OOH YES! Derby County’s Chris Martin celebrates scoring his second in their 2-1 win at Preston
Victory at last for Rams
CLINICAL Chris Martin handed Paul Clement his first win as Derby boss – but victory was marred by a nasty injury to skipper Chris Baird.
The Northern Ireland midfielder clashed heads with Joe Garner and was out cold before he even hit the deck.
Paramedics eventually took 15 minutes to strap Baird onto a spinal board and ferry him into a waiting ambulance, taking the gloss off a comfortable win.
“We’re hoping Chris isn’t too bad,” said Clement. “He was unconscious for a while and the reason for the long delay was precautionary regarding his neck.You have to be very careful in these situations.
“He’s gone off to hospital to have some checks but when he came past me I got a smile and a thumbs up so hopefully it isn’t as serious as it looked.”
Clement was indebted to Martin for the goals that lifted the weight off his shoulders, but it was the twinkling toes and rapier pace of winger Johnny Russell that really did the damage.
The Scot, signed by Nigel Clough in 2013, was no instant smash at the iPro, often appearing lightweight and wasteful in his early days.
Now, quicker, bulkier and visibly brimming with confidence, the 25-year-old has evolved into Derby’s creator-in-chief, leading breaks and linking play like a Championship version of Eden Hazard.
His pass for the opener was pure David Beckham, a perfectlyflighted 40-yard ball expertly plucked from the sky by Martin. His shot, cutely slid through the legs of Jordan Pickford, was the acme of composure.
For his next trick, Russell twice bamboozled the hapless Paul Huntington, who responded by hauling him to earth. Martin was again the beneficiary, smacking a fearsome free-kick into Pickford’s top corner.
“Johnny’s a hard-working player with a great attitude,” added Clement.“He’s created a wonderful goal, looked dangerous on the counter. He’s playing with real confidence and I’m very, very pleased with him.”
Game effectively over, the Rams took their foot off the gas. Preston attempted to respond but, aside from the penetrating runs of Daniel Johnson, struggled pick a path past Jason Shackell and Richard Keogh.
Will Keane,particularly,looked a little boy lost against a rugged Derby back four,doing little more than run around before his 55thminute departure.
Eoin Doyle, on as a sub following his deadline day loan from Cardiff, forced a save from the recalled Lee Grant. Last year’s top scorer Joe Garner, yet to get off the mark in the Championship, then struck a post.
“I’m not worried about Joe,” said Preston boss Simon Grayson. “I just think he’s a marked man after his exploits last year. He’s not having much luck but I’m sure he’ll get on a run very soon.”
In the end, it took 100 minutes for the home side to find the net, Johnson bending a fine low shot into Grant’s bottom corner. By then, Derby were playing with ten men having used all their subs prior to Baird’s injury.They might have expected a siege, but the kitchen sink never came.
“We didn’t manage the game well enough,” said Grayson.“We were messing around, passing the ball in the middle.
“When you’re a man up in injury-time, get something into the box and see what happens. It’s not pretty but something could drop. The players need to learn that.”
Clement, who had overseen a defeat and four draws before arriving at Deepdale, added: “I’m delighted to get off the mark. It’s been frustrating because we’ve played well enough to win games.”
HIGH FOOT: Preston North End’s Joe Garner vies for possession with Cyrus Christie
STAR MAN JOHNN