IT’S JOHNNY COME LATELY FOR RAMS
GARY Rowett hailed his substitutes and squad players after Johnny Russell stepped off the bench to gift Derby victory at home to Burton Albion.
Russell pounced on Matty Palmer’s mistake late on to ensure the Rams bounced back from their midweek defeat to Ipswich by claiming all three points.
It meant a first ever Derby win in this fixture – and first goal – but Rowett admitted it could have been more comfortable had they broken Burton down earlier.
“It was probably the first mistake that Burton made – they just seemed to get a toe to everything before that – but it was very opportunistic by Johnny and that’s what you want your substitutes to do,” he said.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the players that have been out of the side have been brilliant.
“It’s a bit cheesy to say, but all the players are in it together and you can see that day-to-day. They’re all working incredibly hard. I’ve got no complaints with any of the players.
“We needed to win, and I think if we’d have got an early goal it would have been a very different game.”
Clear-cut chances were rare throughout the game, but Chris Martin cut inside onto his right foot in the 19th minute and unleashed a powerful, curling strike which Stephen Bywater tipped over.
Bywater saved Burton with his reflexes again on the stroke of halftime, this time sparing Ben Turner’s blushes after he had steered Tom Lawrence’s fizzing cross towards his own goal.
Derby continued to dominate the attacking play after the break, and Andreas Weimann should have done better when, unmarked in the area, he shot tamely at Bywater after Lawrence’s through ball.
Burton had chances too, and were almost in front from a rare Palmer corner on 62 minutes when Turner headed goalwards but Weimann cleared off the line.
At the other end, Martin twice saw shots blocked by defenders in the 65th minute, first from his 25yard free-kick and again from the rebound.
Russell finally broke the deadlock on 81 minutes though, feeding Martin and then, when the striker’s shot was saved, hammering in the rebound when Palmer failed to clear.
Burton almost snatched a point in the 90th minute but Lukas Akins’ scissor-kick dropped just wide when Luke Murphy’s free-kick was headed to the edge of the area.
There was still time for Sam Winnall to spurn a great chance to add a second, scuffing his shot wide when Martin picked him out in space in the middle, but Derby held on to win.
It was a second consecutive week in which Burton boss Nigel Clough was left to rue a late defeat, and the former Derby manager admitted: “It sums up our season so far. We’ve played well, didn’t make enough of our situations in the penalty area and we gave a goal away.
“We were actually pleased with how we played. You can’t legislate for a mistake in the 81st minute.
“It was just a very poor decision, but that’s the learning process for young players – they have to make mistakes, and they have to learn. If you don’t put them out there, they don’t learn.
“It’s getting harder to take the positives, but the nice thing is we don’t look like a team who are bottom of the league.”
RUSSELL GROUP: Derby players congratulate Johnny Russell after he scores the winner, inset