Header late on de­nies County

The Football League Paper - - FA CUP FOURTH ROUND - By Ricky Charlesworth

STEVE MCCLAREN spoke of his pride af­ter Derby earned an FA Cup fourth round re­play against Premier League cham­pi­ons Le­ices­ter.

The Rams were de­nied a scalp as Wes Mor­gan’s late header se­cured a draw in a pul­sat­ing East Mid­lands derby on Fri­day night.

Dar­ren Bent’s even­ing started mis­er­ably as he opened the scor­ing with a com­i­cal own goal, only to net at the right end just min­utes later.

Craig Bryson put the home side ahead five min­utes be­fore half-time but as the clock ticked down Mor­gan saved Le­ices­ter’s blushes.

And de­spite the late heart­break Derby boss McClaren was still de­lighted with his side’s ef­forts.

McClaren said: “We’re dis­ap­pointed that we didn’t win but I’m so proud of my play­ers. We wanted to give them a good game in front of the cam­eras, and un­der the lights.

“We were up against a Le­ices­ter side that was at it. We had a slow start but we grad­u­ally grew into the game.

“No­body wanted a draw at the end but we went for it and got a re­play.

“This has taught me we have great char­ac­ter. The team dug in when they had to, and against a damn good team, and nearly beat them.

“We must take heart from that.”

Le­ices­ter took the lead af­ter just eight min­utes and in com­i­cal fash­ion when for­mer Eng­land striker Bent some­how man­aged to slice the ball into his own net from a Le­ices­ter cor­ner to give the Foxes plenty to shout about. How­ever, in a bril­liant and de­served twist of fate, Bent pro­ceeded to equalise on 21 min­utes with a loop­ing header from a Will Hughes cross.

Bryson then picked up the ball 25 yards out, weaved into the box and fired past Kasper Sch­me­ichel to pro­pel Derby in front be­fore the in­ter­val.

Half-time Le­ices­ter sub­sti­tute De­marai Gray saw his shot can­non back off a post be­fore Scott Car­son pulled off a bril­liant dou­ble save to keep out Shinji Okazaki.

Johnny Rus­sell then in­ex­pli­ca­bly missed the goal from a few yards out and that was duly pun­ished when Mor­gan nod­ded home with three min­utes left to seal a re­play at the King Power Sta­dium.

De­spite City fail­ing to hit the heights of last sea­son, Foxes man­ager Clau­dio Ranieri said the side still pos­sesses the nec­es­sary bat­tling qual­i­ties – ones they needed against a tough Derby out­fit.

“It was a tough match,” the Ital­ian said. “We started well and scored but slowly we lost our calm. They played well and scored twice.

“In the sec­ond half we again started well and cre­ated two or three chances. It was tough to score but thank­fully Mor­gan got one for us. We have to con­cen­trate. Too many times we con­cede. We can only work and be more fo­cused.

“I’m sat­is­fied be­cause we knew that this would be a tough match.”

“We started very well, scored the goal and then sud­denly they came at us. We then got ner­vous.

“In the sec­ond half we started bet­ter and cre­ated chance af­ter chance but the ball didn’t want to go in for us.

“Fi­nally we scored and I think we de­served to get the re­play.

“It’s im­por­tant that we fight and the at­ti­tude of the play­ers is fan­tas­tic.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

SO CLOSE: Alex Pearce de­jected af­ter Wes Mor­gan’s late equaliser, in­set

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