Rams and Foxes Share Spoils
Attendance: 28,875 (3,307 Derby fans)
Derby County emerged with a creditable away point against their East-Midlands rivals in a 0-0 draw which never really lived up to the heights of recent derby clashes involving The Rams and Nottingham Forest.
The Rams made two changes to their line-up from the Sheffield Wednesday win for the highly anticipated derby, one enforced, one not. Paul Dickov was not eligible to face The Foxes due to a stipulation in his loan deal with Derby, forbidding him from playing any role against his parent club. Kris Commons was the man to replace Dickov and Jay McEvely dropped to the bench to accommodate Dean Leacock in the centre of defence. Ex-Fox Robbie Savage, and Ex-Rams Steve Howard and Matt Oakley started against their respective former employers.
Leicester made a bright start to the game; first Steve Howard, making his first appearance against The Rams since his 2008 departure, headed over from a Matt Oakley centre, who, like Howard, was making his first appearance against Derby after making the same move as the big striker. Soon after, spritely winger Lloyd Dyer found himself in space but he mishit his shot, and it bounced harmlessly out of play.
The Rams were next to threaten in what was a decent start to the match. Kris Commons, with Derby`s first real effort of the game, hit a decent shot from twenty yards, which keeper Chris Weale got behind and stopped with the minimum of fuss.
That was to be Derby`s last meaningful attack for a decent spell, as Leicester began to make home advantage tell with a period of extended pressure which would ultimately amount to nothing. First, Oakley tried his luck from 30 yards with a speculative drive, before a Richie Wellens cross reached Matty Fryatt, who couldn`t beat Bywater. Teale produced a piece of uncharacteristically brave defending, as he threw himself in the way of a long-range drive from Foxes right-back Michael Morrison. Fryatt had another half chance, but nodded wide from a Dyer cross, before an intelligent short corner almost reached Howard, but Bywater dealt well with the danger.
At this point, Derby were under considerable pressure, but no clear cut chances were being fashioned by the hosts, and this pattern continued as central defender Wayne Brown headed high and wide from Matt Oakley`s near post ball. Andy King saw a deflected shot saved by Bywater, before he had two further efforts, one narrowly over, and one ballooned high and wide. They sandwiched a hopelessly ambitious Commons shot from 25 yards, which caused Row Z more trouble than it did Weale in the City goal.
And with that, the referee blew the half-time whistle, with Nigel Clough doubtlessly the happier of the two managers having seen his side under sustained pressure for much of the opening 45.
Although the first effort of the second period was yet another Leicester City one, a deflected effort from wide-man Dyer, Derby began to creep into the game, and indeed had the better of the half`s opening exchanges. Commons came the closest that either side had come up to this point, with an excellent curling effort from the striker clipping the top of the crossbar after good work by Rob Hulse, who was receiving very little service himself. Lee Hendrie came on for the quiet Lee Croft early in the half.
Rob Hulse was denied a penalty after it appeared he was tripped by Leicester defender Jack Hobbs whilst running away from goal, but the referee was unimpressed by the appeals of the Derby players. Martyn Waghorn was brought on in place of Matty Fryatt to inject some added youth into The Foxes forward line but it was his strike partner Howard who was the next to threaten, with a header that drifted wide from ten yards out. A period of three consecutive corners led to Savage playing the ball to Hulse whose overhead kick sailed just over the bar. Hulse had another penalty appeal waved away after he was shoved to the ground by Morrison, but yet again, the man in black was unmoved and Hulse was left frustrated.
The game moved into the last fifteen minutes, and Howard had another headed effort which dropped just the wrong side of the post from his point of view, and minutes later he had an effort on goal blocked by the impressive Shaun Barker. Barker and Leacock were doing well to keep the forwards at bay, but Howard is a real presence up-front, and he was causing a few problems for The Rams` first choice centre-back pairing. Derby`s injury woes continued as Fredrik Stoor was taken off with a problem: he was replaced by Paul Connolly, a straight swap at right back. The injury problems would continue as Lee Hendrie, who had only come on earlier in the half, was substituted for Jay McEvely with a strain of some sort. Just before this substitution, Hulse had a corner comfortably saved by Weale from a Teale cross.
Derby fans will have had their nerves tested five minutes before the end, as the nightmare scenario seemed to have come true. Steve Howard rolled the ball to Matt Oakley, and the former Rams skipper stuck the ball in the net, but Leicester were ruled offside, and the supporters and players could breathe again.
Four minutes of added time began, and in the third of those three minutes, Howard was booked for furious dissent after being penalised for an infringement on Shaun Barker.
And right at the end, The Rams nearly nicked all three points. Kris Commons robbed a Leicester player and bore down on goal, but a defender was on hand to intervene just as Commons looked to pull the trigger. There was to be one more chance for the visitors as Savage struck a free-kick, won by Hulse, at Wayne Brown, who deflected the ball against Hulse, but Weale was on hand to snuff out the danger.
The referee blew his final whistle to give Derby only their second away point in the campaign to send the 3,307 away fans home relatively pleased with their sides battling efforts, and this result will hopefully lead on to another positive display at another difficult venue on Tuesday, Middlesbrough`s Riverside Stadium. All in all, a solid point against a team who have suffered only one reverse in the last 12 months at home. Nigel Clough and his staff will be happy with a solid and thoroughly deserved point.