Rams Start With A Win
Goals from captain Jason Shackell, on his full debut, and a thunderbolt from Steve Davies gave Derby County a come from behind victory against Birmingham City at Pride Park as they opened the new campaign with a 2-1 victory. After an even opening the visitors stepped up their game and took the lead through a Curtis Davies header from a corner but they weren`t in front for long with Shackell heading home from a Ben Davies freekick minutes later to level the match. Steve Davies turned and crashed a swerving effort beyond Boaz Myhill in the Birmingham goal just before halftime and The Rams could have sewn the game up early in the second but Jamie Ward was off target twice with the goal at his mercy. Despite some late Birmingham pressure Frank Fielding was largely untroubled on his first appearance after joining on a permanent basis in the summer and his side picked up all three points to get the new season off to a great start.
Nathan Tyson was ruled out with the groin injury he picked up against Aston Villa on Wednesday so Nigel Clough went with Steve Davies and Jamie Ward up front in a 4-4-2 formation with debuts for Kevin Kilbane, Jason Shackell, Craig Bryson and a first start in a Derby shirt since December 2009 for Lee Croft. The Rams started quickly and Croft had the perfect opportunity inside the first minute when a corner fell to him ten yards out but he scooped a hurried effort over the top. Birmingham forced their way back into the match and Jordan Mutch hit the crossbar with a header before Jean Beausejour had a freekick from wide on the right tipped over by Frank Fielding. From the resulting corner the visitors took the lead on nineteen minutes when Beausejour`s outswinging corner was headed firmly home by Curtis Davies.
Birmingham`s tails were up and they were starting to dominate in midfield but the Derby backline stood strong and they were back on level terms on twentysix minutes. John Brayford was brought down on the right and Ben Davies` inviting freekick was met by Shackell at the far post to head back across goal and into the corner of the net to level the scores. Beausejour and Adam Rooney both tested Fielding from outside of the area with low drives but the former England Under-21 goalkeeper was equal to both with some assured handling.
Russell Anderson was forced off with an injury on thirtyfive minutes to be replaced by youngster Mark O`Brien who was perhaps a little unlucky not to have started after some strong displays in pre-season. Steve Davies then gave The Rams the lead with three minutes to play in the half when he received the ball to the right of goal twentyfive yards out and he took a touch before crashing an unstoppable effort beyond Boaz Myhill with the ball moving all over the place before finding the top corner.
Derby came out strongly at the start of the second period and Jamie Ward had two golden opportunities to put the game out of Birmingham`s reach but failed to convert on both occasions. Firstly a neat interchange between Croft and Brayford saw the fullback free in the area in behind his opposing number but his low cross was somehow completely missed by the striker with the goal at his mercy and then from a deep cross Steve Davies headed back across goal but Ward could only head against the bar from close range with the ball bouncing to safety. Chris Wood came off the bench for Birmingham as they looked to get back in the match and his physical presence up front gave them a lift as he made room for Mutch with two efforts from the edge of the area but neither tested Fielding.
Chris Burke went on a run from halfway inside the Derby half on seventy minutes and with no one able to stop him his clipped cross-shot hit the far post with Stephen Carr blazing aimlessly over the top from the rebound. Steve Davies again tried his luck from range as Derby looked to take advantage of a quick break and Myhill had to react quickly to save low down to his right. Theo Robinson and Jeff Hendrick both came off the bench in the closing stages as Birmingham upped the pressure but Fielding was virtually untroubled in the Derby goal as they saw out four minutes of injury time to claim a deserved victory.
Derby County: Fielding, Brayford, Anderson (O'Brien 35), Shackell (C), Kilbane, Bailey (Hendrick 83), Croft, Bryson, B Davies, Ward (Robinson 78), S Davies.
Subs: Maguire, Legzdins.
Birmingham City: Myhill, Carr (C), Caldwell, Ridgewell, Burke, Beausejour, Mutch, Gomis, Rooney, Fahey (Wood 60), C Davies.
Subs: Murphy, Doyle, Dann, Redmond.