The Wait Goes On
Attendance: 17, 459
A poor performance at the Riverside Stadium means Nigel Clough`s men are still waiting for their first away victory of the season after they fell to a 2-0 defeat against a Middlesbrough side that were on the back of three consecutive home defeats coming into this encounter. Adam Johnson scored a goal in either half to hand Gareth Southgate`s men the three points converting a first half penalty before cutting in and curling a fine finish passed Stephen Bywater to tie the game up. Despite the victory Southgate was relieved of his managerial position before the night was out and he left his side sitting in fourth place in the Championship table.
Derby made two changes to the side who claimed a point away to Leicester City on Saturday with Fredrik Stoor ruled out and Lee Croft dropping to the bench to be replaced by Paul Connolly and Jay McEveley respectively with Gary Teale moving to the right of midfield. Paul Dickov was named amongst the substitutes after being ineligible against his former side on Saturday.
Middlesbrough got the game underway and should have taken the lead within the first five minutes when Leroy Lita freed Adam Johnson for a clear run on goal. Stephen Bywater came out to meet the winger and pushed him wide but he beat the Derby keeper and squared to Gary O`Neil at the back post but his shot from six yards was deflected wide of the target by Shaun Barker. The home side were enjoying the majority of the possession in the opening moments and The Rams` chances weren`t improved when Kris Commons was replaced by Paul Dickov after only twelve minutes with a tight hamstring.
Dickov linked up well with Rob Hulse but curled his effort wide of the far post in a rare break into the Boro half and things got worse for Clough`s men on twenty minutes when Jay McEveley went down in a challenge with Leroy Lita and was replaced by Lee Croft with a suspected fractured cheekbone. Before Derby had time to re-adjust they found themselves a goal behind barely sixty seconds later when Adam Johnson went down under a challenge from Shaun Barker and the referee decided it was worthy of a penalty. Johnson picked himself up and fired his penalty straight down the middle to give the home side the advantage.
The Rams attempted to pull themselves back into the game and started to enjoy more possession although they weren`t creating many opportunities going forward and they were almost caught out just before the half hour when Leroy Lita looked to be in on goal only to be denied by a fine challenge from Shaun Barker. Despite some nervy moments for the home side, exacerbated by a crowd who had seen three straight home defeats, Derby were unable to fashion a chance to get themselves level before the break and went in a goal down.
Dean Leacock headed wide from an early second half corner forced by a positive run from Dean Moxey and The Rams were dominating the territory but couldn`t find their way through a stubborn home defence with Boro getting numbers behind the ball to deny them any space. Paul Dickov came close with a twenty five yard effort that Brad Jones plunged to his right to smother and just as Derby looked to be building a firm footing they found themselves two goals behind. Adam Johnson was the scorer again as he cut in from the left and curled a superb finish beyond Bywater to double the home sides lead
David Wheater got in a superb block on a Gary Teale volley from Paul Connolly`s cross as The Rams looked to pull a goal back straight away and Stephen Bywater was forced into a sharp save at his near post when Leroy Lita threatened to put the game beyond Derby`s reach.
Dean Leacock made a block on the line to deny Adam Johnson his hat trick after the same player appeared to have been fouled in the build-up but he recovered well to deny the youngster and Paul Dickov curled one narrowly wide as he looked to bag his first goal in a Derby shirt.
Youngster Greg Mills came off the bench to replace Gary Teale with a little under ten minutes to go and he came close with a glancing header from Lee Croft`s corner but he could only find the side netting and Dickov cam close again curling one over the top but it was not to be for The Rams as they searched in vain for a consolation goal. Southgate`s men saw out the remaining time to claim their first home victory since 12th September but it would be the last game of his time in charge at the Riverside with his sacking announced the following morning.