Rams v Pompey Report
Todd Rams home for point
Derby 2 Portsmouth 2
Rams defender Andy Todd scored his first goal for 17 months on his Rams debut to deny Portsmouth striker John Utaka his own moment of debut glory.
After Benjani Mwaruwari had cancelled out Rams captain Matt Oakley`s fourth-minute opener later in the first half, the game then exploded late on with two goals in two minutes.
Utaka, a £7m buy from Rennes this summer, appeared to have grabbed the limelight with an 82nd-minute strike at Pride Park.
However, within seconds defender Todd, a free transfer capture from Blackburn, clinched a deserved point for Billy Davies side on their return to the Barclays Premier League with a diving header.
The Rams fans had just all about reached their seats when the firstr goal of the new campaign was scored. Stephen Bywater punted a long goal kick up field, and Steve Howard outjumped Sol Campbell, and looped it into space with barely a blue shirt within yards of Oakley who was given a clear sight of David James` goal, and he made no mistake with a crisp right-foot drive from 15-yards.
Pride Park erupted, the Rams were back we`re they belong. The Rams never looked faced and their football was assured, while the visitors appeared all at sea in the opening stages
It should have been 2-0 six minutes, the Pompey defence didn`t deal with a Craig Fagan cross and it fell kindly to Todd on the edge of the box, but he shot over the crossbar. Then Darren Moore headed goal wards but James saved on the line.
But the visitors settled and Pedro Mendes shot from 25-yards was saved by Stephen Bywater, and moments later they levelled, Mwaruwari cutting inside Andy Griffin and firing low past Bywater.
There was chances at both ends before the break, Utaka forced a fine save from Bywater, and
Howard`s downward glancing header to a right-wing cross from Craig Fagan clipped the outside of James` left-hand post.
After the interval the chances continued to fall the Rams way, aided initially by a wayward Muntari pass along the halfway line that was intercepted by Fagan, he outpaced Campbell but again James saved.
The Rams appeared as if they would pay for their missed opportunities when Utaka scored from close-range. But the Rams, with a near sell out crowd behind them, refused to go under, and second half substitute Gary Teale, cut in from the right hand side of the penalty area and crossed to Todd to grab a share of the spoils.
DERBY COUNTY: Bywater; Mears, Moore, Davis, Griffin; Fagan, Oakley, Todd, Pearson; Howard, Earnshaw. Subs: Price, McEveley, Jones, Macken, Teale.
PORTSMOUTH: James; Lauren, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson; Utaka, Davis, Mendes, Muntari; Nugent, Benjani. Subs: Ashdown, Taylor, Pamarot, Hughes, Kanu.
Ref: M Dean (Wirrall).
Davies firmly believes Derby can prove their critics wrong following a sterling start on their return to the big time.
''I am very proud of the performance,' said Davies. ''I thought overall we deserved the point, although I am disappointed to have got only the one.
''It`s commendable the way we competed with a side that has been in this division for a while now and given the amount of money they have spent, so I cannot complain.
''Ten months ago we were looking at avoiding relegation to League One, and now here we find ourselves competing against the best teams, players and managers and we have to enjoy the experience.
''We have got a lot of hard work ahead of us, and we need additions to the squad. Hopefully, if we do that, then by the end of the season we will have showed up one or two people.``
Despite having spent £23million in the transfer market this summer, Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp is of the same mind.
Redknapp believes his squad is not yet complete as he targets another top-half of the table, but took time out to praise one of his new boys in John Utaka, adding: ''I thought he was excellent. He has good feet, was quick and strong and he can play through the middle or wide.``
Redknapp`s side face Manchester United at Fratton Park in midweek and he admits if his side play at the same level then the game will be no contest.
''I`d hate to play against United like that because they will rip us to pieces.'