Late Season Blues
The Rams slipped to a disappointing defeat after two Nicky Maynard goals, the first a close range third-minute effort, the second a penalty after the break, put The Robins 2-0 up with ten to play. Although Steven Pearson's late strike gave The Rams hope, it could not spark a comeback and ultimately Nigel Clough's side will rue a number of missed chances and some sloppy defending.
The Rams injury curse struck again in the warm-up as Paul Green was ruled out of the game with a thigh strain so Gilles Sunu came in to replace him on the right wing with Michael Tonge dropping into centre midfield to partner Robbie Savage in Green's stead. Stephen Pearson lined up on the left of midfield in place of David Martin after completing a two match suspension. Saul Deeney replaced Stephen Bywater in goal in the only other Derby change as the stopper s out for the las two games of the season with a rib injury.
Derby made the worst possible start when Nicky Maynard opened the scoring for Bristol in only the third minute of the game. Gary Sawyer's floated centre was floated towards Marvin Elliot who unselfishly nodded the ball into the path of The Robins striker. He needed no second invitation and slotted the ball home from close range for his nineteenth goal of the season.
Derby refused to be disheartened by this disappointing early setback and Robbie Savage almost provided Chris Porter with an equaliser but the striker's effort was easily smothered by home keeper Dean Gerken. Jamal Campbell-Ryce was the next player to have a shot at goal but his strike from 18 yards was off target with Deeney untroubled in the opening period, except picking the ball out of the net. Gilles Sunu's afternoon came to an end as he was replaced by Gary Teale with a calf injur yon the half-hour mark. The Rams twice came close to bagging a leveller but Tomasz Cywka's close-down from a Gerken clearance bounced wide and Nicky Hunt's slammed 25 yarder being tipped behind by the City stopper. Half time arrived and despite finding themselves behind, Derby could be reasonably happy with their display.
And they started the second half the brighter as Cywka's snap-shot from the edge of the area flew just wide of he post. Paul Connolly then had to replace Russel Anderson to partner Shaun Barker in defence as Russell Anderson picked up a slight hamstring strain. Connolly had just returned from a loan spell at Sheffield United. As the clock reached the hour mark, Chris Porter spurned an excellent chance from twelve yards after good work from the returning Stephen Pearson. Cywka had a half-chance after Dean Gerken failed to claim a ball but Paul Hartley got back to clear the young Pole's effort off the line. Chris Porter was then replaced by David Martin after picking up an injury of his own. The Rams were down to the bare bones.
fter almost incessant pressure from his side, Nigel Clough then saw his side concede a second goal against the run of play. Nicky Hunt brought down his namesake Maynard for a clear penalty and the frontman dusted himself down before sending Deeney the wrong way from the spot to take his tally for the season to an impressive twenty. Gary Teale came close to reducing the deficit but his shot after a slaloming run was held by the Bristol City keeper.
With just four minutes left on the clock, Stephen Pearson pulled back a goal for the side. Good work from David Martin and Tomasz Cywka presented Pearson with a good chance and he slotted home from inside the area for his first of the season. Although Derby pressed and came close through Cywka after more good work from Pearson, it was Bristol City and Nicky Maynard who actually had the game's final chance but Saul Deeney denied the impressive forward a hattrick with a great stop.
So The Rams end thei away campaign for 09/10 with a defeat to a fair Bristol City side, but as it has been said of many away games this season, it could, and possibly should, have been much much more. Still, Nigel Clough will take heart from the performance and with more ruthless finishing next season, Derby will surely pick up many more points than they have done in this frustrating term on the road.