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Three Points

Derby County
2 - 1
Coventry City

Prode Park

31/01/09 15.00

Attendance: 29, 710


A first 45 minutes that should have seen Derby out of sight gave way to an edgy second half but The Rams had more than enough to see off Coventry City despite the nerves from the crowd transferring themselves onto the pitch. Goals from Rob Hulse and Kris Commons in a lightning start from The Rams gave them the lead and it could easily have been double with Commons clear through only to be denied by Westwood and Teale and Commons striking the post and bar within seconds of each other. Miles Addison went off at halftime and his dominance at the back was missed as the visitor`s got themselves back into the game with almost their first effort on goal and they enjoyed more possession without threatening Bywater in the Derby goal.

Nigel Clough named an unchanged team from the midweek reverse at Birmingham and his side started strongly with a Commons free kick being allowed to bounce in the area with Kieran Westwood in the visitor`s goal turning the ball around the post. From the resulting corner Teale`s ball was met by Rob Hulse but the striker couldn`t get his effort on target. Hulse went close minutes later when he won the ball off a defender before muscling his way into the area but Westwood got his hand to the low shot to turn it behind for a corner.

Commons took the corner from the right and Addison got his head on the end of it but his header dropped onto the roof of the net and Robbie Savage collected the game`s first booking for a challenge on Beuzelin moments later. Gary Teale was beating his man with ease down the left and his left foot cross was met by Hulse but his header flew inches wide of the post with Westwood beaten.

Another Commons effort was deflected wide of the post and the resulting corner saw a Hulse effort blocked and the next corner found Albrechtsen but his header was deflected wide from just in front of the line and Derby took the lead from the resulting corner kick. Teale whipped in another fine cross that Westwood could not collect and as the ball bounced up high at the back post Rob Hulse rose highest to nod home from two yards out.

The lead was doubled two minutes later as The Ram`s were picking apart the City defence with ease. Teale drove for the by-line and pulled his cross back for Hulse inside the area, the striker took a couple of touches before laying off for Commons who smashed the ball high into the net past Westwood to give Derby a 2-0 lead. Barazite then sent the goal scorer through on goal only for Westwood to get a hand to his low effort and the ball was scrambled to safety.

Michael Doyle had a shot from the edge of the area that sailed harmlessly wide of the mark and Rob Hulse caught a clearance full in the face and needed treatment and a change of shirt before being able to continue. Derby were still piling forward and they struck the woodwork twice within a matter of seconds, Barazite sent Teale through on the left and his left foot effort from just inside the area beat Westwood but bounced down off the bar and the ball reached Commons on the edge of the box who hit a firm effort that took a deflection before crashing back out off the post and was cleared to safety.

Hulse had another header from a Commons cross that looped just wide of the target and Teale cut in from the left and stung Westwood`s hands with strong effort from the edge of the box as Derby looked to further their lead but they reached halftime 2-0 ahead after completely dominating the first 45 minutes.

Miles Addison was replaced at halftime by Jay McEveley with a tight hamstring with the Scottish international dropping into the centre of defence alongside Albrechtsen and Coventry also made a change with Leon McKenzie replacing Freddie Eastwood. After an even start to the second half the Sky Blues were back in the game with virtually their first effort on target, a quick throw-in caught out the Derby defence and the ball into the box found Doyle whose effort was superbly saved by Bywater but, as the ball went sideways from the save, Morrison fired it back across the six-yard area and Doyle tapped in home from a couple of yards out.

Kris Commons went on a mazy run and appeared to have been brought down in the area by Wright but the referee waved play-on and the tension in the stands began to manifest itself on the pitch with a number of passes going astray and the score suggested a far closer contest than it actually was. Having said that City were enjoying the territorially advantage and their long balls were causing some nervous moments at the back for Derby without ever really threatening Bywater.

McKenzie escaped down the left and his ball across the area looked to find Henderson only for the winger to be denied by a superbly timed challenge by Teale and there were appeals for a penalty when another cutback from McKenzie was cut out by Albrechtsen as the ball bounced into his chest amidst shouts for handball. There was a stronger appeal moments later at the other end as Teale again beat Wright only for the defender to seemingly take his legs from under him only for the referee to wave play-on from what looked like a nailed on penalty.

Coventry brought on Chelsea winger Lee Sawyer for goal scorer Michael Doyle but despite enjoying more of the possession the visitor`s didn`t force a save out of Bywater before the final whistle and despite the obvious nerves Derby held on comfortably to claim a well deserved three points and lift themselves out of the bottom three.

Star Player

Gary Teale
Has been criticised during his time at Derby but showed today what he is capable of. Gave Wright a torrid afternoon going forward, had a hand in both goals and could have scored himself but was denied by the bar.

Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater 7

Fairly quiet afternoon for the keeper, great save in the build up to City`s goal but had no chance when the ball was whipped back in.

Paul Connolly 7

Plenty of possession down the right with Barazite and kept his side going forward well.

Jordan Stewart 7

Linked well with Teale down the left and made good use of the ball going forward.

Miles Addison 7

Used his physical presence to dominate at the back and was missed when he went off in the second half.

Martin Albrechtsen 8

Solid performance and dominated in the air, kept Morrison quiet all match and looks more comfortable back in the middle after his stint at right back.

Gary Teale 9

Whatever Clough has said to him has worked, the work rate has been there in previous performances and today he looked a different player. Unstoppable going forward in the first half and worked back well when City were on top later on including one superb challenge at the far post.

Robbie Savage 7

Looks to be getting his match fitness and sharpness back, harshly booked early on and did well to avoid trouble for the remainder of the match. More effective when in possession although still hits the ball forward aimlessly at times.

Paul Green 7

Seemed to feel the nerves more than most in the second half and gave the ball away to often when a simple ball was on, not one of his most effective performances.

Nacer Barazite 7

Gave Derby good width down the right and put some fine crosses in to feed the front men. Tired in the second half and replaced by Sterjovski to give a more solid midfield.

Kris Commons 8

Took his goal well and looked a handful all match. Had plenty of success running at the defence and should have had another when through on goal in the first half.

Rob Hulse 8

Bullied the City defence throughout the first half and could have had more than his opener, dominated in the air all afternoon although didn`t hold the ball up quite as well in the second half.

Jay McEveley 7

Did well playing out of position in the middle but was given a tough half by McKenzie.

Mile Sterjovski 6

Brought on to provide a little more defensive stability on the right, got involved but sloppy in possession at times.

Manager Rating

Nigel Clough will be delighted with the way his side tore into Coventry in the first half and a four or five goal halftime lead would have been completely justified. Addison was missed after he was replaced at halftime and City certainly upped their game without ever looking overly dangerous going forward despite some good possession. The Rams did enough to keep their noses in front and had a couple of good shouts for a penalty turned down towards the end as they finished strongly but the game was probably more tense than it needed to be and you could see the nerves on the pitch at times. The performances of Gary Teale, who has improved game by game under Clough, will be a big bonus and the singing of Chris Porter have given the squad a new look and impetus and if they can keep this level of performance up they will not have to worry about a relegation battle or the teams around them.

Date:Sunday February 1 2009
Time: 6:08PM

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