Attendance: 7, 996
After the late show against Doncaster at the weekend the shoe was on the other foot at Home Park as Jamie Mackie thundered in a late winner for Plymouth to settle a tight contest and give The Pilgrims their first goal and victory of the year. Rumoured Rams target Mackie fired home the winner from eighteen yards when a blocked freekick fell to him on the edge of the area and it was tough justice for Derby who could and perhaps should have been ahead. Paul Green hit the post from close range and Rob Hulse twice came close to opening the scoring only to be denied by on loan Fulham keeper David Stockdale in a hard working away performance but Nigel Clough`s side ultimately paid the price for their profligacy in front of goal and find themselves dragged right back into the relegation dogfight with this and other results on the night.
The Rams made three changes to the side who successfully progressed to the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday with Jay McEveley being handed a start after his winning goal in place of Dean Moxey and Rob Hulse and DJ Campbell coming in up front in place of Steve Davies and Chris Porter who both dropped to the bench. The pitch at Home Park was looking extremely heavy after the heavy rain that caused the postponement of Plymouth`s clash with Barnsley on Saturday.
Both sides made hard work of the surface in the opening minutes with the uneven bounce not helping either side to pass the ball well but Derby were the first to threaten when DJ Campbell got on the end of a looping ball into the Argyle area and set up Paul Green but he miscued horribly and sent the ball flying over the crossbar. Derby were seemingly adapting to the conditions a lot quicker than the home side and were making the early running and Campbell was involved again when he glanced a header wide from a Lee Johnson cross.
Rob Hulse was the next player to threaten when he turned well and fired just over with the aid of a deflection but the resulting corner came to nothing. The Plymouth backline was standing firm and getting clearances to a number of balls forward and they had their first real effort of the game when Luke Summerfield`s effort from outside the area was hit straight at Stephen Bywater who gathered with ease. Paul Green swung over a dangerous cross from the right that Kari Arnason got to and his deflection sent the ball narrowly wide of the mark with the keeper beaten. Again the resulting corner came to nothing and neither side could break the deadlock before halftime.
Rob Hulse came close again when he reached an inviting near post cross from Stephen Pearson but he couldn`t quite keep his effort down and the ball flew narrowly over. Derby were putting in a number of high balls and crosses into the area to test out David Stockdale on his Plymouth debut and he had one or two uncertain moments but nothing that they could capitalise on. Jamie Mackie was looking dangerous for the home side and another weaving run ended with him firing over the top when well placed inside the area as he failed to test Bywater.
The effort and commitment shown in the cup at the weekend was again evident as The Rams battled against the conditions and pitch and Dean Moxey was brought on in place of Lee Johnson just after the hour mark with Jay McEveley moving forward to the left of midfield and Moxey dropping into the backline. Kari Arnason got his head to a corner but his header was wide of the mark as was Hulse`s header at the other end moments later as Derby continued to look dangerous going forward. Steve Davies replaced DJ Campbell with twenty minutes to go and he almost made an immediate impact but his effort from close range was blocked by Stockdale inside the six yard area and Paul Green could then only hit the post with the goal gaping from a tight angle.
Rob Hulse was denied by the legs of Stockdale as he turned and shot from twelve yards out despite him going the wrong way and the deadlock was finally broken but not in the manner Nigel Clough would have wanted. A freekick on the edge of the Derby area was fired into the wall by Luke Summerfield and the ball fell to Jamie Mackie who ripped a low effort past Bywater from eighteen yards to give Plymouth the lead with eight minutes to go.
It was a cruel blow for Derby who really should have been ahead already but they had been punished for not taking their opportunities when they came along. They stepped up the pressure in the closing stages and Kris Commons was introduced from the bench before the board went up for five minutes of added time but it was not to be and Stephen Pearson blazed over from just outside the area with the last chance of the game as The Rams fell to their first defeat since November on the road and allowed the teams below them to make up vital ground in the relegation scrap.