Final Day Victory
Attendance: 31, 102
Derby County finished the season with a comfortable two goal victory over play-off bound Cardiff City and their league position and points tally showed a slight improvement on last season as they finished in fourteenth place. Both sides made changes with a lengthy injury list forcing Nigel Clough`s hand meaning returns for Kris Commons` and a first start in a Derby shirt for Ben Pringle. Cardiff also made changes with the play-offs in mind and the first half was a limp affair with Saul Deeney`s save from Ross McCormack and Tomasz Cywka`s low effort the only moments of note. Jay McEveley headed in from a Kris Commons free kick three minutes into the second period and David Martin fired in his first goal for Derby on the hour mark to tie up the points with Cardiff offering little threat up front until McCormack had a long range effort tipped onto the bar inside the last ten minutes.
Injuries played their part as Nigel Clough made changes to the side beaten at Ashton Gate last weekend with Jay McEveley moving to the centre of defence in place of Russell Anderson and Dean Moxey coming in at leftback. Ben Pringle came in for a first start of the season and partnered Robbie Savage in the middle of the park and Kris Commons also returned up front to play alongside Tomasz Cywka. Amongst the substitutes were academy players Callum Ball, Jeff Hendrick, Mark O'Brien and Ryan Connolly. The visitors also made nine changes to their side with the playoffs in mind with their place already secured.
The Rams could have taken the lead inside the first minute when Robbie Savage neatly played in Nicky Hunt down the right and, as his low cross was only half cleared, Kris Commons smashed wide of the target from ten yards when he perhaps should have down better. Both sides were cancelling each other out and it wasn`t until fifteen minutes that either keeper was tested when Ross McCormack went for goal directly from a free kick wide to the left but Saul Deeney was equal to it to tip his effort over the top.
Tomasz Cywka and Kris Commons were being starved of service with Derby resorting to a number of high balls forward but the former did well to win the ball in the middle of Cardiff`s half and his run and shot from the edge of the area forced Peter Enckelman into a sharp save low to his left to turn the ball behind for a corner. Cardiff came back strongly at the end of the half and Deeney did well to hold Gabor Gyepes` strong header from a McCormack free kick and the Scotland international had a great chance in the final minute when a neat flick sent him clear on goal but he fired wide of the mark under pressure from Shaun Barker as Derby`s player of the year got back to make the challenge.
The Rams came out quickly at the start of the second period and took the lead when Kris Commons` whipped delivery from wide on the right was headed home by Jay McEveley after only three minutes. It could have been better moments later when Michael Tonge`s low effort was pushed out by Enckleman but Ben Pringle couldn`t make contact with the rebound and Kris Commons stabbed wide of the mark from close range. The respite didn`t last long for the visitors though as Pringle fed David Martin down the left on the hour mark and he ran at goal before firing a low left-footed effort under the body of Enckleman and into the far corner of the net to double Derby`s lead.
Nigel Clough`s men were looking extremely comfortable with the lead with the visitors offering virtually nothing going forward with Shaun Barker winning everything in the air and Jay McEveley also looking sharp at the back. Gary Teale came on in place of Kris Commons with fifteen minutes to go after an impressive return from injury and youngster Callum Ball also made his senior debut coming on in place of Cywka with just under ten minutes to go.
Saul Deeney made a superb save from Ross McCormack tipping the Cardiff man`s long range effort onto the bar and over with the keeper also doing well to claim the resulting set-piece. Ryan Connolly came on in place of David Martin in the last minute of the match as Clough gave another of his youngsters a taste of first team action. There was little action of note in the added period and the final whistle went with The Rams claiming another three points to leave themselves in fourteenth place, two points better off than last season, with Cardiff looking forward to their playoff semi-final with Leicester City after finishing in fourth.