Hulse the Hero
Attendance: 26, 511
Two goals from Rob Hulse capped a come from behind victory to give Derby County a much needed three points after a hard working victory over Coventry in front of the Sky Sports cameras. An early setback after a missed punch by Stephen Bywater could have shattered their already brittle confidence but it seemed to have the reverse effect as they stepped up the pressure and were unlucky not to go in level at the break after Paul Dickov missed a glorious opportunity. It only took four minutes of the second half for Hulse to pounce and they were in front just after the hour mark with his fifth goal of the season with City reduced to ten men moments later. A penalty gave Hulse the perfect chance to complete his hat trick but it was saved and the nerves kicked in in the closing stages but The Rams had enough to hold on for the win.
Nigel Clough had options available to him with the return of Rob Hulse, Dean Leacock and long term absentee Paul Green to the starting line-up and there were also places on the bench for Miles Addison and Jay McEveley as The Rams team took on a much improved look.
Derby started positively and looked to get at the visitors in the opening stages but they fell behind with virtually Coventry`s first attack of the match on four minutes. Freddy Eastwood made space down the left and his inviting cross into the area was punched away by Stephen Bywater but he didn`t make clean contact and the ball fell to Leon Best who took a touch before firing into the left corner of the goal to give his side the lead. Dean Leacock was inches away from an instant reply when his right foot shot from inside the area was deflected behind and Rob Hulse got his head to the resultant corner but his header was straight at Konstantopoulos in the City goal.
Hulse then threatened again with another shot that appeared to be deflected wide although no corner was forthcoming and Shaun Barker went down under a Ward challenge in the area as the ball dropped from a corner but the appeals were waved away. Frederick Stoor was then called into action at the other end to deny Freddy Eastwood an opportunity at the far post from a Leon Best cross.
After a scrappy spell The Rams were back on top in the closing stages and Gary Teale cut in from the left and hit a powerful shot but it didn`t unduly trouble Konstantopoulos as it passed wide of his right-hand post. Stephen Pearson had another effort off target before Leon Best broke away on the stroke of halftime but Dean Moxey got back well to nick the ball away from him as he set himself to shoot. Pearson was again involved in the last chance of the first half as some neat footwork on the edge of the area saw him beat his man and he pulled the ball back for a glorious chance for Paul Dickov but he somehow fired over from six yards and Coventry went in at the break one goal to the good.
The Rams started the second half strongly and Stoor found room down the right but his cross was over hit although it did look to be dropping in and Konstantopoulos was forced to tip it over the top to make sure. The play was all one way in the opening moments and it only took four minutes for Nigel Clough`s men to haul themselves level. Paul Dickov clipped in a perfectly weighted ball from the left that picked out Rob Hulse and he took a touch on his chest before hitting a half volley with the outside of his right boot low to right of Konstantopoulos who stood no chance as the ball flew past him into the net.
Gary Teale threatened just short of the hour mark after a mazy run down the left saw him cut inside but his cross cum shot avoided everyone in the area and flew wide of the far post. As Derby continued to dominate they got themselves in front and it was Rob Hulse who was again on target, Teale played in Pearson neatly and the midfielder hit an early cross that appeared to have avoided everyone. Dickov didn`t give it up though and he chased it down before cutting back to Hulse who rattled in a shot at the near post that again saw the keeper with no chance.
Moments after the kick-off the visitors were reduced to ten men as Jordan Clarke went flying into a tackle with Robbie Savage leaving the referee with no other choice than to show a second yellow to the Coventry man despite protests marshalled in chief by Clinton Morrison. The game hit a little bit of a lull with both sides adjusting to the change in shape forced on City and Stephen Pearson threatened again but his shot from the edge of the area was straight at Konstantopoulos.
Miles Addison made a return to action with ten minutes to go in place of Dean Leacock with both players receiving a rapturous reception from the home crowd and Lee Croft was next off the bench in place of Paul Dickov who also received a warm reception for his work on the night and assists on both of Derby`s goals. Hussey fouled Croft in the area with a cross looking set to reach the substitute and the referee pointed to the spot giving Hulse the chance of a hat trick. However, it was not to be for the big striker as Konstantopoulos saved at full stretch to his left to deny him.
The nerves started to show a little and Coventry pressed forward for an unlikely equaliser with Elliott Ward having an effort from the edge of the area blocked but Barker and Addison coped well with a number of balls into the area and The Rams saw out the closing moments for a deserved three points to ease their worries at the wrong end of the table.