confident than he should have been that the ball was going wide.
Addison, looking dominant in the middle of the park, fed Commons wide down and the left and the Scottish internationals` superb cross was met by Green and the ball struck Kilgallon before trickling into the net past the stranded Kenny to give Derby the lead for the first time in the league this season in the 23rd minute. Unfortunately for The Rams the lead was short lived with the visitors finding themselves on level terms barely two minutes later. Stewart looked to have got himself out of trouble with his pace only to be eased aside in a challenge with the ball running wide to Halford who put over another quality cross that Darius Henderson couldn`t miss from and the former Watford hitman duly nodded home from inside the six yard box.
Tito Villa got his head to another Commons cross but couldn`t direct his header goalwards as Derby tried to build again and majority of possession was still coming the home sides way. Kazmierczak then played Commons in and some neat footwork ended with his shot passing narrowly wide from the edge of the box. The winger was looking The Rams danger man and he had a further two efforts from distance without really troubling Kenny although Commons willingness to shoot and his lively play was keeping the crowd in the game. Sheffield United nearly took a lead into the break when Billy Sharp was allowed to turn on the edge of the box only for the striker to curl narrowly wide. It had been a much improved first half by the home side and there were certainly signs that the team was finally finding its` feet at Pride Park after two shaky performances in the league so far.
Nacer Barazite came on at halftime to replace Kazmierczak with Dutch Under 19 international taking his position on right of midfield and Paul Green switching to the middle. Chris Morgan was involved in the first incident of any note in the second half being booked for a foul on Villa and Commons again came close from the free kick only for the ball to pass wide of the post. Barazite tried to stamp his authority on the game drifting inside only to fire over from 25 yards and his neat pass set Connolly free down the right only for his low cross to be touched narrowly over by the onrushing Addison. The youngster then broke things up in midfield and set Hulse running into the box, he looked set to fire home only to be caught by Kilgallon with the ball then running into touch. Chris Foy blew and pointed to the spot and with Kris Commons lining up his spot kick the ref then decided to go and speak to his assistant after prolonged protests by seemingly the entire Sheffield United team. After a short consultation the referee then decided a mistake had been made and instead gave a corner to howls of protest from the home crowd.
Leacock and Quinn both had headed efforts for their respective clubs without looking like troubling the score sheet before Stewart broke down the left and whipped over a cross only for Villas` header to strike the bar and fly over with the striker still looking for his first goal of the season despite his lively showing. There had only really been one team in it in the second half and Derbys` constant pressure eventually paid off with Nacer Barazite finding room on the right and firing in a cross that fell to Rob Hulse who lashed home to collect his first goal in eighteen months, he also became the third former Blade to notch against his old club this season.
The visitors looked to get back in the game and made two substitutions in quick succession with Sharp being replaced by James Beattie and Halford making way for Cotterill. Henderson headed wide from a Beattie cross before United made their final change with Webber coming on for Montgomery and Quinn fired wide of the near post when well placed. Derby then made two changes with Ellington replacing Hulse to a rapturous reception and Pearson coming on for the tired looking Commons. James Beattie had the games' final chance heading narrowly wide from a Sun Jihai cross but it was a deserved victory for The Rams and lifted them off the foot of the table.
A natural captain and organised well at the back. Non-stop effort for 90 minutes and has dropped into the backline without an issue. A player that many football clichés seem made for!
Roy Carroll 7
Paul Connolly 9
Jordan Stewart 6
Dean Leacock 7
Martin Albrechtsen 8
Paul Green 8
Miles Addison 7
Przemyslaw Kazmierczak 7
Kris Commons 8
Tito Villa 8
Rob Hulse 7
Nacer Barazite 7
Stephen Pearson 6
Nathan Ellington 6