Derby County were unable to overcome automatic promotion hopefuls West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns on Wednesday night, falling to a 2-0 defeat.
The defeat ended a six-game unbeaten run for Phillip Cocu’s side and prevented them from rising into the Play-Off places with four Sky Bet Championship games remaining.
Derby’s side was brimming with academy products, with three teenagers starting and a further five from the Rams academy coming off the bench. Jahmal Hector-Ingram and Jordan Brown both made their senior debuts, with striker Hector-Ingram replacing Wayne Rooney who handed 19-year-old Max Bird the captain’s armband.
The young side, however, were undone by goals by Grady Diangana after 11 minutes and Dara O’shea with 15 minutes left to play. Louie Sibley was then shown a red card in the first minute of added time for an altercation with O’Shea.
The Rams were without attacking duo Tom Lawrence and Martyn Waghorn who were both serving suspensions for red cards.
The Rams showed their immediately showed their intent, moving the ball around quickly and easily against the side who were hoping to take the top spot in the league by the conclusion.
Patient play was almost rewarded within four minutes with Derby utilizing the right flank well with Jayden Bogle making a run past multiple markers before pulling back to Louie Sibley. The youngster flung the ball into the box for Duane Holmes, who took a touch before taking aim, but his shot was well blocked by O’Shea.
The Rams’ bright start was dimmed after 11 minutes though a brilliant move by the hosts. Kamil Grosicki slotted a brilliant pass through to Diangana who beat the offside trap to slot in of the inside of the far post to give the Baggies the lead.
Their lead was almost doubled just moments later when West Brom won the ball back deep in the Derby half and was slotted into the path of Matheus Pereira but his shot was sent wide.
Cocu’s side continued to dominate possession and move the ball well in the middle of the park, but for all their time on the ball, they struggled to find an end product. Just one more shot came from the visitors in the half after twenty minutes as Graeme Shinnie fired over.
The Baggies, however piled on the pressure ahead of half-time looking to extend their advantage but after asserting their dominance in the Rams box, Jake Livermore could only scuff a shot well wide with five minutes left to play.
Another chance fell in added time when West Brom hit Derby on the counter-attack. Their goalscorer Diangana sent the ball across the box to Charlie Austin who’s half-volley effort was deflected on-target before Ben Hamer tipped the effort wide.
Cocu was forced to make an early change ahead of half time with Holmes being replaced by Morgan Whittaker.
West Brom continued in the second half how they ended the first, by looking dangerous on the break. Livermore picked the ball up and charged towards the Derby box, cut inside and found Pereira. The Brazilian fired across goal, but again, Hamer dived to tip the ball wide of the post.
Austin was lurking at the far post but couldn’t reach the ball, though the flag was raised for offside anyway.
After a lengthy spell with neither side able to carve out any chances, Pereira called Hamer into action again. A quick free-kick by Livermore on the half-way line caught the Rams off guard giving Pereira plenty of space to drill a shot goalbound, but the Derby keeper met it with a strong hand.
With 15 minutes left to play, the home side found their second goal from a set piece. Pereira’s corner was met by a powerful diving header by O’Shea at the near post that flew into the back of the net.
For a second-straight game, Derby were reduced to ten men in added time, with Sibley being shown a straight red. O’Shea has trapped the midfielder’s foot between his legs and he was adjudged to have made a kicking motion in an attempted to free it.
Cosu’s side will look to bounce back when they return to Pride Park on Saturday to take on Brentford (kick-off: 12.30pm).
West Bromwich Albion: Bartley, Asayi, Livermore, Pereira, Grosicki, Townsend, Austin (Robson-Kanu, 59), Sawyer, O’Shea, Diangana (Robinson, 51).
Substitutes: Furlong Krovinovic, Phillips, Brunt, Harper, Peltier, Bond
Derby County: Hamer; Bogle, Evans, Clarke, Forsyth (Buchanan, 65); Bird, Shinnie (Knight, 65); Holmes (Whittaker, 43), Rooney (Hector-Ingram, 84), Sibley; Martin (Brown, 84)
Substitutes: Roos, Jozefzoon, Lowe, Davies