Writer: Peter Simcox
Date:Sunday December 2 2007
Stadium of Light
December 1st 2007
Stokes late strike defeats the Rams
Sunderland 1 v 0 Derby County
The Rams suffered a last minute defeat at the Stadium of Light, when Anthony Stokes came off the bench to snatch a 1-0 Barclays Premier League victory for Sunderland and spoil the day for new Rams boss Paul Jewell.
It denied Jewell a point in his first game in charge of Derby and end the Rams eight game wait for a league victory. They also drew a blank on the scoresheet making it over 11 hours without a goal.
Jewell made three changes to the side that lost 0-2 at home to Chelsea with Stephen Pearson returning from injury to replace David Jones and Steve Howard and Gary Teale replaced Dean Leacock and Craig Fagan who dropped to the bench.
In a surprise for the home side, manager Roy Keane made a bold decision to drop Craig Gordon, the Scotland international he had made Britain's most expensive goalkeeper when he paid £9million in the summer, he was replaced by Darren Ward.
It was hard luck on the Rams, who had matched the Black Cats for much of the contest, and particularly on keeper Stephen Bywater, who blocked headers from Kenwyne Jones and Stokes in the lead up to the winner, but could not repeat his heroics a third time.
The Rams turned in a spirited display on Wearside, and on more than one occasion went close to ending their wait for a league goal, but the late strike undid all the hard work with skipper Matt Oakley outstanding in midfield.
It was a tight first half with the hosts almost ahead early, former Ram Danny Higginbotham`s header was saved low by Bywater. Then Oakley tried his luck from the edge of the box for the Rams, which flashed inches over the bar.
Andy Cole then missed two chances in quick succession for the Black Cats, the second on 20 minutes came after good work from Greg Halford, but the former England international headed wide.
But the Rams threaten on 34 minutes, after a great run and cross from Andy Griffin found Howard in the box; the big Geordie`s looping header went inches of the bar.
Then on 40 minutes the best chance of the half fell for the Rams, Kenny Miller`s low shot looked destined for the corner of the net, but keeper Ward`s finger tip deflected the ball on to the post and away from danger. It was a good spell for the Rams and two minutes later Howard`s toe-poke was cleared off the line by Dean Whitehead.
But in first half stoppage-time the best chance of the half fell to Sunderland, Grant Leadbitter`s shot was only parried by Bywater and Jones somehow missed from close-range.
Jewell rallied the troops at the break and Derby made a high tempo start to the second half as they pinned Sunderland back inside their own penalty area, and Halford deflected a Matt Oakley shot just wide.
It was a scrappy game with both sides giving the ball away cheaply, much to the disgust of both coaches and clear cut chances were very rare.
Oakley was everywhere for the Rams but it was the home side that began to up the tempo and Whitehead`s goal bound shot deflected off second half substitute Michael Chopra.
Then Higginbotham`s last ditch block on Rams substitute Craig Fagan's shot, denied the former Hull City midfielder after he had cut inside from the right with 13 minutes to go, and the game was seemingly heading for a stalemate.
On 82 minutes Sunderland broke down the Rams back four when Leadbitter played in Stokes, again the Rams skipper Oakley got in a vital block to deny the Irishman.
But in the second minute of injury-time Stokes had the last word firing home from close-range after Bywater had made a superb double save to deny Jones and Stokes.
A bitter blow for the Rams and it doesn`t get any easier a trip to Old Trafford next week to take on Manchester United.
Sunderland: GK Ward, Halford, McShane, Higginbotham, Collins, Edwards (Stokes 78), Leadbitter (Miller 83), Whitehead, Wallace, Jones, Cole (Chopra 64).
Subs Not Used: Gordon, Harte.
Derby: GK Bywater, Griffin, Davis, Moore, McEveley, Teale (Leacock 84), Oakley, Pearson, Barnes (Fagan 70), Howard, Miller (Earnshaw 86).
Subs Not Used: Price, Mears.
Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).
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Date:Sunday December 2 2007
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