TWO MISTAKES cost Derby County at Molineux Stadium as they fell to a 2-0 defeat to Wolves in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
Despite a much improved display, the Rams fell behind early on through Nouha Dicko’s strike before Lee Grant, bizarrely, punched into his own goal unchallenged shortly after the hour mark.
That aside, Derby played with a swagger and dominance that they did so consistently this season, but found themselves up against an inspired Tomasz Kuszczak in the Wolves goal.
Tom Ince cracked the crossbar in the first half, Bryson the post in the second and they had a goal disallowed in a dominant display, but they ultimately fell to a costly defeat that extended their winless run to six games.
Sporting a new formation, Derby started the contest brightly utilising the attacking quality that they fielded in a bid to arrest a run of five games without a win.
Ince surged from a deep position within the Derby half all the way to the Wolves area, before being tracked back whilst Darren Bent saw a shot blocked as the loose ball fell into his path.
Johnny Russell fired wide from range as the Rams continued to pile pressure on Kuszczak’s near post, whilst at the other end, James Henry’s dangerous free kick hit a Wolves man before being cleared to safety.
An angled ball from Richard Keogh, the Derby Captain, caught out Matt Doherty and landed at the feet of Craig Forsyth.
The full back surged towards the Wolves area and whipped a dangerous cross to the stretching Bent, but the ball just evaded the returning forward.
Henry headed over the top of the bar from a corner as the game maintained its relentless nature and the woodwork come to the rescue of the home side on 25 minutes.
With the Rams settled into the game, they began to pass the ball with confidence in the Wolves half and after Ince was found on the edge of the area, the 23-year-old wideman adjusted his feet and curled a high effort on to the top of the crossbar with Kuszczak beaten.
A minute later, Benik Afobe forced Grant into a save with his legs at the near post and Nouha Dicko shot wide after Kenny Jackett’s side seized on sloppy play by Derby inside their own half as the home side began to stamp their authority on the contest.
The Rams survived the storm and a neat passage of play led to Jesse Lingard forcing Kuszczak into a fine save as he backpedalled back towards his goal.
Ince forced another save moments later with a well-struck half volley as Derby upped the pressure on the home side’s backline and with a matter of minutes remaining, Derby had the ball in the back of the net through Ince, but the referee, Keith Stroud, ruled the effort after already blowing for a foul on Bent.
No card was shown and Bryson forced Kuszczak into another fine, but despite an end-to-end first 45 minutes, the encounter remained scoreless.
For all the attacking play and chances in the first half, it was through a mistake that the breakthrough was made.
From the left, Forsyth’s stray pass was picked off and quickly fed through to Dicko with Derby reeling. The striker, calmly, took his time before hitting a low shot that went through the legs of one defender and under Grant.
It was a soft blow, but it sparked McClaren’s side to life as they piled the pressure on the Wolves defence again.
Bryson cracked the foot of Kuszczak’s far post with a left foot shot, but with the Rams pressing, a ball over the top caught out the whole backline and Afobe, one-on-one with Grant, thundered the bar with a high effort.
Though they held so much control of the game, the visitors handed Wolves a second goal in bizarre circumstances as Forsyth miscued a clearance that went backwards towards his own goal.
The danger seemed to be over as the ball dropped towards the outstretched hands of Grant, whose attempt at punching the ball, unchallenged, dropped into his own net.
McClaren’s side continued to dominate proceedings but struggled to find a way past Kuszczak. Lingard fired a low effort straight at his midriff and Bent headed wide at the near post from a corner.
Dawkins and Lingard fired separate efforts down the throat of the Wolves ‘keeper as the contest entered its final 10 minutes, but they met a stubborn and stern Wolves backline that was determined to keep a clean sheet.
Deep into injury time, the Rams’ evening was summed up as Sako waltzed through four challenges but blazed over as Derby’s winless run extended to six games going into the international break.
Wolves: Kuszczak; Doherty, Batth (c), Stearman, Golbourne; Henry (van La Parra, 67), McDonald, Price, Sako; Afobe (Doyle, 90), Dicko (Edwards, 65)
Substitutes not used: McCarey, Ebanks-Landell, Hause, Iorfa
Derby County: Grant, Christie, Keogh (C), Albentosa, Forsyth; Hughes, Bryson, Ince, Russell (Dawkins, 70), Lingard; Bent
Substitutes not used: Roos (GK), Ward, Hanson, Thomas, Shotton, Warnock