The final scoreline was perhaps a little harsh on Steve Cotterill’s side who had their moments, particularly early on, and Jonathan Grounds was twice denied by the woodwork, once in either half.BCFC
The final scoreline was perhaps a little harsh on Steve Cotterill’s side who had their moments, particularly early on, and Jonathan Grounds was twice denied by the woodwork, once in either half.
But Derby, after a slow start, showed why they’re flying high in the table and took their chances when they came – Johnny Russell, Matej Vydra and Andreas Weimann scoring the goals that keeps Gary Rowett’s team in second place.
Blues enjoyed a fantastic opening to the game and went within a whisker of going in front inside five minutes. Jeremie Boga’s pass took a deflection and bounced through to Grounds on the left side of the area, the defender doing well to control his shot which beat Scott Carson but agonisingly bounced off the right post.
The home side continued to make the early pressing and a clever free-kick routine supplied a shooting chance for David Davis, but the midfielder missed the ball with his attempted volley.
Moments later and another good opportunity came Blues’ way – and it was all the making of Boga. The Chelsea loanee displayed his lightening pace and quick feet to go past his marker almost on the byline and then showed great vision to pull the ball back to Sam Gallagher. The striker had moved into a great position but instead of shooting first time, Blues’ top scorer decided to take a touch and sadly miscontrolled and the chance went begging.
Despite the positive beginning to proceedings, Blues found themselves behind on 19 minutes as the visitors went ahead with their first serious attacking foray. And there was more than an element of fortune to Derby’s opening goal.
Russell raced into the area but his eventual effort wasn’t the most powerful. However, it took the slightest of deflections to wrongfoot David Stockdale and roll almost apologetically into the net inside the keeper’s near-post.
Back came Blues though and more great trickery from Boga teed up Gardner with an opening from 25 yards. The midfielder caught hold of his shot deliciously and it was arrowing towards the top corner, before Carson leapt to his right to turn the ball around the post.
Derby responded with a counter-attack that saw Sam Winnall race clear down the left flank, the former Wolves striker reaching the byline and then pulling the ball back to Russell who was on the move. The goalscorer’s first-time shot flew high and wide.
Vydra’s cross-shot bounced off the crossbar as the visitors began to come more into the game in an attacking sense. And, six minutes from the break, Derby created another good chance when Winnall laid the ball into the path of Tom Lawrence, but the former Manchester United midfielder’s effort lacked power and bounced harmlessly in the grateful arms of Stockdale.
Blues struggled to get into their stride at the start of the second-half and it was Derby that edged further in front on 56 minutes. Lawrence’s ball over the top sent Vydra clear, the Rams top scorer firing his shot emphatically into the roof of the net past a helpless Stockdale.
The hosts were indebted to the reflexes of Stockdale to ensure the game wasn’t put to bed inside the hour mark. Russell ran forcefully at Maxime Colin, cut inside the full-back and curled in a shot that the Blues keeper did brilliantly to fingertip wide.
Derby were threatening to run away with it, Harlee Dean’s clearing header picked up by Winnall who drove into the area and crashed in a shot that was deflected off Grounds into the side-netting.
Blues gradually began to increase their attacking endeavours again and, from a Davis header, Gallagher turned and shot but couldn’t keep his effort down. That was Davis’ last contribution as he was withdrawn and replaced by Che Adams.
Dean and Boga both failed to hit the target with headed opportunities and Cotterill’s side kept plugging away. But when Grounds rose highest to meet a Gardner cross and saw his header crash back off the base of the post, it was clear that it wasn’t going to be Blues’ day.
Stockdale saved his side again as he grasped a Tom Huddlestone piledriver. But in the final minute of normal time, Derby did get a third goal on the break. David Nugent squared to Weimann who had the simple job of tapping the ball into an empty net.
Cotterill’s Derby hoodoo continues – the Blues boss has never beaten the Rams in the 13 times he’s faced them as a manager.
Blues: Stockdale; Colin, Roberts, Dean, Grounds; Gardner, Kieftenbeld; Maghoma, Davis (Adams 66), Boga (Jota 83); Gallagher.
Subs (not used): Morrison, Dacres-Cogley, Ndoye, Jutkiewicz, Trueman.
Bookings: Kieftenbeld (76)
Derby: Carson; Wisdom, Keogh, Davies, Forsyth; Huddlestone, Thorne; Russell, Vydra (Martin 87), Lawrence (Weimann 77); Winnall (Nugent 69)
Subs (not used): Baird, Pearce, Hanson, Mitchell
Goals: Russell (19), Vydra (56), Weimann (90)
Bookings: Davies (33), Russell (73), Weimann (77)
Attendance: 22,121 (3,488 away)