NO JUSTICE FOR LAMPARD
Manager laments last-gasp own goal
DERBY County blew the chance to go top of the Championship after failing to capitalise on a majestic first-half display.
A breathless game featuring two own goals got off to a flying start when George Friend inadvertently turned a Scott Malone cross into his own net.
And it should have been all over after half an hour as Darren Randolph repelled efforts from Jack Marriott, Mason Mount and Harry Wilson respectively, with the latter also missing a six-yard sitter.
Former Boro boy David Nugent then spurned a glorious late chance to put the game to bed just seconds before the hapless Jayden Bogle volleyed home a comical equaliser.
The result was desperately harsh on the visitors, whose manager, Frank Lampard, cut a rueful post-match figure.
“We should have won,” said the former England man, who has seen his side notch victories over title rivals West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United in the past week.
“We played outstandingly well. I think that first half hour is the best football we’ve played in the time I’ve been here. The only thing missing was the three or four goals we deserved.
“Even after that, we stood up well to a team that has so many aerial threats and is so pragmatic in their nature. If it hadn’t been for a freak goal, we’d be talking about the complete performance. At the
start of the week, I’d have taken seven points, but I don’t feel like that at the moment.”
So rampant have Derby been of late that Tony Pulis felt compelled to deploy an unfamiliar back five. If the aim was to stymie the Rams’ threat from wide, it failed abysmally.
Twice in the opening 10 minutes Malone raced past the dawdling Paddy McNair and skimmed in crosses that sharper strikers might have dispatched. Pouncing on a poor touch from Stewart Downing, the left-back fizzed a third to the back post that Friend, under pressure from Waghorn, bundled beyond Randolph. Within minutes, Boro were under siege once more. Mount dipped one that Randolph palmed away. Marriott followed up, only for the keeper to smother again. From that rebound, Wilson took aim from 20 yards, finally beating Randolph, but hitting the woodwork.
As the ball bobbled out, the Riverside howled in derision. Possession stats of 80-20 in Derby’s favour did little to lift the mood, nor the sight of Britt Assombalonga – woeful throughout – dallying with the goal gaping, allowing Tom Huddlestone to make a latch-ditch tackle.
By that stage, Pulis had seen enough. The Boro boss switched to a back four, boomed it forward and Derby were never as potent again. “It was nothing to do with tactics,” insisted Pulis.
“It was players making correct decisions and players doing what you want them to do.
“First half, we didn’t do that. We were on the back foot, taking too many touches. They’ve got the wind in their sails and the last thing they needed was a leg up from us.”
The remainder was a far more even contest, with Boro playing percentages and Derby – led by the excellent Fikayo Tomori – donning their tin hats.
Aden Flint missed a free header at the end of the second half. Rudy Gestede, on as a sub, spurned an even easier one from five yards. The most significant miss, however, came from Nugent. The striker was free at the back post in acres of space, but smashed straight at Randolph.
From the resulting passage of play, Flint sent a looping header into the box and Bogle, under little pressure, shinned his attempted clearance straight into the bottom corner.
“He’s upset, but he’s quietly upset,” said Lampard of his 18-year-old full-back. “I spoke to him straight away on the pitch and told him not to be down.
“When you’re the individual and it goes against your name, it hurts. But it’s no reflection on him at all. It’s just a culmination of long balls into the box.”
UP FOR IT: Boro’s Rudy Gestede and Derby County’s Fikayo Tomori battle for the ball
KEY MOMENTS: Middlesbrough’s George Friend, second left, scores an own goal, while, inset, Derby lament Jayden Bogle’s late own goal
TUG: Boro’s Daniel Ayala fouls Derby County’s Jayden Bogle