Attendance: 30, 255
A disappointing second-half performance allowed Crystal Palace to fight back and claim a deserved point at Pride Park but it was enough for Derby County to secure their Championship status for next season with two games to go. Russell Anderson bundled in the opening goal in the fourth minute of the match and The Rams could have been further ahead by halftime but they took their foot off the gas in the second period and could not regain their momentum as Palace took control in the final stages. They eventually levelled the game through a sharp finish from Stern John, who had been their main danger man after coming on as a halftime substitute, four minutes from the end. Whilst Derby can still be caught the final day fixture pitting Palace against Sheffield Wednesday means both sides cannot overtake The Rams and sees them now able to start planning for next season.
Nigel Clough made two changes to the side who claimed a point at Oakwell last weekend with David Martin coming in for his first start since joining on loan from Millwall in place of Steven Davies. Chris Porter also returned to the starting line-up with Rob Hulse missing out through a hamstring injury. The Rams were off and running quickly on a sunny afternoon and Russell Anderson was inches away from giving Derby the perfect start when he couldn`t quite reach a Robbie Savage free kick into the area. It wasn`t long however until the pair combined again to give them the lead when Savage curled in a free kick from the left that Anderson was first to and he bundled home from close range.
Derby continued to dominate the possession with set pieces their main threat and Shaun Barker reached a couple of corners but couldn`t get enough on his headers to hit the target as the ball flew wide of the target both times. At the other end Palace were struggling to create any real opportunities of their own and Barker reacted quickly to take the ball off the toe of Darren Ambrose as he looked set to shoot from inside the area in their first moment of real danger.
As halftime approached Tomasz Cywka and David Martin linked up well after a storming run down the left from the young Pole and his pullback to the edge of the area was met on the half volley by Martin but the shot was straight at Julian Speroni in the Palace goal. The keeper then reacted sharply to push behind a fierce drive from Cywka from a tight angle when the ball broke to him in the area but the corner came to nothing and The Rams took a one goal advantage into the break.
Chris Porter had the first opportunity of the second period when he got his head to a cross but he couldn`t keep his effort down and as Palace fought their way back into the match Neil Danns headed just wide from a rightwing cross. Former Derby loanee Stern John had been introduced at halftime and was starting to have some joy against The Rams backline and he dragged an effort across the goal and wide of the far post after turning well inside the area.
Michael Tonge fired a free kick narrowly over the top just after the hour mark as Derby attempted to reassert their dominance and Johannes Ertl fired wide of the mark from long range at the other end minutes later. Steven Davies replaced Cywka with twenty minutes to go as Nigel Clough looked for some fresh legs and he lined up on the right of midfield with Michael Tonge moving infield to play just off Porter.
Stern John was next to threaten when he got his head to a Danny Butterfield cross but he headed straight at Stephen Bywater and The Rams` keeper then reacted superbly to keep out Darren Ambrose`s stinging drive from the edge of the area low to his left and then again to keep out Stern John`s effort from the rebound as he turned it behind for a corner. John then came even closer to scoring when he turned and thundered a volley against the bar from inside the area after another ball was not dealt with.
The pressure eventually told and Palace got their equaliser with four minutes on the clock, a ball into the area from the right was controlled on his chest by John and he turned and fired the dropping ball across Bywater and into the far corner of the net to level the scores. It had been coming for the visitors and their second half display merited the goal. Palace`s tails were up and they continued to pile forward in search of a winner but the remaining minutes and added time passed without a worthwhile effort on goal and the sides took a point apiece from the encounter.
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