Rams Denied at the Death
Attendance: 25, 300
Derby County paid the price for not taking their chances whilst on top when Lee Williamson hit a late equaliser at Bramall Lane to give Sheffield United a point in dramatic fashion. Robbie Savage hit a stunning opener on the half volley from the edge of the box in the first half to give his side a deserved lead and a second goal from a number of chances they created may have finished the game off. The Blades came back strongly in the second period and Derby stood up well to the test until the injury time goal when the ball broke to Williamson inside the area and he finished low past Bywater into the corner to level the scores. It was a tough blow after another industrious performance from Nigel Clough`s side with Michael Tonge making an impressive debut and helping his side to play some of their best football of recent weeks but the point away to a playoff chasing side shows the improvements being made and the benefit of a settled side.
Michael Tonge came in for Lee Johnson, who returned to Bristol City at the start of the week, in the only change to the starting line-up after last week`s victory over Nottingham Forest with fellow loan signing Javan Vidal named amongst the substitutes. Former Derby man Jordan Stewart lined up for Sheffield United as they were down to only three recognised fit defenders. Derby got the game underway and started brightly with Kris Commons making room for himself down the right and delivering the ball into the area but Rob Hulse was stretching to reach the cross and could only divert it just wide of the post. Commons was involved again moments later with a clever pass that released Paul Green but Mark Bunn was out well to meet him and smothered the effort on the edge of his six-yard area.
The Rams were on top and making all of the running and it was no surprise when they took the lead on seventeen minutes. A cross was only cleared to the edge of the area and Robbie Savage caught his shot on the half-volley and the ball flew low into the bottom left-hand corner of the net with Bunn getting his fingers to the effort but he was beaten by the pace of the shot for the Derby captain`s second goal of the season. Lee Williamson had an opportunity to level the scores almost immediately from the edge of the area but he dragged his volley wide of Stephen Bywater`s left-hand post.
Commons was looking dangerous every time The Rams came forward and Mark Bunn had to be on his toes when a neat turn wide on the right saw him cut into the area and shoot from close range but the keeper was equal to it on his near post and tipped behind for a corner. Michael Tonge was next to threaten against his former side with a firmly struck effort from just inside the area but Jordan Stewart got a block on the shot to deflect it behind for a corner which was cleared to safety. The debutant had another firm volley saved well on his near post by Bunn as Derby were playing some of their best football of the recent weeks. Despite some late pressure from the home side they couldn`t test Bywater and went into the break a goal behind.
Derby looked to open the second half in similar fashion and Paul Green couldn`t quite keep his volley from a Tonge cross down with the ball landing on the roof of the net from his looping effort. The home side were looking a little more cohesive after the break and forced a number of set pieces in and around the area but Shaun Barker and Jake Buxton were coping well with a number of dangerous looking balls into the box
Rob Hulse hit a volley over the top from a dangerous Kris Commons ball as The Rams looked to increase their lead and United were forced into a goalkeeping change with Mark Bunn still struggling with a knock he picked up early on meaning Ian Bennett was introduced in his place. The visitors were enjoying less time on the ball than in the first half and Bywater was forced to make a full length save low to his left when Jordan Stewart let fly from outside of the area, the rebound fell to Henri Camara but a combination of Stephen Pearson and the keeper kept the ball out of the net at the expense of a corner.
Gary Teale was brought on in a straight swap for Stephen Pearson on the left of midfield with a little under twenty minutes to go after another hard working performance from the Scot to deny the home side any room down that side. Indeed Derby`s frontline and midfield had worked their socks off to prevent United creating any clear cut chances despite them stepping up the pressure to find a route back into the match. Kris Commons nearly killed the game off in a break forward but he dragged his shot wide of the goal from the edge of the area and was replaced by Chris Porter with seven minutes on the clock.
The home side were now dominating as they were desperate to get something from the game and Richard Creswell somehow missed a header from inside the six yard box when it looked easier to score despite the pressure of two Derby men. The pressure came to fruition a minute into added time when a cross was cleared to the edge of the area but it eventually broke to Lee Williamson who fired low to Bywater`s left and into the bottom corner to level the scores. Despite a hectic final few moments of injury time neither side created further chances and the spoils were shared. Nigel Clough would probably have settled for a point before the match but his side were punished for not taking their chances in a dominant first half showing and were disappointed to have not taken all three points.