Writer: Peter Simcox
Date:Tuesday December 25 2007
St James' Park
Rams denied victory by late strike
Mark Viduka struck a priceless late equaliser to deny the Rams their second win over Newcastle - and their second win of the season as the Rams fought out a 2-2 draw at St James` Park.
Kenny Miller's superb finish from Gary Teale's flick-on looked to have sealed victory for Derby but Viduka came to Newcastle's rescue with a half-volley.
Giles Barnes had put the Rams ahead from long-range on six minutes before Viduka equalised.
Paul Jewell shuffled the pack and made three changes to the starting line up that had lost 0-1 at home to Middlesbrough last week. One was a forced change just before kick off with news that Claude Davis - originally in the starting line-up - had to pull out with a knee injury, his place taken in the starting line-up by Eddie Lewis.
Skipper Matt Oakley and Andy Griffin were missing duo to injury so with Dean Leacock dropping in at centre-half with Jay McEverley in at left back and Lee Holmes called on to the bench for his first involvement in a Derby first-team squad since the last day of the 2005/06 season, and Jewell handed the captains armband for the game to Darren Moore.
It was a big day for Steve Howard as he lined up at St James' Park for the first time in his professional career as the lifelong Geordie was called in from the start to take on the club he watched as a youngster.
Newcastle opened brightly and pressed early but the Rams held firm, although James Milner should have scored in the second minute but his poor control in front of goal saved the Rams from going behind.
But on five minutes the home fans were silenced when the Rams opened the scoring. Miller squared to Barnes on the edge of the box and the teenagers low shot flew past Given into the bottom corner for his first goal in the Premier League, much to the delight of the Rams travelling supporters.
The home fans were left perplex when referee Andre Marriner waved away a penalty claim when Tyrone Mears nudged Alan Smith in the box as the former England striker attempted an overhead kick, the Rams got away with that one.
The Rams were frustrating the home side, and they were guilty of giving the ball away much to the displeasure of the Toon army. But they continued to press and Barnes came to the rescue on 21 minutes when he blocked Obafemi Martins' header on the line.
Moments later Stephen Bywater produced a sharp save from Habib Beye's angled shot as Newcastle upped the tempo.
The pressure simply had to tell - and it did on 27 minutes, but the Rams had plenty of chances to clear the ball in the attack. Smith was found on the edge of the box, there were suspicions of handball as he was prostrate on the ground, but he prodded the ball to Viduka, who took one touch before thumping a low shot past Bywater just inside the post.
After the break the Rams continued to take the game to the home side and went close in opening stages, Howard rose to meet a Lewis cross but couldn't keep his header down.
Again the home fans were getting restless as their side were second to the ball and it got worse for them on 51 minutes when the Rams hit the front. Howard flicked on a long clearance, to Gary Teale who flicked on to Miller took it in his stride and shook off the attentions of Cacapa before finishing smartly past Given.
The Rams were starting to play with confidence - something that has been lacking this season - and when Miller found Howard on the edge of the box with a clever back-heel the big strikers shot flew just over the bar.
Newcastle were struggling in the final third and the St James' Park crowd were getting increasing frustrated, but the Rams defence with Jay McEveley and Darren Moore both outstanding looked liked like they would hold on for a hard fought victory, but Australian international Viduka had other ideas.
On 87 minutes a long clearance from Given was flicked on by Martins, in the challenge Leacock and Moore went for the same ball the Rams skipper loosing his feet and this allowed the ball to fall to Viduka unmarked on the edge of the box and fired low past Bywater to level.
It was a bitter blow for the Rams but there was still time for more drama for both sides. The Rams fans pleaded for a penalty when Cacapa brought down Mears in the box but referee Marriner waved away the protests.
Then Howard was found unmarked three-yards from goal by Barnes but the striker was unable to get his head to the ball, and with the last shot of the match Newcastle substitute Emre dragged his shot wide.
But defeat for either side in a typically Premier League encounter would have been unjust, but Derby will be happy with their point - despite having come so close to taking all three.
Newcastle United - GK Given, Rozenhal (Taylor 58), Cacapa, Barton (Emre 75), Martins, N'Zogbia, Milner, Smith, Beye, Butt (Duff 68), Viduka
Subs not used - Harper, Geremi
Derby County - GK Bywater, McEveley, Leacock, Howard, Miller, Lewis (Fagan 77), Teale (Feilhaber 81), Moore, Mears, Pearson, Barnes
Subs not used - Price, Earnshaw, Holmes
Referee - Andre Marriner
Att - 51,386
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Date:Tuesday December 25 2007
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