Under-21s suffer defeat in opening fixture of 2013/14.Derby County Under-21s’ 2013/14 campaign got off to a dramatic start at Crewe Alexandra this afternoon, as Michael Jacobs’ last-gasp penalty was superbly kept out by Ben Garratt to secure victory for the Alex.
The goalkeeper dived low to his right to thwart the former Northampton Town winger in the final minute of the game to preserve Crewe's 2-1 lead, after goals from Billy Walters and Lee Molyneux had given the hosts a two-goal lead.
Jacobs had halved the deficit four minutes into the second-half with a sublime free-kick from 25-yards, but the 21-year-old was denied from 13-yards closer late on, as Garratt produced a fine reflex stop to ensure Crewe sealed all three points.
Despite a promising opening from the Rams that included former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Dean Parrett going close with a drive from long-distance, Crewe took the lead when Walters swiveled in the box before converting from close range after 25 minutes.
The Rams responded well and within two minutes of going behind, the lively Jacobs waltzed his way into the penalty area but saw his cross headed over by a combination of Mason Bennett and a Crewe defender.
Derby Academy graduate Bennett then had a clear sight of goal in the 35th minute, when he raced onto midfielder Niall Dawkins’ pinpoint pass, but the striker’s subsequent low drive from a tight angle was beaten away by Garratt.
The Rams continued to surge forward in attack as they searched for a leveller before half-time and almost found one when former Manchester United midfielder Luke Hendrie smashed a 20-yard drive narrowly wide, whilst Jacobs was thwarted by Garratt at the goalkeeper’s near post.
However, the Rams’ resilient end to the first-half was undone within two minutes of the restart through left-back Lee Molyneux’s quick thinking. The former Wolverhampton Wanderers player spotted goalkeeper Mats Morch lining up his wall at his near post, prior to curling a terrific 25-yard free-kick into the opposite top corner.
But two minutes later Derby did get a goal their attacking play deserved when Jacobs matched Molyneux’s set-piece ability when he nestled a 25-yard free-kick past Garratt.
Lee Glover’s men almost completed the comeback in the 54th minute when Bennett displayed terrific technique to control his volley goalwards following Michael Hoganson’s deep cross, but the forward’s effort was blocked on its way to goal.
The Rams continued to press hard for an equaliser, with Jacobs sending an acrobatic effort inches wide and substitute Rhys Sharpe electing to pass instead of shoot when he rounded goalkeeper Garratt in the final five minutes.
But shot-stopper Garratt proved to be Crewe’s hero on the day. Valentin Gjokaj was bundled over in the penalty area in the final minute of the game and Jacobs took responsibility from the spot, but saw his effort from 12-yards brilliantly clawed away by the impressive Garratt.
Derby County Under-21s: Morch (GK); Smith, Gjokaj, Lelan, Hoganson; Dales (Wixted 76’), Hendrie (Sharpe 70’), Dawkins (Hayes 85’), Parrett; Jacobs, Bennett.
Subs not used: Wassall, Thomas.