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Derby County Under-18s fell desperately short in their narrow 1-0 defeat away to Middlesbrough in the semi-final of the Under-18 Premier League Cup at Rockliffe Park.

For all of Derby’s dominance, they failed to get that all important goal. The only goal of the game came in the 118th minute when a long goal kick split the Derby defence. Terry Stephenson picked up the ball and slotted is past Sam French to end Justin Walker’s side’s hopes of reaching the final.

The first-half was well contested with both sides flying into challenges and having their share of half-chances.

The biggest chance of the half fell to Derby and Eiran Cashin when Louie Sibley’s corner reached the centre-back whose powerful header was well stopped by the Middlesbrough goalkeeper.

In the second-half, Derby began to dominate the game. First, Kornell McDonald drifted down the right-hand side and drilled a ball in across the face of the goal which Sibley was inches away from meeting for a tap in.

Middlesbrough looked to have had no real answer for Derby’s constant attacking threat which then saw Tyree Wilson let fly from 20-yards out. However, his effort was expertly saved.

Chance after chance went begging for Derby as the full-time whistle was blown. The Rams, though, picked up from where they had left off in extra time and looked sharp. However, their hopes of reaching the final took a huge blow with two minutes left to play. A long goal kick evaded the Derby defenders but found Stephenson who made no mistake in making it 1-0 to the home side.

The Rams had one final attack through substitute Jack Stretton who smashed the bar in the final minute of the match.

What’s To Come…

The semi-final loss means that Derby will miss out on the final. However, they have a golden chance to rectify the loss next week when they visit the same team.

This time, though, they go there in the Premier League - North where they sit just one place above their opponents. A win could see the Rams go top of the League.

A week later, they host Newcastle United who currently sit second bottom of the League. Walker’s side have already beaten them 8-0 in the reverse fixture earlier in the season; half of the goals were scored by Jack Stretton.

Next Five…

Middlesbrough Under-18s Vs Derby County Under-18s- Saturday 23rd February 2019 (kick-off: 1pm)

Derby County Under-18s Vs Newcastle United Under-18s- Saturday 2nd March 2019 (kick-off: 1pm)

Stoke City Under-18s Vs Derby County Under-18s- Saturday 16th March 2019 (kick-off: 11am)

Sunderland Under-18s Vs Derby County Under-18s- Saturday 30th March 2019 (kick-off: 1pm)

Derby County Under-18s Vs West Bromwich Albion Under-18s- Saturday 6th April 2019 (kick-off: 11am)

Words by Joseph Lightfoot