Federico Macheda’s 93rd minute equaliser denied Derby County back-to-back wins in the Sky Bet Championship, as Birmingham City clawed back a two-goal deficit to earn a 3-3 draw at St. Andrew's.
The on-loan Manchester United forward, who shot to fame at the Red Devils following his stunning late winner against Aston Villa in April 2009, was on hand to poke in from inside the six-yard box, after Emyr Huws had diverted Albert Rusnák’s corner onto the post.
All six goals came in a dramatic second-half, with Brian Howard’s accurate header putting the Blues ahead in the 48th minute. However, Birmingham’s lead lasted just 57 seconds, as Patrick Bamford struck his fourth goal in four games, when he volleyed in from close-range after seeing his initial strike rebound off of the crossbar.
The Rams then edged ahead as Chris Martin’s strike fortuitously deflected off of team-mate Craig Bryson prior to looping over goalkeeper Darren Randolph. It was cruel on the Blues’ shot-stopper, who displayed fine reactions to keep out Bryson’s first-half spot-kick.
The ‘keeper’s and his team-mates’ misery was compounded in the 73rd minute, as Craig Forsyth ghosted into the penalty area and coolly fired beyond the goalkeeper’s reach with his least favoured right foot.
However, substitute Chris Burke curled in Birmingham’s second of the afternoon with 12 minutes remaining, and just as the Rams looked as though they were going to cling on to all three points, Macheda popped up in stoppage time to haul the Blues level.
Despite the inevitable frenzy and delirium that surrounds the closure of the transfer window, last night’s cease of trading seemed to buck the trend, with the window more or less being ‘gently pushed shut’, instead of being ‘slammed.’
The Rams’ transfer activity throughout January was largely completed at the beginning of the month, with Simon Dawkins signing permanently from Tottenham Hotspur following a successful temporary spell, while Zak Whitrbread, George Thorne and Bamford all agreed moves to the iPro Stadium on loan until the end of the 2013/14 campaign.
Birmingham’s dealings on the final day of the window included the capture of three Manchester United loan signings, with Tyler Blackett, Tom Thorpe and Macheda all linking up with Lee Clark’s men at St. Andrew’s.
In all, the Blues finished the month with six new signings, with Manchester City duo Emyr Huws and Albert Rusnak agreeing moves to the Midlands, as well as central defender Aaron Martin.
For the Blues, two of their deadline day signings were handed their debuts, with Blackett and Thorpe making up half of their defence following the recall of Kyle Bartley and Dan Burn to Swansea City and Fulham respectively.
Thorpe and Huws looked particularly comfortable in the opening exchanges, with the latter consistently demanding possession of the ball from his team-mates. However, Thorpe’s maiden appearance lasted just 14 minutes, as the centre-back was stretchered off following an innocuous collision in the Rams’ penalty area.
The defender’s injury meant Clark was forced into handing another debut to one of his new recruits, as Martin replaced the Red Devils defender at the heart of the Blues’ defence.
As the Blues’ back-line adjusted and tried to settle, Derby looked to capitalise. Jamie Ward escaped down the left, staying on his feet despite Paul Caddis’ best efforts, and picking out Bamford at the far post, who saw his effort deflect wide.
Chris Martin and Ward then both had daisy-cutters roll wide and straight into the arms of Randolph respectively, while Bamford headed straight at the ‘keeper, before the Blues began to regain their composure.
After a handful of forays into Derby’s penalty area, the visitors’ retort was almost emphatic as Will Hughes weaved his way into the host’s box prior to being hacked down by Blackett. Bryson took responsibility from the subsequent penalty, but his strike from 12-yards lacked conviction and was clawed away by Randolph – the third consecutive spot kick the Rams have failed to convert.
With the match edging into five minutes of first-half stoppage time, the industrious Ward came closest to breaking the stalemate. Bamford displayed superb trickery down the right and prodded the ball into the path of Ward, who volleyed narrowly wide.
The Blues were perhaps lacking some ingenuity and cutting edge in the opening 45 minutes, but within three minutes of the restart, Huws’ incisive pass found Rusnak. He crossed for Howard, and the experienced midfielder planted an accurate header into the bottom corner.
However, straight from kick-off the Rams clawed themselves level as Ward delivered to Bamford at the far post. The on-loan striker’s first effort crashed against the crossbar, but he soon lashed the rebound into the back of the net.
Derby rode their luck as Hughes’ loose pass was picked up by Rusnak, who in turn fed Tom Adeyemi, but the midfielder’s shot was tame as he poked the ball wide. And the fortune remained firmly on the Rams’ side in the 59th minute as Martin’s shot from distance clipped the head of team-mate Bryson en-route to goal, looping in off the underside of the bar.
Bryson was then denied by Randolph moments later, but Derby soon sailed into a two goal advantage through the most unlikely of sources. Forsyth galloped into the penalty area, collecting Ward’s pass in the process and calmly stroked the ball into the net to score his first ever goal for the club.
The Blues pegged Derby back in the final quarter with Burke cutting in from the right and curling a terrific strike past Lee Grant, and the Scottish winger’s effort sparked a frantic finale.
Although Derby remained a real threat on the counter-attack, Birmingham proved clinical, and the resurgent Blues were rewarded with Macheda's dramatic stoppage time equaliser.
Derby County: Grant (GK), Wisdom, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth, Eustace, Bryson, Hughes (Hendrick 75'), Ward, Bamford (Russell 78'), Martin.
Substitutes not used: Legzdins (GK), Whitbread, Sammon, Thorne, Dawkins.
Birmingham City: Randolph (GK); Caddis, Thorpe (Martin 14’), Packwood, Blackett; Adeyemi (Burke 69’), Huws, Rusnak, Howard; Novak (Macheda 60’), Lovenkrands.
Substitutes not used: Doyle (GK), Brown, Reilly, Lee.
Attendance: 15,224 (2,517 visiting supporters).