Rams v Sky Blues Report
9th April 2007
Oakley to the rescue for Rams
The Rams dropped another two VITAL points in their automatic-promotion hopes, despite coming from behind to snatch a 1-1 draw against Coventry at Pride Park.
After a goalless first half, Leon McKenzie pounced on an poor back pass by Tyrone Mears to give the visitors the lead 17 minutes from time, and it looked bleak for the Rams, but Rams skipper Matt Oakley leveled six minutes later.
Billy Davies brought back top scorer Steve Howard after his two-match ban while also handing a start to veteran defender Marc Edworthy against his former side in place of the un-well Dean Leacock, and Italian Arturo Lupoli replaced Darren Currie wide.
It was an even opening in front of a big Easter Monday Pride Park crowd, but it was a physical start. Edworthy was down for around two minutes after taking a blow to the nose in an aerial challenge, which also required some touchline treatment.
The first shot in angry came on 15 minutes, City`s Michael Doyle's swiveled and shot from the edge of the box, which was held easily by Stephen Bywater. The Rams were struggling to break down the Sky Blues and Howard`s shot from the edge of the box which was deflected wide was their best opportunity.
David Jones's corner caused problems for City shortly after, but a last-ditch save from Andy Marshall stopped it finding the back of the net. Lupoli then fired over after Jones pulled a superb ball back from the by-line.
But the best chance of the game came three minutes before half time when Jay Tabb`s shot was brilliant saved by Bywater.
Moments later and it was Derby's turn to be denied. Jones' corner was met by Darren Moore and his header was heading for the bottom corner, but Andy Marshall saved superbly to somehow keep it out.
The second half began as the first, with neither side able to gain the upper hand. But while the Rams were having plenty of the ball they didn`t look dangerous, and all too often fast breaks came to nothing in the final third.
The Rams had a strong penalty turned down on 70 minutes, when Jones's shot seemed to strike Ward's arm inside the box, but again Ilderton was unmoved, and two minutes later the Sky Blues were in front.
A Tyrone Mears under hit back-pass allowed McKenzie to round Bywater and tap in his ninth goal of the season.
The Rams promotion hopes were hanging in the balance but skipper Matt Oakley responded six minutes later to haul Derby back on level terms. A deep cross from the left was headed back across goal by Howard to Oakley's who`s shot looped up and over a stranded Marshall, much to the relief of the Rams faithful.
The Rams were well on top and City had to defend in numbers, and Mears almost made up for his horrendous back-pass, but his long-range shot from the angle flew inches wide. There was more controversy, as the Rams pressed for the winner, City refused to put the ball out of play with Oakley lying injured in the area and Tabb`s shot straight at Bywater.
The Rams still pushed forward looking for the winning goal, but with so many bodies going forward in stoppage-time, the Sky Blues almost snatched a winner for themselves, but Michael Mifsud shot was too close to Bywater and he saved. The Rams had the final chance of the game Morton Bisgaard`s fired into the side-netting from a narrow angle, but a pull-back into the box would have been the better option
Derby County - GK Bywater, Mears, Edworthy, Moore, McEveley, Oakley (C) (S Johnson 90), Barnes, Jones, Fagan (Bisgaard 70), Howard, Lupoli (Currie 69) Subs - Camara, Grant
Coventry City - GK Marshall, Hall, Page, Ward (C), Hughes, Doyle, Kyle (Adebola 81), McKenzie (Mifsud 76), Osbourne, Tabb, Virgo Subs - Steele (GK), Cameron, Turner
Att - 29,940
Ref - E Ilderton (Tyne & Wear).
Davies has urged his players to grab their Barclays Premiership dream 'with both hands' as the Coca-Cola Championship promotion race reaches a dramatic climax.
'We've now got to go and grab this with both hands,' said Davies. 'We've got to be confident, we've got to be positive and we've got to have that belief.
'We know it won't be easy, we know there are tough games ahead, we know there are still lots of twists and turns.'
Derby were staring at defeat when Leon McKenzie pounced on a dreadful backpass by Tyrone Mears to slot Coventry ahead 17 minutes from time.
Davies said: 'It was a bit of human error. We don't blame anyone. We stick together to the end of the match.'
Captain Matt Oakley came to the rescue when he levelled six minutes later.
'He's still blaming the yoga, this yoga we're doing,' added Davies. 'It was certainly an interesting body shape - let's say that.'
'No doubt about it, it's a great point.
'Barnsley away, Leicester away, Coventry at home. They were never easy games and it was important we picked up points in the three matches and we've done that.'
He added: 'When you get into this situation with less than three weeks remaining, four games to go, you look at the side.
'You look at the goalkeeper, 24-25, you look at the two full-backs, 22-23, Barnes, 18, Jones, 22, Lupoli, 19.
'They're a very, very young side. But they've handled it well so far - they're working very, very hard.'
He was delighted with his much-changed team's response to the two straight defeats that had ended his and manager Iain Dowie's unbeaten start at the club.
'We wanted a response after the last two games,' Flowers said. 'Clearly, the Birmingham game and the QPR game weren't what we were after.
'But that's the kind of level of commitment we were showing prior to that for the six-game unbeaten run and that was more like it.
'We've come here to the champions-elect, a team that have been playing some outstanding football, and arguably should have won the game.
'We've restricted them to a great save from Mash [Marshall] in the first half and then a backheel scissor-kick type thing, which is fantastic piece of opportunist skill.
'I thought we asked questions going the other way. I thought [Isaac] Osbourne was outstanding on the right.
'McKenzie was a thorn down the left-hand channel. But what we did do this week was move the ball quicker, one and two-touch and switch play a little bit more.'
Flowers insisted he was bemused by his own sending-off for throwing the ball away in protest at a refereeing decision.
'I threw the ball back. I'm not sure [why I was sent off] - I'll find out,' he said.
He also had encouraging words for Derby, saying: 'If you finish above them, I think you'll be champions.'