Rams v Potters - Report
Pride Park - 21.02.07
A bad at the office for Davies' boys
Derby lost at home for the first time since the 0-2 defeat on Boxing Day against Wolves, when first-half goals from former Ram Danny Higginbotham and Dominic Matteo saw Stoke City leave Pride Park with the points.
Billy Davies made seven changes in the starting line up for the game, with Jon Macken given a first Derby County start. Also back in were Marc Edworthy, Jay McEveley, Michael Johnson, Craig Fagan, Matt Oakley and Gary Teale, Out of the side were Darren Moore (Suspended), Tyrone Mears and Stephen Pearson, both dropped to the bench, and Morten Bisgaard, Seth Johnson, Ryan Smith and Mo Camera, who were all not selected in the squad.
The visitors opened the brighter, and were ahead in the 12th minute. Lee Hendrie`s corner was handled in the box inexplicably by Dean Leacock and referee Keith Stroud pointed to the spot. Higginbotham kept his nerve and scored low past Stephen Bywater.
It wasn`t the start the crowd had expected and the Rams pressed for an immediate equaliser, but Oakley shot from 25-yards flew well over, and Howard headed over a David Jones free-kick from six-yards. But on 24 minutes the visitors doubled their advantage. Hendrie's corner found the unmarked Dominic Matteo who headed powerfully home from close-range.
Davies spoke before the game of a roller-coaster ride for the rest of the season, well the Rams were defiantly at the fair, but they were on the ghost train.
Derby needed a quick reply to get back in the game, and they forced three quick corners but they came to nothing. Then Oakley`s strike forced Steve Simonsen into a sharp save and Jones delayed a shot when in a goal scoring position and the chance was lost.
Derby needed to start the second half well and they did so by getting plenty of possession in and around the Stoke box, but failed to capitalize. They came close in the 53rd minute when Oakley long-range shot forced Simonsen to scramble across his goal and turn the ball away for a corner. Then Howard, who was having a frustrating night, headed straight at Simonsen, after a pin-point Teale cross.
Stoke failed to clear properly after Jones's weak delivery and McEveley whipped a cross back in, again Howard headed straight at Simonsen.
The Rams were well on top and the crowd, silent for the first half, urged them on and Fagan fired wide from just outside the box.
Then Jones tried his luck from long-range, and his strike flew inches past the post, but for all their efforts Derby were still in desperate need of a goal from somewhere. The crowd thought they had that in the 73rd minute when second half substitute Arturo Lupoli had the ball in the back of the net, but the whistle had already blown for offside.
The Rams continued to press, but Stoke looked solid at the back, Howard was denied again in the closing stages, Simonsen turning away his close-range effort after McEveley's free kick had been deflected his way. It was getting frustrating on the pitch and a melee late on involving a number of players summed this up and the Rams had no way back and Stoke left with three well deserved points.
Derby County - GK Bywater, Edworthy, Leacock (Mears 15), M Johnson, McEveley, Teale, Oakley (C), Jones (Pearson 68), Fagan, Howard, Macken (Lupoli 60)
Subs not used: Peschisolido, Grant
Stoke City - GK Simonsen, Hoefkens, Sidibe (Rooney 88), Higginbottom (C), Hendrie (Dickinson 83), Russell, Diao, Matteo (Eustace 62), Griffin, Lawrence, Zakuani
Subs not used: Martin, Hoult.
Referee - Keith Stroud
Att - 24,897
He was still philosophical after the defeat.
He said: 'It is just one game. We are still top and many teams would like to swap places with us and be where we are now.
'The pressure is bigger when you are the ones out in front. I want to be top at the end of the season, not now.
'It's a great challenge, we've 13 games left, Sunderland on Saturday is a big game and losing here may not be a bad thing.'
He was delighted with the victory
He said: 'After our recent results we just needed to get a win. It is a weight off our shoulders.
'It was a great win and I am very pleased. It is a very important result for us to start to build momentum.
'I don't think we have been playing badly recently, we just haven't been taking out chances but here we did.'