Jerome header gives Derby slender advantage
The side who finished sixth in the Championship haven’t won promotion through the playoffs since Blackpool managed it in 2010. But Derby County took a big step towards the final with a 1-0 win over Fulham in the first leg of their semi.
It was a granite-solid performance from Derby, defending Cameron Jerome’s first-half header as if the very future of the club depended on it. Fulham tried again and again to break their resolve, to no avail.
Both teams tried to start on the front foot, Fulham threatening down either flank while Matej Vydra and Tom Lawrence buzzed around Jerome up front for Derby.
Fulham’s initial attacks were a little more cohesive, shifting the ball smartly through the playmaker Tom Cairney, trying to surgically pick holes in the Derby backline. They did not have much joy, a couple of fairly weak efforts the best they could manage. Derby showed little of the same intricacy, and yet, their more simple approach was brilliantly rewarded in the 34th minute.
Tom Huddlestone spread the ball to Craig Forsyth, venturing forwards from his position in the back three, pinged over a superb cross from deep on the left, right onto the head of Jerome who powered his effort into the net. Derby’s performance was superb in its discipline, if nothing else. They defended in rigid shape, allowing Fulham to pass as much as they liked until they got within range of goal, and then any threat was smothered.
The Fulham of the first half looked more like the side of the past few weeks, when they’ve seemed tired and a little tense: it was beginning to look like that extraordinary run, 23 games unbeaten that nearly won them automatic promotion, had both come a tiny bit too early and had sapped their energy. But after the break their team showed much more purpose: Kevin McDonald belted a shot against the bar, then Floyd Ayite volleyed over from a terrific long pass by Matt Targett. If this often thrilling Fulham side don’t go up this season, it will be a shame, but in truth in this game they deserved no more. – Guardian DERBY COUNTY: Carson, Keogh, Davies, Forsy th, Wisdom, Huddle stone, Johnson, Wei mann( Hanson 90), V yd ra( Any a 68), Lawrence, Jerome( Nugent 68). Subs Not Used: Palmer, P ear ce,Roos,L ed ley. Booked: Weimann,Johnson. F UL HAM: Betti nelli, Fredericks, Odoi, Re am, T ar gett,C air ney,Mc Donald, Jo hansen (Nor wood 88), Ayi te( Piaz on 76), Mi tro vic, Ryan S es segnon(Ke ba no 76). Subs Not Used: Christie, K alas, Button, Kama ra. Booked: Johansen. Referee: Roger East( Wilts hire ).