CHRIS STRIKE LEAVES HOWE CRYING FOUL
ARGUMENTS raged over how it came about, but there was no denying the one moment of high quality that settled this ordinary game for promotion-chasing Derby.
Rival bosses Steve McClaren and Eddie Howe had very different takes on Tommy Elphick’s tackle on Will Hughes for the decisive 85th-minute free kick, curled gloriously beyond the diving Lee Camp by Chris Martin.
Howe claimed his dominant skipper had won the ball but McClaren insisted: “It was a freekick three times over. We were waiting for that one moment to win the game and it happened.”
The Rams manager highlighted the luxury at his disposal as he admitted taking an interval gamble by introducing attackminded players in Simon Dawkins and Conor Sammon in a successful bid to reverse Bournemouth’s first half supremacy.
“I took a risk; some days, it wouldn’t have paid off, here it did,” he explained. “But I have the players at this club to do that. It was a case of unleashing players who can win score goals and win games.
“Bournemouth were very good in the first half and 0-0 was a great scoreline for us. I knew they had had their chance and we would have ours and that’s how it turned out.
“We’ve now got to test ourselves at Burnley next Saturday. It’s a similar game to going to Leicester, but it won’t settle anything.”
Weight of second-half pressure won it for Derby although until Martin’s magic moment it looked like a petulant yellow card for dissent would be the nearest former Ram Lee Camp came to real action.
It was harsh indeed on Cherries skipper Tommy Elphick.The defender threw himself in the way of sporadic Derby efforts and went close to a first half goal himself with a header during a fine personal display.
McClaren’s big move was vindicated as Simon Dawkins added flair to Derby’s midfield and Conor Sammon provided a physical threat to keep Bournemouth’s defenders busy.
Johnny Russell was at the heart of Derby’s other brightest moments, providing skill and energy on the flank and being denied by a last gasp block after Martin’s cross had eluded Camp in the second half.
There was just one tense moment for Derby fans to endure after the goal as veteran Ian Harte curled a free-kick of his own well over the bar with the final kick of the match.
The Cherries, however, had the pick of the first 45 minutes and a 20-yard snap shot from Matt Ritchie hit a post after 16 minutes before the lively Lewis Grabban shot just wide from a similar distance.
Rams skipper Richard Keogh came uncomfortably close to scoring an own goal midway through the half amid confusion with Lee Grant and was left for dead on the touchline by Grabban whose low shot drew a smart stop from Grant.
Cherries manager Eddie Howe said: “Tommy’s an honest player and his reaction spoke vol- umes - he won the ball. So we feel hard done by but will have to live with that.
“We played really well in the first half and should have been ahead.
“We created good chances but didn’t make the most of other promising positions.
“In the second half we fought a good rearguard action and I couldn’t see Derby scoring from open play.
“We’ve come up against Burnley, Leicester and Derby in recent weeks and haven’t been a million miles behind any of them – that should give us huge confidence for the important games to come.”
SLIDE RULE: Derby’s Chris Martin celebrates after scoring, inset.