NAIVE RAMS BLOW LATE LEAD

In­jury-time col­lapse has an­gry McClaren rag­ing

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Ian Baker

IT WAS a ques­tion that both man­agers failed to be able to an­swer prop­erly: how on earth did Derby not win this?

At 2-0 up go­ing into in­jury time cour­tesy of Jamie Ward and Tom Ince goals, Steve McClaren’s side were go­ing back to the top of the Cham­pi­onship af­ter an­other pro­fes­sional dis­play.

Then they gave away a penalty that Paul Cad­dis scored be­fore Clay­ton Don­ald­son scram­bled in a dra­matic 96th-minute lev­eller that handed Birm­ing­ham an un­just point.

And it was a re­sult that could have se­ri­ous reper­cus­sions in re­gard to Derby’s Pre­mier League dream.

“I think it’s a dou­ble mug­ging,” said McClaren. “We only have our­selves to blame. We’ve thrown away two points.

“The game is 95 min­utes not 92 min­utes and you need to see the game through. We were naive and were pun­ished.

“We were 2-0 up with two min­utes to go and you should see the game through.

“We didn’t and there is a lot of anger. We have to calm down and keep sta­ble but this will take a cou­ple of days to get over.

“This game kicks you in the teeth. We need to man up and get on with it.”

Ref­eree Iain Wil­liamson was open to crit­i­cism but McClaren re­fused to make him re­spon­si­ble for the re­sult, de­spite play­ing nearly seven min­utes of stop­page time when only three were in­di­cated.

“I couldn’t un­der­stand his ref­er­ee­ing all af­ter­noon to be hon­est,” he added.“But I could com­plain all day, it was an un­nec­es­sary penalty and an un­nec­es­sary free-kick and you’re un­der pres­sure.

“It was a freak re­sult but we can’t blame the ref­eree. He was poor and made some strange de­ci­sions but that’s no ex­cuse.”

Birm­ing­ham had not had a sin­gle shot on tar­get un­til sec­ond-half stop­page time as Derby pro­duced an­other out­stand­ing dis­play up un­til that point.

The im­pres­sive Will Hughes set up the 26th-minute opener for Ward. He found Johnny Rus­sell whose curler was saved by Dar­ren Ran­dolph, but Ward put in the re­bound via the post for his first goal since Septem­ber.

Derby chances kept com­ing with Hughes’ 25-yarder com­ing back off the bar. Jeff Hen­drick then went close with two other chances be­fore the break.

Birm­ing­ham boss Gary Rowett was in­volved in an al­ter­ca­tion with Derby’s league debu­tant Raul Al­ben­tosa as the play­ers went off at the break, af­ter be­ing an­gry that Johnny Rus­sell kicked a drop ball into the cor­ner.

“I shouldn’t have walked over but there was no is­sue,” Rowett said.

“It was un­gentle­manly be­hav­iour from him and that’s why I was so in­censed. But I can’t lose my cool, it was a bit of hand­bags. It was no prob­lem and I apol­o­gise for my ac­tions.”

The game should have been up for Birm­ing­ham when Ince scored his sixth in eight games with a fine piece of trick­ery on the edge of the area three min­utes into the sec­ond half.

Rus­sell was then de­nied a third on the line from Hen­drick’s cross. But un­be­liev­ably Derby col­lapsed in the dy­ing stages.

Ince brought down Robert Tesche with Cad­dis con­vert­ing the penalty be­fore Birm­ing­ham threw the kitchen sink at their hosts.

Ran­dolph went up with Wes Thomas who hooked the ball back for Don­ald­son to bun­dle in.

“If I was Steve I would be frus­trated as they are a ter­rific side,” ad­mit­ted Rowett.

“I thought they worked very hard to stop us and that looked the dif­fer­ence. It looked like the game was over at 2-0.

“But when we put them un­der pres­sure you can see there looked like be­ing some­thing for us.

“Whether we de­serve it or not is ir­rel­e­vant. But we kept go­ing.

“If you’re a Derby fan or player you will be hugely dis­ap­pointed.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

FEEL­ING BLUE: Birm­ing­ham City scram­ble in a last-gasp equaliser deep in in­jury time

COME­BACK: Paul Cad­dis scores from the spot to start Birm­ing­ham’s resur­gence

INCE PER­FECT: Tom Ince slots home Derby’s sec­ond goal

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