Under-21s suffer narrow defeat despite resurgent second-half display.Derby County Under-21s could not quite repeat the miraculous comeback they produced against Middlesbrough last week, as Lee Glover’s side went down 2-1 at the home of league leaders Huddersfield Town.
The Rams trailed 4-2 against Middlesbrough at the Training Centre last Wednesday, before a flurry of second-half goals eventually secured a 5-4 friendly victory.
However, at the Canalside Sports Complex on Monday afternoon, a double from Development Squad striker Daniel Carr had the Terriers two goals ahead at half-time, leaving Derby with a proverbial mountain to climb.
Academy graduate Mason Bennett thundered a second-half strike inside experienced goalkeeper Ian Bennett’s near post to halve the deficit, but despite a profusion of opportunities, the Rams could not find an elusive equaliser.
Town’s opening strike came against the run of play, as the Rams started the brighter of the two teams with Kwame Thomas rifling over after being freed by Michael Jacobs inside the host’s penalty area.
But the Terriers' first goal followed in the ninth minute as neat interplay between Paul Mullin and Tom Smith culminated in the latter squaring for Carr, who slid in and diverted the ball past Mats Morch from close range.
Former Leeds United midfielder Adam Clayton came close to doubling the host’s advantage when he curled a 20-yard free-kick narrowly wide, before Carr and Smith combined again to maximum effect in the 26th minute, in what was almost a replica of the first goal.
Despite the deficit, Derby ended the first 45 minutes in the ascendency with Callum Ball bending a 25-yard curler narrowly wide, whilst the impressive Jacobs could not quite get a clean connection on Kieron Freeman’s right-wing cross.
Carr had an opportunity early in the second half to complete his hat-trick when he forced Morch into an error prior to hooking a half-volley into the side netting, however the former Dulwich Hamlet forward’s effort proved to be an anomaly on the second period’s report, as it was all one way traffic from the Rams.
Jacobs had three efforts in relatively quick succession, firstly seeing his fierce drive deflect into the side netting, before firing a half-volley and a 20-yard shot narrowly wide of Bennett’s goal.
But the Rams’ incessant pressure on the Terriers' goal finally came to fruition in the 70th minute. Valentin Gjokaj nonchalantly strolled forward past the half-way line, prior to sending a perfectly weighted through ball into the path of Bennett. The 17-year-old raced into the penalty area and from a tight angle, lashed a strike past his namesake Ian at the near post.
Ball had two further chances to draw the Rams level, but the former Torquay United loanee could not get the better of the Huddersfield goalkeeper, whilst Jacobs could not cap his lively performance with a goal, as his late effort was superbly kept out by a last ditch block from Smith.
Derby County Under-21s: Morch (GK), Freeman, Gjokaj, Berry, Sharpe, Ball, Dawkins (Dales 81'), Cisse, Jacobs, Bennett, Thomas (Hendrie 46’).
Subs not used: Spiriak (GK), Wixted, Rawson.
Huddersfield Town Under-21s: Bennett (GK); Carroll, Wallace, Gerrard (Burke 60’), Smith; Holmes (McIntyre 87’), Clayton, Sinnott, Hopson; Carr, Mullin (Charles 80’).
Subs not used: Wilczynski, Holmes.
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