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Derby County avoided an early exit from the Emirates FA Cup at the initial First Round stage as they came back from two goals down late on to earn a 2-2 draw at Sky Bet League Two promotion-chasers Crewe Alexandra on Sunday afternoon.

Despite dominating the opening 45 minutes, Derby found themselves behind at the break with Courtney Baker-Richardson’s close-range finish proving to be the difference at the turnaround.

Elliott Nevitt’s low drive in the early stages of the second half secured the win for the Railwaymen on an afternoon where missed opportunities in either half nearly proved to be costly for Derby.

The Rams pushed for a way back into the tie with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Conor Hourihane scoring in the final moments of the tie to force a replay at Pride Park Stadium later this month to decide who will play League One side Bristol Rovers at home in the Second Round.

Key Moments

Head Coach Paul Warne opted to name the same starting line-up from the impressive 4-0 home win over Northampton Town in League One five days beforehand, meaning Sonny Bradley kept his place at the heart of the defence alongside Curtis Nelson while Conor Washington made his third successive start up top.

Crewe, who sit fifth in League Two after 16 matches this term, started on the front foot and caught the Rams on the counterattack inside the opening two minutes down their left. Nevitt’s strong run forward ended in a low cross which evaded several players in a red shirt inside the penalty area as Derby saw off the danger.

Derby got into their stride shortly afterwards and delivered some inviting balls into the box from both wings to test the Crewe backline. Defender Nelson rose highest to head a Korey Smith cross from the right goalwards, but a deflection took it over the bar.

The pressure continued and a goalmouth scramble from the resultant corner saw Harvey Davies in the home goal push Washington’s close-range effort away.

Another corner a few minutes later saw Bradley’s downward header from Hourihane’s deep delivery cleared off the line by a Crewe defender before Nelson headed straight at Davies as the hosts failed to clear their lines sufficiently.

Balls into the box were proving to be a strong outlet for Derby and Craig Forsyth was next to be the beneficiary after 25 minutes. Mendez-Laing chipped in a nice delivery from the right but the left-back headed over the crossbar under pressure from a Crewe defender.

Crewe had a good opportunity to take the lead a minute later. A loose touch by right-back Ryan Nyambe presented Rio Adebisi with the ball on the edge of the box and, after driving into the area, he drilled a shot goalwards which Joe Wildsmith parried away.

Hourihane blasted an effort wide from distance after a short corner was worked his way on the half hour mark, while winger Tom Barkhuizen dragged an effort wide from an angle inside the penalty area as Derby continued to push forward in strong spell of pressure.

Max Bird, after scoring twice in midweek against Northampton, blazed over from 20 yards out and Washington did the same as Derby let fly with several efforts from range as the clock ticked down in the opening period.

Somehow, however, Derby found themselves a goal down at the break. A cross into the box from the left wing found Crewe striker Baker-Richardson totally unmarked at the far post and he thundered the ball into the net from six yards out with his right foot.

It could have been two before the interval, but a swift counterattack ended with Nevitt driving a low effort towards the bottom corner which Wildsmith in the Derby goal managed to get his hands to.

The second half began with the Rams pushing forward in search of a leveller and after a neat passage of play Hourihane’s long-range effort early in the half was deflected away from danger.

Wildsmith made another smart stop to keep the home side out five minutes after half-time. A scooped ball in behind the Derby backline saw Conor Thomas played in and shoot low across goal, with the Rams’ number one deflecting the ball behind with his legs.

Derby should have been level after 54 minutes. A good spell of possession ended with Smith crossing from the right but the undermarked Mendez-Laing glanced a first-time header over the bar.

It proved to be a costly miss as Crewe netted a second shortly afterwards. Nevitt waltzed his way into the Derby box from the left-hand side and drilled a low effort beyond Wildsmith and into the net off the far post.

Derby pressed forward to try and get back into the tie, but they were unable to make their possession and their high number of advances into the final third count. Barkhuizen had a tame shot easily saved by Davies while Mendez-Laing’s piledriver from 25 yards was pushed away from danger by the home custodian.

A quadruple change for the Rams saw James Collins, Kane Wilson, Joe Ward and Eiran Cashin come off the bench for the final 20 minutes and Warne’s side continued to ask questions of the home side but they continued to defend resolutely and in numbers.

Collins had the ball in the net with ten minutes to go when he tapped in from close range after Bird put in a fine cross from the left - however the Rams’ number nine was deemed to have been in an offside position when the ball was played.

Derby finally goal back on 89 minutes as Mendez-Laing's low left-foot effort from the edge of the box, after collecting a pass from Wilson, found its way past Davies and into the bottom corner for tthe winger's fourth goal in as many matches.

Derby weren't done there and the equaliser followed moments later as Mendez-Laing got away down the right and crossed low for Hourihane to thunder a strike into the top corner and force a replay at Pride Park and send the 2,300 travelling Derby fans into celebration.

After creating so many chances over the 90 minutes, Derby deserved not to lose the contest and showed great character to come back from two goals down when it looked like the tie had passed them by.

The Teams

Crewe Alexandra: Davies (GK), Cooney, Offord (C), O'Riordan, Demetriou, Billington (Colkett 78), White (Aguis 82), Thomas, Adebisi, Baker-Richardson, Nevitt (Rowe 67).

Substitutes Not Used: Booth (GK), Nolan, Robinson.

Derby County: Wildsmith (GK), Forsyth (Wilson 68), Hourihane (C), Bradley (Cashin 68), Barkhuizen (Ward 68), Bird, Mendez-Laing, Smith, Washington (Collins 68), Nyambe (Sibley 80), Nelson.

Substitutes Not Used: Vickers (GK), Fornah, Robinson, Brown.

What’s Next?

Derby return to Pride Park Stadium on Wednesday evening in their final Bristol Street Motors Trophy Northern Section Group G fixture against Wolverhampton Wanderers Under-21s (7pm kick-off).

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