Writer: Peter Simcox
Date:Tuesday January 1 2008
Rams in a spot of bother
The Rams continued their poor festive form going down 1-2 to Blackburn Rovers at Pride Park. It could have been a different story for Paul Jewell`s side having taken the lead through Matt Oakley on 27 minutes. But the penalty miss of Steve Howard six minutes later was the turning point of the game, then Blackburn scored twice late in the half to take the points.
Jewell made three changes to the side beaten by Liverpool on Boxing Day with skipper Matt Oakley returning from injury to replace Gary Teale, who dropped to the bench, while Michael Johnson and Claude Davis replaced Darren Moore and Stephen Pearson.
Mark Hughes made four changes to the side that drew 2-2 at Manchester City with Stephen Warnock, Aaron Mokoena, Benni McCarthy and Tugay replacing Chris Samba, Bruno Berner, Steven Reid and David Dunn.
The visitors opened brightly and went close on five minutes David Bentley`s corner was headed on by Santa Cruz met but Tyrone Mears was alert to clear off the line, and McCarthy`s follow-up shot was blocked by Johnson.
The Rams steadied but Rovers continued to dominate with Bentley outstanding, and Rams keeper Lewis Price had to be alert to save McCarthy's turn and shot from six-yards.
Their pressure looked like it had told on 19 minutes when Santa Cruz powered home a header at the back post, but the flag was already up to signal that Bentley's cross had gone over the line for a goal-kick before coming back in to play.
With another 30,000 plus crowd the Rams rallied and against the run of play opened the scoring, Mears chipped in a ball from the right and after good interchange of passes between Oakley and Giles Barnes the Rams skipper fired home from eight-yards.
Blackburn pressed for the quick equaliser and Bentley`s half volley had Price scrambling across goal but it was wide of the mark. But on 36 minutes the Rams had a perfect chance to double their lead; Miller went down under a challenge from Nelson and referee Peter Walton pointed to the spot. It was the Rams first spot kick of the season and was their luck going to change. The answer to that was no as Howard`s poor penalty was saved low by Brad Fridel.
The miss came back to haunt Howard and the Rams as Blackburn levelled on 39 minutes, Bentley again was the provider his ball in from the right was missed by Davis and found McCarthy, whose low shot was well saved by Price but quickest to react to the rebound was Santa Cruz who scored from close-range.
It was a bitter blow for the Rams but it got worse three minutes later as Rovers hit the front, they failed to clear the ball wide on the left and Bentley cut inside and fired superbly low past Price from 25-yards.
Oakley went close just before the break for the Rams, his volley pushed around the post by Friedel, but it 2-1 to the visitors at the break.
Dean Leacock was replaced at the break by Benny Feilhaber, another injury concern for Jewell. He almost had an immediate impact his shot from the edge of the box was turned away well by his American team mate Friedel.
Rovers continued to have the best opportunities and Johnson prevented Morten Gamst Pedersen from extending Blackburn's lead, while at the other end Miller should have done better when sent clear by Barnes but the Scottish international lost his footing at the vital moment.
Bentley was outstanding for the Rovers and his inch perfect ball sent McCarthy clear on the hour but Price blocked expertly. The Rams need a lift and Tyrone Mears almost gave it to them, his pace down the right left Pederson and Warnock in his wake but his cross to Barnes was saved by Friedel.
Sensing the Rams lifting Rovers went close twice in as many minutes, first Price was alert to tip over a Santa Cruz header on 73 minutes, and Oakley was in the right place at the right time to clear Pederson`s shot of the line, then Bentley saw a shot crash off the post as Rovers went in for the kill
Jon Macken was brought on with ten minutes remaining, the striker who had been on-loan at Coca-Cola Championship side Barnsley before being recalled due to Derby's injury problems, was quickly in the action with a knock-back for Oakley, whose shot from 20-yard flew inches over the bar.
With time running out the Rams best chance fell to Davis, Macken was the provider as he picked up Barnes's over-hit corner and lifted it back into the middle, where Davis rose unmarked but he headed just past the post.
But it wasn`t to be and it ended 2-1 to Blackburn leaving the Rams rooted to the bottom of the table and the gap to safety getting wider all the time.
Derby: Price, Mears, Davis, Johnson (Fagan 58), McEveley, Barnes, Oakley, Leacock (Feilhaber 45), Lewis, Howard, Miller (Macken 79).
Subs Not Used: Hinchliffe, Teale.
Blackburn Rovers: Friedel, Emerton, Khizanishvili, Nelsen, Warnock, Bentley, Tugay (Dunn 90), Mokoena, Pedersen (Olsson 83), Santa Cruz, McCarthy (Derbyshire 87).
Subs Not Used: Brown, Berner.
Referee: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire)
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Date:Tuesday January 1 2008
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