Away form continues
Attendance: 13, 896
A decent performance from The Rams was again undermined by defensive frailties as Preston ran out 2-0 winners in this boxing day clash at Deepdale. An attacking looking Derby team created chances but they were kept at bay by Andy Lonergan in the home goal and Ross Wallace was again the danger man for Preston as they took advantage of some slack defending to move up to seventh and the edge of the play-offs and left their visitors starting to look over their shoulders at the other end of the table.
Paul Green returned to the starting line-up and Luke Varney dropped to the bench to make way for Rob Hulse and Steve Davies made a return to the bench after recovering from hernia and facial injuries. Richard Chaplow blazed over from the games first chance when he met Ross Wallace`s pull back on the edge of the box. Preston were making all the early running and Bywater saved well when Wallace met Mellor`s ball in from the right and Billy Jones then headed over from eight yards from the resulting Wallace corner.
Ellington and Hulse combined at the other end before Hulse went through only for his shot to be deflected wide and Wallace again brought a save out of Bywater but his effort was comfortably held by the Derby keeper. As the game swung back the other way Commons took down a pass with a superb first touch and fired in a shot from 30 yards that Lonergan smothered down to his right.
The home side went ahead just before the half hour mark, a soft free-kick was awarded out wide on the right and Wallace`s whipped delivery fell to Sean St Ledger who turned and shot and his effort squirmed under Bywater and into the net. Kris Commons again went close from distance when his 30 yard free kick was well held by Lonergan and Preston went close at the other end when Wallace fired narrowly over from just inside the box after good work from Parkin.
Ellington`s determination created a chance for Green but his low drive was turned away and Hulse headed wide from a Teale cross as Derby finished the half strongly but couldn`t find a way past the home keeper.
James Tomkins appeared to have pulled down Mellor in the area as the second half got under way but the referee waived play on and Derby then broke to the other end but, after good work from Commons, Miles Addison couldn`t quite stretch far enough to turn in the resulting cross.
Paul Green fired wide from a free kick on the edge of the box and Wallace then hit the post at the other end with Bywater beaten. Derby brought on Nacer Barazite on 55 minutes and the Dutchman`s first contribution nearly led to the equaliser as his clever back heel released Albrechtsen but the fullback`s cross was headed straight at Lonergan by Hulse. Barazite was looking lively and he had a stinging effort from the edge of the box turned wide by the home keeper.
A promising looking move broke down on 67 minutes and Preston quickly went up the other end to double their lead. Wallace made room for himself down the left before crossing for Parkin who took a touch on his chest and bundled his way past Nyatanga before firing low past Bywater.
Paul Green played a superb ball into the box and it looked easier for Hulse to score but he managed to put his effort wide from within the six yard box and Preston could have been further ahead moments later but Parkin stabbed wide when well placed after again bundling his way into the area. Derby had had the stuffing knocked out of them by the second goal and were looking ragged as Callum Davidson went on a run down the left before cutting in and curling just over with his right foot and they saw out the remaining time without any moments of alarm to claim the three points.
In and out of the game at times but prompted Derby`s most dangerous moments with some neat passes and trickery down the left.
Stephen Bywater 7
Martin Albrechtsen 7
Jordan Stewart 6
James Tomkins 7
Lewin Nyatanga 6
Kris Commons 7
Miles Addison 7
Paul Green 7
Gary Teale 6
Rob Hulse 7
Nathan Ellington 7
Nacer Barazite 7