Safety at last
Attendance: 31, 541
It was a tense afternoon at Pride Park but The Rams had enough to claim all three points on the back of a Rob Hulse header and finally put to rest any lingering threat of relegation. The nerves on the pitch were obvious as Derby failed to string together any sustained possession in the first half and Charlton, whilst passing the ball well, showed why they have been relegated with no goal threat of their own despite some dangerous looking positions. The pitch invasion and celebrations at the end showed how much this meant to the fans and there is an air of better times ahead with Nigel Clough at the helm.
Jordan Stewart came back into the squad for the first time since February lining up at left back with Lewin Nyatanga moving to the centre to replace the injured Andy Todd. It was a nervous opening from the home side and with their opponents living up to the billing of an already relegated side it was poor fare in the opening stages. Martin Albrechtsen had the first effort of note on twelve minutes when he got his head to a Gary Teale corner but there wasn`t enough power to trouble Rob Elliott in the visitor`s goal. The keeper was a spectator five minutes later when Kris Commons fired in an effort from 25 yards but it ended the wrong side of the post.
Zheng Zhi forced a save from Bywater after turning in the area and Nicky Bailey had a couple of efforts from range that didn`t trouble the Derby keeper as neither side looked like creating opportunities with Kris Commons often having two and three players around him every time he got the ball. Charlton had begun to keep hold of possession but looked toothless up front and Derby seemed nervous on the ball and unable to carve out any chances as a poor first half ended goalless.
The Rams started the second half at a higher pace and a whipped cross from Rob Hulse was missed by Rob Elliott and turned behind for a corner and the Charlton keeper then turned over Kris Commons` header from the resulting corner. Another corner caused problems as Elliott again missed the flight of the ball but Hulse wasn`t expecting the ball to reach him and he turned it wide of the mark.
As the pressure continued Paul Connolly raced forward and his effort from outside the area was deflected past the post and the resulting corner was again misjudged by Elliott but Albrechtsen couldn`t keep his header down. Charlton then had a spell of possession and a Jonjo Shelvey shot was deflected wide with Mark Hudson heading the corner harmlessly over the top.
Kris Commons picked up a booking for apparent simulation when going down under a Darren Ward challenge as The Rams began to assert themselves again. The forward then had a shot blocked after good work by Barry Bannan and Stephen Pearson came on for the ineffective Luke Varney after 67 minutes with Bannan moving out to the right of midfield.
Derby took the lead with twenty minutes to go when a Gary Teale corner was cleared to the edge of the area only to be headed back into the box by Barry Bannan and Rob Hulse rose highest to loop a header into the right-hand corner of the net to lift the tension in the stadium although The Rams` leading scorer did pick up a booking for his celebration.
John Eustace took over from Robbie Savage with twelve to go and the Welshman left the pitch to a standing ovation for his efforts over the second half of the season. Kris Commons jinked his way past two players on the edge of the area only to see his right foot effort fly narrowly wide and perhaps a square ball to Bannan may have been the better option.
Rob Hulse and Kris Commons both had efforts on goal that narrowly missed the target as The Rams looked to tie the game up and Mile Sterjovski came on for Barry Bannan as the game wound down and the home side saw out injury time without any scares to claim three points and secure their Championship safety.
Battled away up front all afternoon despite a lack of service at times and whilst this wasn`t a classic performance he kept plugging away and scored a great header to give his side three points and reach their safety target.