Another step in the right direction
Attendance: 29, 743
Another battling performance from The Rams as they were forced to come from behind against Birmingham City led to a late Steve Davies equaliser and a deserved point against one of the early season pace setters in The Championship. Derby again showed the new found spirit and commitment in the camp with a hard working display against opposition who came with a surprisingly defensive game plan and looked to play on the break whilst denying the home side room at the other end. A sweeping counter attack had given The Blues the lead in the first half when Barazite lost the ball in midfield and followed the ball to leave Quincy Owusu-Abeyie free in the middle but a fine finish from the former Arsenal youngster gave Carroll no chance. Derby fought their way back in the second half and dominated without creating clear cut chances but were full value for the point after Davies touched in a dangerous Barazite free-kick.
Tito Villa returned to the starting lineup after his goal at Loftus Road at the weekend with Nathan Ellington dropping to the bench and Mehdi Nafti was a late inclusion for the visitors in place of Seb Larsson. The Tunisian had the games first effort within the first sixty seconds with a long range effort that was comfortably held by Carroll. Rob Hulse then threatened at the other end when he hit a half volley early that dipped just in front of Maik Taylor but the Birmingham keeper held the effort comfortably.
The pace of the game was high in the early stages with Derby harrying The Blues players well leading to mistakes and a number of misplaced passes. However, the visitor`s quality was illustrated with a neat move down the right with McFadden finding Parnaby and the full-backs low cross into the area being turned behind well by Connolly who did well not to turn into his own net. Martin Albrechtsen pulled up with a hamstring injury just after the quarter of an hour mark after stretching to make two clearances close together and he was replaced by Lewin Nyatanga at the back for his first appearance of the season.
Nacer Barazite lost possession in a promising position in the 25th minute and Birmingham broke away to score. Owusu-Abeyie won the ball and carried to the halfway line before feeding McFadden down the right, the former Everton man held the ball before knocking the ball back across for Quincy who finished superbly into the top corner past Carroll. The goal stunned the home crowd and although not totally against the run of play was certainly a surprise with Birmingham not seriously threatening The Rams goal.
Derby fought hard to get themselves back in the game and Stewarts` deflected looping cross fell to Hulse whose overhead effort looped into Taylor`s arms. Connolly picked up a booking for a foul on Parnaby on the stroke of halftime but McFadden couldn`t keep his effort down for the final chance of the first half.
The Rams started the second half strongly and forced the pace in the opening minutes without creating a clear cut chance despite some promising positions. Paul Jewel looked to freshen things up with two substitutions in a five minute spell replacing Pearson with Steve Davies and Tito Villa making way for Nathan Ellington. Birmingham followed suited bringing on Gary O`Connor for James McFadden who looked far from happy to be replaced.
Davies had his first opportunity with a free kick from the edge of the box that was blocked by the wall and O`Connor fired over at the other end shortly after Leacock picked up a caution for handball as the visitors attempted to break. Ridgewell seemed to bundle Hulse over in the box as the striker attempted to control a Stewart cross and there were further shouts for a penalty with Green going over in the area. Ellington`s cross into the area caused a scramble and the ball eventually bounced to Addison with the youngsters volley striking the outside of the post.
Barazite couldn`t find the target from a free kick in a dangerous area and Hulse called Taylor into action with a deflected shot that didn`t really trouble The Blues` keeper. A neat ball found Barazite running free into the area and a powerful effort stung the keeper`s hands minutes later and Connolly went close from the resulting corner but his firmly struck shot was always rising and passed narrowly over.
The breakthrough eventually came with three minutes remaining when Barazite hit a swerving free kick into the box from wide on the left and Davies got a touch to put the ball past Taylor and into the roof of the net from six yards out for a deserved equaliser for the second half commitment. Davies then came close with a free kick on the edge of the box only for his curling effort to be well saved by Taylor flying to his left. A late Birmingham corner forced a scramble in the box with Ridgewells` looping header being pushed over by Carroll and the final whistle ended an entertaining game with both sides deserving of a point.
Solid at the back and organised the defence well, won his personal battle with Quincy and gave Barazite solid back-up down the right with some powerful runs.
Roy Carroll 7
Paul Connolly 8
Jordan Stewart 6
Dean Leacock 8
Martin Albrechtsen 7
Nacer Barazite 7
Miles Addison 7
Paul Green 8
Stephen Pearson 6
Tito Villa 7
Rob Hulse 7
Lewin Nyatanga 8
Steve Davies 7
Nathan Ellington 7
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