Sunday, 31 March 2013

Friday night football: Derby County 3-0 Bristol City

Rampant County Run Riot against the Robins
The Rams forced their way back into the top half of the Npower Championship after a convincing against a poor Bristol City side at Pride Park. Goals from Jeff Hendrick, Jamie Ward and Ben Davies secured a simple victory for Nigel Clough’s men who dominated from start to finish.

It took just 25 seconds for the first controversial incident of the game. Craig Bryson drove forward around 30 yards from the visitors goal and looked to either be tripped or slip as he hit the floor. Referee Carl Boyeson decided he had dived and booked the Scotsman for simulation much to the astonishment of Bryson and the majority of the Pride Park crowd. Moments later, Boyeson’s bizarre decision was forgotten as he awarded a penalty to the home side following Greg Cunningham’s challenge on the impressive Jeff Hendrick. Top-scorer Jamie Ward stepped up to slot the penalty into the bottom corner with supreme confidence – at least, that was the result yours truly was expecting. Unfortunately for Ward, his penalty was poor and visiting keeper Tom Heaton made a simple save to keep the scores level. This could have proved to be a major setback for Derby but they were not to be denied and continued to search for a route to take a lead in the game. Bryson was prevented from giving his side the lead after an incredible block from Marvin Elliott on the goal line. These two major chances that went begging had me thinking that perhaps my bet of 2-0 with Paul Coutts scoring first was meant to happen. So imagine my excitement, as Connor Sammon laid the ball back on a plate for Coutts to powerfully side foot the ball towards Heaton’s bottom corner, somehow though, Heaton stuck out a hand and diverted the ball onto the post and away for a corner.

It was one of those games where despite Derby’s utter dominance, the lack of the opening goal meant the away side hadn’t gone into their shells. Sam Baldock and Cole Skuse both had shots that went wide for Bristol City as they showed that they had turned up. However, Derby weren’t to be denied, a Ward corner was cleared out to Hendrick who returned the ball into the box, it definitely wasn’t a shot, but the presence of Sammon in the 6-yard box seemed to put off Heaton and the ball nestled in the bottom corner for a well-deserved half time lead for County.

Bristol City tried to attack at the start of the second half but a combination of not being very good and a solid Derby defence meant they threatened very little. Infact, trying to attack proved to be their undoing as in the 55th minute, a long ball forward found Sammon in yards of space; he had time to look up and the presence of mind to play a ball across the box for the onrushing Jamie Ward to fire home under Heaton. 2-0, thanks for coming.

The second goal killed the game as a spectacle and the next 25 minutes or so passed with little excitement in either box. Former Derby defender, Lewin Nyatanga rescued Heaton as he cleared Bryson’s shot from distance off the line with the away goalkeeper well beaten. The travelling Bristol City fans were taking their beating in good spirits with chants of “let’s pretend we scored a goal” and “the football league is upside down”. It could have got worse for them, as Sammon smashed the ball over the bar after great work by the very impressive Chris Martin. The biggest cheers of the night from the visiting supporters followed a Neil Kilkenny volley that ended up amongst them and a Baldock pea-roller that represented a shot on target.

City did have arguably the best chance of the second half in the last minute of normal time. Liam Fontaine’s header was brilliantly saved by Frank Fielding and the follow-up from another former Ram Steven Davies was blocked by a combination of Fielding’s legs and Richard Keogh. But it was County who troubled the scoreboard again, substitute Ben Davies cut in from the left hand side and hit a powerful cross/shot across the face of the goal that found the corner of the net via a touch from City defender Brendan Moloney. Three goals were the least the home side deserved in a dominant performance from start to finish. What a thoroughly Good Friday.

On that showing, Bristol City will be playing League One football next season whilst Derby look to have a bright future. Sammon worked tirelessly upfront (but will he ever score?!) whilst Norwich loanee Chris Martin showed some great hold-up play and forward movement. The midfield of Coutts, Bryson and Hendrick ran the game from start to finish with Jamie Ward providing a constant attacking threat out wide on the left. Fullbacks Freeman and Forsyth showed attacking intent mixed with a solid defensive display whilst Keogh and Buxton had the potentially dangerous Baldock in their back pockets.

An addition of a 20 goal a season striker by Clough in the close-season and County will surely be looking towards the play-offs in the 2013/14 season.

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