New loan man Federico Machedo climbed off the bench to earn battling Blues a dramatic draw with promotion-chasing Derby in an enthralling contest.
Less than 24 hours after completing his temporary switch to St. Andrew’s, the Manchester United front-man stabbed home an injury-time equaliser to seal a terrific comeback from the home side. Derby looked to have the points in the bag as they responded to Brian Howard’s first Blues goal by racing into a 3-1 lead with Patrick Bamford, Craig Bryson and Craig Forsyth on target. However, Lee Clark’s young side – the starting XI had an average of age of less than 22 – hit back through Chris Burke and fellow sub Macheda capped an incredible afternoon with his point-saving strike.
Clark made no fewer than five changes to his team with new loanees Tom Thorpe, Tyler Blackett and Emyr Huws handed their debuts, plus recalls for Howard and Peter Lovenkrands – the Dane’s first league start for five months. Sadly Thorpe’s Blues bow was to last just 11 minutes after he fell awkwardly inside the visitors’ penalty area and after a lengthy spell of treatment he was stretchered from the field to be replaced by another new boy, Aaron Martin.
Front man Jamie Ward engineered Derby’s two most threatening early attacks of the match. Firstly his dangerous low cross was cleared well inside the six-yard box by Blackett and moments later he broke into the far right of the area but his shot veered narrowly wide of the far post.
The ball almost dropped to the hard-working Albert Rusnak from a deflection inside the area but Derby were able to clear the danger. Meanwhile, at the opposite end, on-loan Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford felt he should have done better from a headed chance that drifted straight into the grateful arms of Darren Randolph.
The visitors were presented with a golden chance to open the scoring on 37 minutes. The tricky Will Hughes was tripped in the area by Blankett – there will little doubt about the validity of the referee’s decision to award a penalty. However, not for the first time this season, Randolph came to his side’s rescue as he flew to his right to parry away Craig Bryson’s unconvincing spot-kick.
Another home hero came to the fore just before half-time. Will Packwood bravely threw himself in the way of Ward’s fierce goal-bound shot, after some clever step-overs from Bamford on the right flank took him past Howard and into the area. Packwood’s intervention prevented what looked like a certain goal and Blues went into the break on level terms.
Blues made the perfect start to the second half as Howard headed the hosts in front on 48 minutes. Clever link-up play between Rusnak and Paul Caddis saw the Scot deliver a delightful chipped cross into the boss and Howard nodded the ball towards the far corner and it bounced over the outstretched arms of Lee Grant.
Unfortunately Clark’s side held the lead for just a matter of seconds. Straight from the restart, Derby pressed forward, Ward got to the byline and crossed to the far post where Bamford unleashed a shot which Randolph diverted onto the bar. But the striker was not be denied from the rebound as his second effort found the back of the net, despite the efforts of Packwood to keep it out.
Blues didn’t let their heads drop and engineered a good chance as the two Manchester City loanees combined, Rusnak teeing up Huws but unfortunately the Welshman was unable to make a clean connection on his shot which bounced harmlessly wide.
Derby completed the turnaround on 59 minutes when Chris Martin’s 20-yard shot deflected off the head of Bryson and flew past Randolph. The Rams’ second-top scorer could have doubled his tally soon afterwards when he was put clean through on goal but Randolph was out smartly to block the midfielder’s low shot.
Clark’s response was to bring on another loanee for his debut, Macheda replacing Lee Novak. And Burke also came off the bench with Tom Adeyemi leaving the action. Unfortunately before the subs had a chance to make an impact on the game, the hosts found themselves two goals adrift. Neat inter-play saw Ward set up Craig Forsyth who produced a composed finish when through on goal to place his shot under the body of Randolph.
But Blues responded well with Burke reducing the deficit with 12 minutes remaining. Macheda was put through on goal but the loanee saw his shot beaten away by Grant. However, Derby were unable to clear their lines and Burke produced a trademark curling finish to direct the ball into the far corner from the right side of the area.
The Rams continued to be dangerous on the break, Martin missing two good chances to regain his side’s two-goal initiative, putting on effort wide and another weak effort which was easily claimed by Randolph.
Blues had put in a determined effort but looked to be heading for a narrow defeat until a dramatic late final twist in injury-time. The hosts won a corner which was delivered low into the area by Rusnak. Huws was unfortunate to see his shot bounce back off the post but Macheda was first to the rebound and gleefully poked the ball past Grant to clinch a precious and hard-earned point.