Victory On The Road!
Attendance: 14, 063
A Chris Porter goal on his twenty sixth birthday gave Derby County their first away success of the season at Vicarage Road against a Watford side who had won their previous four games at home. Without a recognised central defender available for selection and having not scored an away goal since the end of September The Rams` prospects were not looking good before kickoff but a determined showing and the re-introduction of Porter from the bench saw them leave with a 1-0 victory. In a game of few clear-cut chances the former Motherwell striker headed home a Lee Hendrie free kick from point blank range and, despite a late chance for John Eustace, The Rams held on fairly comfortably to extend their unbeaten run to four games.
Derby County lined up with a makeshift look to the defence, central defenders Dean Leacock, Shaun Barker and Miles Addison were all missing whilst there was a return for Jake Buxton but he was only fit enough for the bench. This meant Jay McEveley and Paul Connolly taking up unfamiliar places in the heart of the defence although they had both been used there in an emergency already this season. Steven Davies was also named amongst the substitutes after stepping up his return from injury during the week. Watford included former Derby loanees John Eustace and Danny Graham in the starting line-up and Nathan Ellington on the bench.
There was a scrappy opening to the game and the first effort did not come until the eighth minute when Jay DeMerit blocked a Lee Hendrie shot on goal, Paul Connolly then headed well over from a Robbie Savage free kick as The Rams looked to get their noses ahead with Watford not having found their rhythm so far.
Stephen Bywater sliced a clearance straight to Danny Graham but Watford`s leading scorer couldn`t keep his effort on target and it sailed safely wide as Bywater scrambled back to protect his goal. Nigel Clough`s men were keeping their hosts at bay fairly easily although neither side were creating any real chances going forward, DJ Campbell had a rare effort on goal when he let fly from twenty yards with Scott Loach doing well to tip his firmly hit effort around the post for a corner.
The flow of the game was not being helped by some interesting refereeing as halftime approached. In a strange sequence of events the official gave a corner that had The Rams backline struggling to comprehend and from the resulting set piece Stephen Bywater tipped a Heidar Helguson shot around the post only for a goal kick to be awarded amidst raised eyebrows. Neither side could find the breakthrough before the end of the half and the sides went in goalless at the break.
The Rams started the second period quickly as DJ Campbell sliced an effort wide of the mark moments in and Dean Moxey then made good progress down the left but his cross into the area passed across the six yard area and evaded all players before rolling to safety. Jay DeMerit had to be on his toes to deny Campbell a shooting opportunity with a last ditch tackle as he again threatened the home defence but the striker was replaced just after the hour mark by Chris Porter for another run out on his return from injury.
Steven Davies soon followed replacing Paul Dickov five minutes later as The Rams looked to freshen things up front with the game seemingly there for the taking if they could find the breakthrough. Stephen Bywater was called into action with twenty minutes to go as he kept out a Tom Cleverley shot from the edge of the area with a sharp save as Watford applied some pressure.
The breakthrough came at the other end though with thirteen minutes remaining when Chris Porter was brought down wide on the left. Lee Hendrie fired the free kick across the area and Porter met the ball with a firm header for his first goal, and The Rams` first lead away from home, of the season. It was Hendrie`s last contribution of the match as he was replaced by Gary Teale almost immediately.
John Eustace had a chance to get Watford back in the match two minutes later but he couldn`t keep his volley down from inside the area. Although they mounted some pressure the home side were not able to create any further clear cut chances and The Rams backline held firm to secure their first three point haul away from Pride Park this season.