Man­ager laments last-gasp own goal

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

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

PIC­TURE: PA Im­ages

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

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