Clement is given a Trotters test
ALTHOUGH Derby County start the new league campaign as one of the favourites to gain promotion, Paul Clement’s side were given a tough opening day test against a resolute Bolton Wanderers.
A spirited second-half display from Neil Lennon’s side saw them denied three times by the crossbar as they impressed with a rousing goalless draw – only blotted by the late red card for Jay Spearing following a second yellow for simulation in the 86th minute.
Going into the game as underdogs, it was the Trotters that started the brighter of the two teams. Lennon set his side up in a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield against Clement’s pacey 4-3-3, but for all Bolton’s early play, it was Derby that created the best two chances of the first-half.
Jeff Hendrick made a lovely run down the right-wing to latch on to a Chris Baird pass, the substitute – on for Craig Bryson – did very well to pick out Johnny Russell’s run and the Scottish forward could only watch as his shot came off the top of the crossbar.
Just four minutes later, goalkeeper Ben Amos had to save well with his feet to stop Russell’s low shot finding the far corner. Before they could take the subsequent setpiece, Clement was forced to make his second change in just the first 30 minutes when Will Hughes collided with Prince-Desir Gouano off the ball.
“I am not exactly sure how it happened,” Clement explained after the game. “He was in a little bit of distress and we needed to make that change.
“The extent of both the injuries, we’re not sure yet, we’ll get a full medical examination when we get back to Derby.
“In the end it was probably a fair result. Maybe they will be more disappointed than us, because they hit the woodwork three times in the second half, us in the first. Overall, I think our players showed a lot of character – especially during that period.”
Lennon waited until the 73rd minute to make his first change, but the entrance of Emile Heskey for Zach Clough lifted the home crowd and nearly inspired the home side to an inspired victory.
Lawrie Wilson had already impressed on his Bolton debut, curling in a number of dangerous right-foot crosses in the first half. With 15 minutes to go, a tempting delivery to the near post saw Heskey beat Scott Carson to the ball, but agonisingly watched as it bounced back off the crossbar.
In his first competitive game as Rams boss, Clement had the woodwork to thank for his first point. Wilson again provided the ammunition, and twice Gary Madine was denied a goal on his debut by the crossbar.
Bolton were pushing for a goal, Spearing – who had been excellent throughout – beat Richard Keogh down the left before falling to the ground. Referee Andrew Madley signalled that there was no foul and then brandished the midfielder with a second yellow card.
“I think it’s harsh,” said Lennon when asked about the decision. “I can understand the referee, maybe, from the angle he’s at, but I don’t think Jay needs to go down because he’s in.
“He actually just fell over his own feet, it’s probably fatigue more than anything.
“I’m going to have a word with our groundsman about the size of that crossbar, it looked a foot long in the second half.We were very, very good against an excellent side.”
NO WAY THROUGH: Derby County’s Jason Shackell heads the ball off the line to help keep Bolton at bay