Rams get reality check
26th December 2006
Derby County 0 v 2 Wolves
Wolves ended the Rams run of five successive home wins thanks to second half goals from Seyi George Olofinjana and Michael Kightly in a 2-0 victory at Pride Park. It continued the nine year run since the Rams have won on Boxing Day, but the woodwork had twice saved Wolves as Derby midfielder David Jones hit the crossbar before half-time, and striker Steve Howard rattled the foot of the post after it. But in front of a 31,920 crowd, Nigerian midfielder Olofinjana headed home against the run of play and on loan winger Kightly chipped Rams goalkeeper Stephen Bywater to cap a late counter-attack.
The visitors began brighty with the Rams looking to have a little stage fright in front of the best crowd at Pride Park this season, and it was Kightly who produced the first shot of the game when he cut in off the right flank but fired a left footed shot well over the Derby crossbar with six minutes gone. The visitors continued to boss the early stages and three minutes later the Rams were opened up again, this time from the opposite wing, as Neill Collins found Michael McIndoe with a floated pass. Leon Clarke collected the flick-on and then moved into the penalty box but failed to trouble goalkeeper Bywater.
The home supporters sat in bewilderment as their side, which had only lost one game from the last 10, looked sluggish and on the quarter hour it was Kightly again who collected Olofinjana's cross-field ball but then fired straight at Bywater. Kightly, who joined Wolves from non-league Grays Athletic with the view to a permanent transfer in January, was a constant threat and he fired wide from a similar position.
The Rams settled and it was their on loan signing Jon Stead who had the first opportunity, but he sent his 20th minute shot wide while under pressure from Karl Henry. But referee Trevor Kettle pulled play back for a direct free kick however, and the Rams went within inches of the lead. The free kick from 20-yards out by David Jones hit the crossbar with Wanderers goalkeeper Matt Murray rooted to the spot.
For the first time in a long time Rams coach Billy Davies had a fully fit squad to choose from but on 29 minutes Michael Johnson replaced Rams left-back Paul Boertien who seemed to re-damage his knee. It was a blow for the Rams as he only returned to regular first-team football in August after 28 months on the sidelines thanks to knee problems - and the injury had the Rams coaching and medical staff looking concerned on the side line. The Rams ended the half the better and Stead was the provider this time,playing in Matt Oakley but Murray was quickly off his line to save.
Derby continued the second half in the same manner and Collins was booked for repeated fouls on Howard, and from the resulting free-kick the Rams went close. Matt Oakley's initial shot was blocked and his follow up cross from the left found the lunging Howard, who diverted the ball onto the post.
There was an amazing incident in the 55th minute, when Derby substitute Bob Malcolm, who had been warming up on the touchline, was booked following a confrontation with Kightly prior to a throw-in. But the Rams continued to dominate the game, Howard fired inches past the post and Stead could only drag his shot wide when clear inside the Wolves penalty area in the 63rd minute. But against the run of play the visitors were ahead in the 67th minute when Mark Little crossed from the Wolves right and Olofinjana rose highest at the back post to head back across Bywater.
The Rams through caution to the wind and Davies brought on Arturo Lupoli and Paul Peschisolido and went for an all out attacking formation, and Wolves had keeper Murray to thank as he made a spectacular double save to deny Howard's point-blank header from Johnson's cross. But with the Rams chasing the game Wolves wrapped up the points in stoppage-time, when a quick counter-attack caught the Rams out and the pacy Kightly was sent clear by substitute Craig Davies, and he calmly finished over Bayswater.
Derby: Bywater, Edworthy, Leacock, Moore,Boertien (Michael Johnson 29),Oakley (Peschisolido 85), Jones, Seth Johnson (Lupoli 73), Barnes, Howard,Stead.
Subs Not Used: Bisgaard, Malcolm.
Booked: Malcolm, Michael Johnson.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Murray, Little, Collins, Breen, McNamara, Kightly, Henry,Potter, Olofinjana, McIndoe, Clarke (Craig Davies 77).
Subs Not Used: Hennessey, Clapham, Edwards, Ricketts.
Goals: Olofinjana 66, Kightly 90.
Ref: T Kettle (Berkshire).
Davies declared the Rams' latest setback would serve as a 'reality check'.
'We were poor in the first half and we seemed to forget we need to work hard in this division.
'In the second half we were better but we let the crowd down in the first half and hopefully we will come out hurting in our next game.'
'Derby were better than us and they beat us at our place earlier in the season, but now we have repaid the compliment.
'It was the best performance of the season, coupled with the right result but I feel we could have picked up more points by now and we should be in a better position.'