Derby County rescued a point at Pride Park Stadium as Chris Martin struck from the penalty spot deep in the second-half in a 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday.
In a defensive test in the first half for Derby, a miscommunication at the back handed Wednesday the opening goal through Steven Fletcher.
However, in a much-improved second-half, the Rams pushed from immediately after the break for the leveller and it came in the 82nd minute to move Derby to nine games unbeaten at home. The Rams were well on top in the final minutes, looking for to snatch all three points, fuelled even more so when Moses Odubajo was shown red.
Phillip Cocu gave the nod to 18-year-old Morgan Whittaker to make his full Sky Bet Championship debut after seven appearances so far for the first-team. He was one of four changes to the stating line up from the weekend with fellow 18-year-old Jason Knight returning as well as George Evans and Chris Martin.
Ahead of the game, a minute applause was held in tribute to Derby County’s legendary manager, Jim Smith, who passed away on Tuesday night at the age of 79.
The visitors started on the front-foot and peppered the Derby goal with shot, but the Rams’ defence held strong, particularly defending ten first-half corners for the owls. In the opening stages, back-to-back corners came and the first was brilliantly defended by Scott Malone. After the ball bobbled along the goal looking for Fletcher at the back post, Malone stuck his leg out to divert the ball out of play.
The resulting corner was half cleared but sent back in towards Fletcher again in front of goal, but as Davies came down as he was marking him, his body got in the way of his shot.
A third corner soon followed but Derby hit back on the break and showed some promise in possession, kick-started by the two youngsters Knight and Whittaker, but after quick passes through a handful of players, the attack fizzled out.
All Derby’s efforts on defence came undone after 2 minutes through miscommunication at the back. Craig Forsyth sent a pass between Curtis Davies and Duane Holmes and the mix-up of the recipient gave Barry Bannan chance to swoop in and play forward to Fletcher who struck into the bottom left corner from the edge of the box.
The Rams best chance of the half came with three minutes to play in the half. Holmes’ throw-in was sent in to the area to Knight who struck the volley over at close range.
After difficult opening half, Derby came out fighting in the second and immediately made an impression. From the restart, the ball was quickly played down to Holmes on the right of the box and his cross met the head of Martin at the back post who headed just over.
Moments later, they were on the attack again. Whittaker played a good ball out to Bogle who crossed in looking for Knight, but Wednesday’s keeper, Cameron Dawson was able to beat him and get his hands safely on the ball.
Ten minutes later, good build-up play again around the box presented Knight with another opportunity from outside the area, but his low effort glanced just wide of the post.
In the 81st minute, the Rams were given away back in. Jack Marriott was set to pull the trigger from 12 yards out but was hauled down by Odubajo. Martin stepped up to the spot and sent Dawson the wrong way to level the score.
Odubajo was soon after given the marching orders for his second bookable offense and the Rams gave everything to win the game. In injury time, Tom Lawrence’s corner was deflected inches over, before a goalmouth scramble ensued moments later, however the Rams couldn’t get it over the line and in the end settled for a point.
Derby County: Hamer; Bogle, Davies (C), Forsyth, Malone; Knight (Marriott, 68), Evans; Whittaker (Waghorn, 68), Holmes, Lawrence; Martin
Unused Subs: Roos, Wisdom, Dowell, Lowe, Bird
Sheffield Wednesday: Dawson; Odubajo, Iorfa, Lees, Fox; Reach, Hutchinson, Bannan, Harris (Murphy, 61); Rhodes (Nuhiu, 72), Fletcher (Luongo, 78)
Unused Subs: Jones, Lee, Pelupessy, Borner