Derby County concluded their pre-season tour of Austria with a 1-0 win against Slavija Sarajevo on Friday evening.
The game, played UFC’s Jennersdorf home ground around 30 minutes from Derby’s training base in Stegersbach, was a competitive affair in the Austrian evening sunshine.
The Bosnia & Herzegovinan outfit provided Derby with a stern test in their seventh pre-season friendly of the summer, with the 2014/15 season only two weeks away from kicking off.
Midfielder Craig Bryson scored the only goal of the game just before the hour, with his effort from edge of the box finding the net via a deflection off a Slavija defender.
Head Coach Steve McClaren, as expected, made changes to the side that started against Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday to allow other members of the squad the chance to get match minutes under their belt.
Goalkeeper Lee Grant made his first per-season appearance after resuming training earlier this week, after almost eight weeks of rehabilitation after undergoing knee surgery in May. He went on to complete the full 90 minutes, which was one of the biggest positives to take out of the game.
Jamie Ward, Kelle Roos, Chris Martin, Craig Forsyth and Jake Buxton were all rested after featuring regularly throughout pre-season, while Simon Dawkins and Mark O’Brien picked up minor injuries in training yesterday and were not risked.
In total Derby’s side showed nine changes from the game with Zenit earlier in the week. Cyrus Christie and Bryson were the only players to retain their places in the starting line-up.
Grant was called into an early save inside the opening 120 seconds, as he flung himself to his right to tip away a goalbound free-kick from Radosavlevic while Nahovic dragged a great opportunity wide on eight minutes as Slavija started strongly.
Radosavlevic lined up another free-kick on 14 minutes, but this time Grant was beaten all ends up from 25 yards, however the thundered back off the post.
After they started on the back foot, Derby’s game somewhat settled after a challenging start and Will Hughes saw a strike from distance tipped over the crossbar on 16 minutes.
On 32 minutes, after a good passage of play involving Johnny Russell and Hughes, Bryson saw a powerful drive from the edge of the box saved by Lucic in the Slavija goal.
The half can best be described as a competitive one, with a number of Derby’s players on the receiving end of some tough tackles. A foul on Mason Bennett led to a direct shot at goal from Bryson just before the end of the half. which Lucic saved easily.
Grant was called into action again before the half was out to keep the scoreline level at the break and after managing to block Mitio’s free-kick, he gathered the ball at the second attempt.
Derby made a single change at the break, Kieron Freeman for Christie at right-back, and they started the second half on the front foot as they looked to make the breakthrough.
The deadlock was eventually broken two minutes after the hour as Bryson registered his first pre-season goal. The Scottish international swapped passes with Bennett following a short corner and from 18 yards out his low shot took a deflection, which wrong-footed Lucic and the ball rolled into the back of the net.
A second almost followed straight away as Bennett crossed towards Sammon in the box, but his powerful header was saved by Lucic from close range.
Ironically, the Republic of Ireland international had a similar opportunity two minutes later but again the Slavija goalkeeper denied him with a reaction save.
Grant made his first save of the half with just over 15 minutes remaining, as he dove to his right to push Kokot’s shot behind for a corner.
Both sides made changes in the latter stages of the half and one of Derby’s substitutes, Alban Bunkaju, hit the post with a long-distance strike four minutes from time.
The game proved to be another positive exercise for the Rams, who will fly home tomorrow afternoon to complete the final two weeks of their preparations for the new season, which starts against Rotherham United at the iPro Stadium on Saturday 9th August 2014.
Derby County: Grant, Christie (Freeman 46), Rawson, Hanson, L Naylor, Eustace (Bunkaju 77), Bryson, Hughes, Russell (Calero 73), Bennett (Lowe 81), Sammon.
Substitutes Not Used: Mitchell, Hendrick, Keogh.
Slavija Sarajevo: Lucic; Sabanovic, Vejnovic, Lehez, Topovic, Mitio (Kartal 59), Radosavlevic, Govedarica (Oglecevac 56), Kokot, Nahovic, Lambulic (Prodanovic 78).