MID­DLE MAN IN­SPIRES RAMS

Hav­ing Thorne in his side gives Cle­ment com­fort

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Mark Wil­liams

PAUL CLE­MENT in­sists his play­ers can get even bet­ter af­ter watch­ing his team sweep aside the chal­lenge of in-form Cardiff City.

Two sec­ond-half goals from mid­field­ers Ge­orge Thorne and Andreas Weimann saw the high­fly­ing Rams seal a cru­cial three points with rel­a­tive ease at the iPro Sta­dium.

Dom­i­nant Derby now have just one de­feat in 12 league matches as they close in on the top of the ta­ble – a run that has not sur­prised Cle­ment.

“This is a very pleas­ing win for us but I still think all the play­ers can im­prove,” said Cle­ment. “We work very hard to make sure we are im­prov­ing all the time – we never have a bad train­ing ses­sion. There is still room to bet­ter our­selves.

“We have the play­ers to do this. We have to keep work­ing hard but we were con­vinc­ing here.

“I have to give credit to the play­ers be­cause they cre­ated a lot of chances, used a lot of pa­tience and in the end we got a well-de­served win.

“Ge­orge Thorne was out­stand­ing in the mid­dle and we are reap­ing the re­wards of him be­ing fully fit.”

It was Derby who looked the more lively fol­low­ing the in­ter­na­tional break and, af­ter a flow­ing move, Tom Ince’s curl­ing ef­fort forced a sprawl­ing save from David Mar­shall on six min­utes.

The Rams con­tin­ued to press and the im­pres­sive Mar­shall pro­duced a stun­ning save to thwart Andreas Weimann on 16 min­utes.

Cardiff looked to break with pace at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity and Joe Ma­son failed to hit the tar­get from a Ken­wyne Jones cen­tre on 24 min­utes. And two min­utes later, Craig Noone drew a fine save from Scott Car­son af­ter be­ing sent clear by Jones. The Cardiff winger should prob­a­bly have done bet­ter.

Derby striker Chris Martin had two loud penalty ap­peals turned down in the space of as many min­utes shortly af­ter the half-hour mark as Derby, as dom­i­nant as they were, went into the break frus­trated.

The hosts thought they had bro­ken the dead­lock two min­utes into the sec­ond half but Bradley John­son’s header from a Ja­cob But­ter­field cor­ner was cleared off the line by Joe Ralls. On 54 min­utes, But­ter­field failed to con­nect fully with a

low Ince cross that flashed across the Cardiff goal. Any touch with con­vic­tion would surely have seen the ball hit the back of the net.

But it was less than a minute be­fore the hosts were cel­e­brat­ing a be­lated break­through. An­other splen­did move down the right-hand side saw Christie feed Martin, who in turn laid it off for the on­rush­ing Thorne, who made no mis­take from 15 yards.

The lead was al­most dou­bled within a minute but Mar­shall spread him­self su­perbly to deny Martin from close range.

Derby al­ways looked the more po­tent side in the fi­nal third and the points were sealed in the 76th minute.

Thorne’s fierce drive was well saved by Mar­shall low to his right, but Weimann was in the right place at the right time to smash the ball home.

Jones had a glo­ri­ous op­por­tu­nity to re­duce the ar­rears on 85 min­utes but he could only head harm­lessly over from a left-wing cross. And sub­sti­tute Sammy Ameobi squan­dered a sim­i­lar chance in the dy­ing mo­ments.

Cardiff man­ager Rus­sell Slade said: “We lost to the bet­ter team, I can ad­mit that. Derby are the best side that we have come up against so far and I was im­pressed with them.

“I was dis­ap­pointed that their two goals came from our own pos­ses­sion. We are very good at keep­ing the ball in train­ing but need to do it on the big­ger pitches in the big­ger games.

“It is im­por­tant for us now to grab the mo­men­tum back again. We know that three or four wins in this league and we can be right back in con­tention again.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

MAKE A FIST OF IT: Derby’s Ja­son Shack­ell in ac­tion with Cardiff keeper David Mar­shall

DOU­BLE TIME: Derby’s Andreas Weimann cel­e­brates his goal

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