Writer: Site Staff
Date:Sunday December 17 2006
Attendance: Att: 23,875
DERBY won their eighth game in nine after David Jones' first goal for the club sealed a narrow win over Crystal Palace at Pride Park. The on loan Manchester United midfielder, who is set to join the club permanently in a £1million deal in January, struck after 22 minutes after great work from fellow loan player Arturo Lupoli. The Arsenal youngster produced a mazy run down the left wing, and the impressive Jones met his cutback with a low, crisp drive from eight-yards past an unsighted Julian Speroni.
The three points cement Derby's two-point cushion in second place over Preston, while defeat leaves Palace hovering dangerously close to the relegation zone.
Derby boss Billy Davies was without top scorer Steve Howard for the first time this season through suspension, so Lupoli was brought in to partner Jon Stead in attack. Palace chief Peter Taylor was forced into handing goalkeeper Speroni his first start since December last year after first choice Iain Turner returned to parent club Everton after picking up a groin strain and Gabor Kiraly joined Aston Villa on loan.
After a tentative start, the Rams burst into life after five minutes with Jones unleashing a stinging drive from 25-yards which zipped narrowly past Speroni's post.
Lupoli and Jones displayed their Premiership pedigree throughout the opening period, and the former was inches away from doubling the Rams' advantage just five minutes after they had gone ahead. A typically dazzling run from the Italian ace carved open a fragile Palace defence, but his curling effort from the edge of the penalty area skipped just past Speroni's far post.
Palace offered little in the way of attacking threat in the first half and was reduced to speculative long-range efforts from Ben Watson and top scorer Clinton Morrison as they struggled to break down a miserly Derby defence expertly marshalled by the veteran Darren Moore.
Palace started the second period with renewed purpose and came close to levelling when Tom Soares was allowed space to shoot after 51 minutes. But the England Under-21 midfielder saw his 25-yard drive arrow just over Stephen Bywater's crossbar.
With Derby seemingly content to hold on to their slender lead rather than go for a second goal, Palace started to exert more influence on the game. As they pushed forward, gaps started to appear for Derby to exploit, and highly-rated midfielder Giles Barnes took full advantage.
The 18-year-old, who is reportedly a target for Liverpool in the January transfer window, set off on an electrifying run from his own half leaving four defenders in his wake, but he could not find a finish to match and his 20-yard shot trickled narrowly wide.
Palace were inches away from finding an equaliser at the death, but Darren Ward was unable to find the target with a close-range header, and Derby were able to hold on to Jones' early strike to claim maximum points.
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Date:Sunday December 17 2006
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