Fri 21 Aug 15
at 21:55 PM
Report: Blues 1 Derby County 1
Stephen Gleeson’s first Blues goal wasn’t quite enough as highly-fancied Derby hit back to claim a point in a pulsating St. Andrew’s encounter.
The TV viewers were served up a treat in this televised Friday night contest as both teams went at it hammer and tong throughout the 90 minutes, with a host of chances created for either side in a very open game.
Gleeson opened the scoring late in the first-half but Johnny Russell equalised just after the hour mark for a result that extends Blues’ unbeaten start in league and cup to four games.
Gary Rowett named the same side for the third successive league game and the familiar faces came straight out of the traps to take the game to the visitors, creating two good chances within the opening 10 minutes.
First Clayton Donaldson cleverly teed up Demarai Gray with a shooting chance on the edge of the box. The teenager let fly with a fierce half-volley which Scott Carson did well to claim low down.
And the Derby keeper did even better soon afterwards when an opportunity fell to Donaldson. Maikel Kieftenbeld switched play from left to right with a delightful cross-field pass that eventually fell to Gleeson. The Irishman curled in an inviting out-swinging cross which Donaldson met with a strong header but Carson was able to parry away.
Blues continued to press and from the next attack the ball dropped to Toral 20 yards out. It was a difficult opportunity for the Spaniard with his back to goal and his half-volley drifted well over.
Derby finally woke from their slumbers and for the next 10 minutes laid siege on the Blues goal.
Russell was presented with a great chance as he ventured into the Blues area. But the Rams winger dallied and when he did eventually attempt a shot he got it horribly wrong and miskicked the ball, which then rolled into the path of Darren Bent. The striker did little better with his wayward effort that never looked like troubling Kuszczak.
The Blues keeper was called into action after David Cotterill was dispossessed by Cyrus Christie 30 yards from goal. The Derby full-back strode purposefully into the area before unleashing a shot was turned away by Kuszczak, but only as far as Bent. The former Aston Villa man looked certain to score but Jonathan Grounds nipped in to take the ball off his toes. It was a critical goal-saving tackle.
Paul Clement’s side maintained the pressure and Tom Ince was inches away from giving the visitors the lead. Derby’s record signing fired in a shot from 25 yards that crashed back off the post. Paul Caddis then did well to shepherd the ball back to Kuszczak to deny the lurking Bent from getting a sniff of a chance.
The home fans were appealing for a penalty when the ball struck the hand of Richard Keogh but it had bounced up off the Derby centre-back’s knee, so the referee deemed there to be no intent.
The end-to-end nature of the first half continued as it was Blues’ turn to create several good openings.
The first was all of Cotterill’s making. Picking up the ball inside the centre circle, the winger unleashed an audacious chip from fully 45 yards which had Carson frantically backtracking. The Derby keeper wasn’t taking any chances and finger-tipped the ball over the bar.
Fellow winger Demarai Gray then made an opportunity out of nothing. Reminiscent of his goal against Leicester in pre-season, the England youth starlet picked up the ball wide on the left, stepped inside and fired in a drive that Carson did well to turn aside.
Cotterill then curled in a cross for Donaldson but the big striker was unable to direct his header on target.
Blues’ pressure finally told on the stroke of half-time. Gleeson picked up the ball and struck a fierce low shot that took a slight deflection off Chris Baird on its way into the bottom right corner of the net.
It was the perfect fillip going into the interval, when the home fans were given their first glimpse of new signing Nicolai Brock-Madsen as he was introduced to the St. Andrew's faithful and received an enthusiastic ovation.
Buoyed by the goal, Gleeson embarked on a strong run into the area early in the second-half before laying the ball into Toral’s path, but unfortunately the on-loan Arsenal man overran the ball as he looked to skirt around the massed ranks of Derby defenders inside the six-yard box.
The visitors responded with Kuszczak forced into a double save. The first had a touch of good fortune as the Pole saved Craig Forsyth’s swerving long-range effort with his foot before bouncing up to punch clear as Chris Martin threatened to head the ball into the unguarded net.
The action swung again to the opposite end and Toral was guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance to double Blues lead. Latching onto Gray’s though ball on the left side of the box, Donaldson cracked in a shot that Carson could only parry and it dropped towards Toral on the edge of the six-yard box. The loanee stretched out his leg but couldn’t get enough of his foot around the ball to enable him to direct it goalwards.
Blues were made to rue that miss even more when Derby drew level on 61 minutes. Russell raced past Caddis on the left of the area before firing a high shot into the roof of the net.
Derby threatened to turn the game quickly on its head when from their next attack Bent’s header from Ince’s cross clipped the top of the crossbar. It proved to be the former England international’s last contribution when he was replaced by another former Villa man in Andreas Weimann.
The Austrian almost made an instant impact as he scampered towards the Blues goal and fired in a shot that took a deflection off Michael Morrison and looked certain to roll past the wrong-footed Kuszczak. But the Blues custodian dived superbly to his left to divert the shot onto the post.
Moments earlier home hearts were in mouths when referee Lee Mason appeared to point to the spot. However the official had rightly spotted a dive from Martin, who had thrown himself to the ground over Jonathan Spector’s leg, and he was merely signalling that an infringement had taken place.
Rowett opted for a double change midway through the half as Toral and Cotterill were replaced by Andy Shinnie and Jacques Maghoma, the latter making his home debut.
On 70 minutes a large contingent of the home faithful rose to their feet to salute what they thought was a second goal for their side. Donaldson had turned sharply and drove in a fierce effort that rustled the Derby net but unfortunately the shot had flown just the wrong side of Carson’s left-hand post.
As the final whistle neared both teams were slightly more tentative in their attacks, fearing that a mistake could lead to a breakaway in a game that had swung from one end to the other throughout the evening.
The noisy Blues fans in the Tilton did their best to suck the ball into the net but it wasn’t to be and the points were shared in a thoroughly entertaining game.