Shefki Kuqi scored the only game of the game on a frustrating afternoon for Derby County at Pride Park as they fell to their first defeat in five league games against Swansea City. The Welsh outfit came into the game with a reputation for being tough to score against and they didn`t disappoint with a solid defensive display limiting The Rams to a number of long range efforts despite another hard working display. It always looked likely that one goal would win the match and the result hinged on a free kick awarded in the sixty fifth minute that saw Jay McEveley sent off for a second bookable offence with The Swans taking the lead from the resulting set piece. Gorka Pintado got himself sent-off for a nasty lunge on Robbie Savage after having been on the pitch for less than ten minutes but even with the evening up of numbers Derby struggled to create a chance until Michael Tonge`s free kick crashed back off the crossbar with two minutes to go but it was not to be for his side.
Nigel Clough was able to name an unchanged side for the fifth game in a row with the only change amongst the substitutes in the shape of loanee Giles Sunu who only joined late on Friday but took up his place on the bench having not yet met his new teammates. Derby got out of the blocks quickly in familiar fashion from their last few home performances with Kris Commons and Paul Green both involved in the build-up to creating an opening for Rob Hulse but Dorus de Vries reacted well to deny the striker.
The Rams were taking the game to their visitors but Swansea were looking tight at the back and proving hard to break down with chances at a premium. Derby`s cause was not helped when Kris Commons was forced off with a hamstring strain after twenty-five minutes which robbed them of the creativity and link play he brings to the side, Giles Sunu came off the bench to replace him to make an earlier than expected debut. Nicky Hunt and Jay McEveley both had long range efforts that failed to trouble de Vries as the halftime interval approached and Michael Tonge snatched at a volley allowing the keeper to claim the effort as the game drifted to the break without a goal.
The second period got underway in similar fashion and it was not until just before the hour mark that the first shot on target came with Paul Green testing de Vries from just outside the area but it was a comfortable save for the Dutchman. With the chances still not forthcoming it took a moment of controversy to break the deadlock. Jay McEveley was adjudged to have brought down Nathan Dyer as he collided with the diminutive winger and having already been booked was shown a second yellow card. It looked a little harsh as the Swansea man appeared to have simply run into him and the left back had to be ushered off the pitch by Robbie Savage as he contested the decision. To make things worse the visitors took the lead from the resulting free kick when Shefki Kuqi got his head to Angel Rangel`s delivery into the area and the ball beat Stephen Bywater and went in off the far post.
Robbie Savage couldn`t keep his volley under control as The Rams looked for an immediate route back into the match and he was involved in the incident that also reduced the visitors to ten men. Gorka Pintado lunged into an unnecessary tackle from behind on the Derby captain and with both feet off the ground the referee had no option but to send him off having only been on the park for nine minutes. Both sides get involved in a bout of handbags before the referee sent the Spaniard off although no further action was taken against anyone involved in the melee.
Swansea had already shown they were more than happy to settle for what they had and Derby were struggling to break them down even with the numbers evened up again. Nigel Clough`s last throw of the dice come with five minutes on the clock when he brought on Chris Porter for Giles Sunu and pushed Shaun Barker up front to try and put the Swans backline under pressure. Derby were inches away from snatching a point when Michal Tonge curled a free kick over the wall from twenty-five yards but it crashed back off the crossbar and Barker could only fire the rebound harmlessly over as the ball bounced out to him. Despite six minutes of injury time Derby just couldn`t find a way back into the match and fell to their first defeat in five games in the league.
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