Ward Wins Boxing Day Encounter
Attendance: 33, 010
Jamie Ward scored the only goal of the game in the second half to give Derby County a second consecutive home victory with a 1-0 victory over promotion chasing Leeds United. The highest attendance this season at Pride Park saw Nathan Tyson start his first game since joining from Nottingham Forest and had the first chance of the match but his shot was straight at Andy Lonergan when well placed. Frank Fielding denied Ross McCormack and Robert Snodgrass but Jamie Ward was looking dangerous at other end and, having hit the post in the first half, he followed up his own shot to score from a tight angle after the break as The Rams hit Leeds on the break. The visitors upped the pressure in the closing stages with Fielding making two smart saves and John Brayford clearing off the line as Derby held on to claim the points.
Nathan Tyson was brought into the side for his first start in a Derby shirt and he partnered Callum Ball up front with Nigel Clough reverting to a 4-4-2 formation for the visit of Leeds and John Brayford reverted to his more familiar role at rightback after playing further forward last time out. Both sides looked to start the game on the front foot and there were a number of full blooded challenges in the early stages but the first chance did not come until just before the quarter of an hour mark. Jamie Ward escaped down the left and after beating his man he pulled the ball back for Nathan Tyson but his effort from around the penalty spot was straight at Andy Lonergan in the visitors` goal.
Leeds came back at The Rams and five minutes later Frank Fielding had to react well to turn a thunderous thirty yard effort from Ross McCormack around the post. At the other end Ward was looking dangerous as he again cut in from the left and his low effort bounced back out off the post with Lonergan beaten and Paul Green couldn`t quite reach the rebound with the ball being hacked to safety. As Leeds looked for the opener they were caught on the break when James Bailey`s superbly weighted ball over the top released Tyson but Lonergan was out well to smother the effort with the former Forest striker never quite looking as though he had the ball under control.
Robert Snodgrass was awarded a cheap freekick attacking down the right and he picked himself up to test Fielding`s reactions but the young keeper was equal to the swinging effort to touch it over the top and Luciano Becchio couldn`t hit the target with a virtually free header from the resulting corner. Ward was still the danger man for Derby and he had two efforts from range as the break approached but neither found the target and the sides left the field goalless.
Derby looked to make the break through in the earlier stages of the second period and started brightly with Gareth Roberts firing a few yards wide when the ball dropped to him in the area and Callum Ball lashed a left foot effort across the goal but wide of the far post from the edge of the area as the pressure continued. The visitors were still in the game however and Fielding palmed away another fierce effort from distance, this time from Danny Pugh, with the ball being cleared to safety before anyone could take advantage.
Tyson was replaced on sixtyfive minutes by Theo Robinson after a decent run out with twentyfive minutes to go and The Rams took the lead two minutes later. They won the ball back in midfield and a quick break saw the ball reach Craig Bryson on the edge of the area and his neat ball found Ward only for Lonergan to make a sharp low save, the diminutive striker was first to the rebound however and he slammed the ball home from a tight angle.
Leeds responded predictably to falling a goal behind and upped the pressure with Fielding denying Snodgrass again from outside the area and a fine double save to keep out McCormack and substitute Andy Keogh in a hectic finish. A combination of Fielding and Brayford then kept out a Patrick Kisnorbo header in the closing moments as Derby did just about enough to hold out and claim a valuable three points to lift themselves to the halfway point in the table.
Derby County: Fielding, Brayford, Barker, Shackell, Roberts, Green, Bailey, Bryson, Ward, Ball (O'Brien 90), Tyson (Robinson 65).
Subs Not Used: Legzdins, B Davies, Priskin.
Leeds United: Lonergan, Kisnorbo, Brown, Becchio (Keogh 68), Clayton, Pugh, Lees (Connolly 42), Snodgrass, White (Nunez 75), McCormack, O'Dea.
Subs Not Used: Vayreyen, McCarthy.