Rams downed by Blades
Attendance: 27, 565
Defensive lapses cost Derby County dear as they fell to a 4-2 reverse against promotion chasing Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. A debut goal from on loan Aston Villa youngster Barry Bannan pulled The Rams back into the match at 3-2 with just over twenty minutes to go and they could have snatched something from the game in an open last quarter of the match but it was not to be their day and mistake at the back allowed in Craig Beattie to seal the victory for United deep into stoppage time with barely time to kick-off again before the final whistle. Results elsewhere mean Derby now sit six points above the drop zone but with games in hand on the majority of teams below them.
Steve Davies came in to start up front in the only change to the starting line-up from the midweek draw at St Mary`s whilst Lewis Price came in on the bench in place of the injured Roy Carroll and there was also room for loanee Barry Bannan who only signed yesterday in time to be in contention for this encounter. Former Ram Arturo Lupoli was named amongst the substitutes for the home side who looked to close the gap on the top three. Derby started strongly and forced an early corner only for Gary Teale to be caught offside when the ball was played back in and United took the lead after only six minutes. David Cotterill fed Kyle Naughton down the right and the youngster cut inside and placed his shot beyond the dive of Stephen Bywater and into the net to give his side a great start.
John Eustace picked up the first booking of the afternoon when he was cautioned for a late challenge on Stephen Quinn and Derby`s first effort on target came on 11 minutes when Davies turned well on the edge of the area but a deflection took the pace off the shot and it ended up a comfortable stop for Paddy Kenny. The home keeper was then worried as a Nacer Barazite cross was deflected but it looped just over the bar and The Blades then doubled their lead on 21 minutes. David Cotterill was the creator again with a run and cross that was met by Darius Henderson to head home to double the lead from eight yards out.
Rob Hulse, back at Bramall Lane for the first time since his summer switch to Derby, scooped a chance just over the top when a Paul Connolly long throw caused problems in the home defence and an effort on target would surely have got The Rams one back with Paddy Kenny out of position. The Blades were looking comfortable with their lead and happy to sit back but they were quick to close down when Derby crossed the halfway line. A number of picky free kicks from the referee seemed to be interrupting the flow of the game and Steve Davies found himself in acres of room down the left only to be pulled back for a foul on Robbie Savage when advantage could have been played and Rob Hulse had the last effort of the half when he turned a Savage cross into the arms of Kenny.
Barry Bannan was brought on for his debut at halftime in place of John Eustace as Nigel Clough looked to shake things up for his side and The Rams again started brightly only for Davies to fire over when well placed in the box. They continued on the front foot and got themselves back into the match on 53 minutes though Rob Hulse. A Davies` cross into the area found Gary Teale who got a shot in on goal that beat Paddy Kenny but was scrambled off the line by Chris Morgan, the ball only made it as far as Hulse though and he rifled in from close range to pull Derby within a goal.
The Rams tails were up and they were on top in the second half but the home side looked dangerous on the break and Jamie Ward got in behind the defence only to waste a good crossing opportunity. They weren`t to be denied though and another Cotterill run and cut back found Darius Henderson and the big striker held off his marker and turned to stab past Bywater to restore the two goal cushion.
Derby were right back in the match seven minutes later when Davies found room down the left and got into the area before pulling the ball back and Barry Bannan powered his shot into the roof of the net from fourteen yards to put his side back within a goal. Greg Halford came off the bench for The Blades and nearly had an immediate impact when he ran at Martin Albrechtsen only to drag his shot across the goal and he then forced Bywater to save with his feet moments later with a more controlled effort. The game then swung back in Derby`s favour with Kenny making a smart save when Rob Hulse got a good header onto a Nacer Barazite cross.
Tito Villa replaced Barazite with just over ten minutes to go and went up front with Davies dropping back to the right and a long range effort from Hulse had Kenny scrambling but it there wasn`t to be another goal this time for the big striker. Henderson looked to complete his hat-trick but another long range effort didn`t trouble Bywater and Derby were starting to apply the pressure in search of an equaliser.
A Teale corner caused concerns in the home defence when it was knocked down and Hulse perhaps should have done better when the ball came to him but his effort was off target and despite some late pressure it was the home side who tied the game up in injury time. Craig Beattie got in behind the Derby defence and calmly slotted past Bywater for 4-2 with the final whistle going seconds after the restart.