Derby County’s Under 23s rounded off their Premier League Cup campaign on Monday night by defeating Colchester United 2-1 at St George’s Park.Calum Macdonald opened the scoring from close range with less than two minutes on the clock before Joe Bateman went on to extend the Rams’ lead on 38 minutes after he capitalised on a loose ball.
The second half saw Darren Wassall’s side reduced to ten men after Lewis Walker was sent off for a late tackle, and the visitors very quickly made the most of their advantage by netting through Eoin McKeown.
Despite being a man down, Derby put in a determined performance and fought to the bitter end to deservedly secure all three points, although it was not enough to see them progress beyond the group stages of the competition.
Looking back on the contest, there were less than 180 seconds played when Derby opened the scoring as Macdonald latched onto the ball inside the box to score his second goal in four outings.
With three wins and a draw recorded from their previous five matches, the Rams appeared to ooze with confidence and this was evident in the early stages as Colchester were continually put under pressure.
The U's steadily grew into things but Derby were again the next to knock at the door after Max Bird played a ball over the top to the in-form Emil Riis Jakbosen, and the striker forced the visiting goalkeeper into making a decent save.
Walker and Jakobsen both had chances either side of the half-hour mark to double Derby's advantage but, from inside the box, both couldn’t find the target.
With the break fast approaching, the Rams did extend their lead to mark an impressive spell with the ball. Second-year scholar Bateman was the man on target after he capitalised on Colchester’s failure to clear their lines with a calm tap-in from inside the box.
Colchester began the second half brightly and they nearly clawed one back just two minutes after the turnaround, with goalkeeper Henrich Ravas forced to push Ryan Clampin’s glancing header around the post.
It wasn’t long before the Rams were turning their defensive work into an attack and on 57 minutes wideman Kellan Gordon shot from range, but he saw his audacious effort go narrowly over the bar.
Alex Babos was next to have a go at goal and he did so to mark yet another attacking spell for the Rams but, unfortunately, he was unable to hit the target from the left side of the box and he blasted the ball into the side netting.
Though Derby were dominating, the Rams were wary of Colchester’s counter-attacking threat and it would have come to fruition had Ravas not have made an outstanding save to keep McKeown from having the deficit in a one-on-one situation.
Out of the blue, a late tackle from frontman Walker in the 68th minute saw him dismissed by the referee, seeing Derby down to ten men. It didn’t take long for Colchester to make the most of having an extra man and with 18 minutes left to play they clawed one back through McKeown, who headed in Callum Jones’ dangerous cross from the left.
It was a bright period for Colchester and they strived to put the Rams under considerable pressure in an attempt to bring the game back level.
With time running out for the visitors, their golden chance to equalise came in the 82nd minute after Clampin’s curling shot from the left bounced off the bottom of Ravas’ right post before Bateman cleared the rebound.
Luck appeared to be on Derby’s side, but superb game management ensured they came out on top in the latter stages of what was a well fought contest by both sides.
Derby County U23s: Ravas, Santos, Karic (Cover 63), Bird (Mitchell-Lawson 63), Bateman, Macdonald, Gordon, Elsnik, Jakobsen (Cresswell 79), Babos, Walker
Substitutes not used: Barnes, Edwards
Sent Off: Walker
Colchester United U23s: Wilks, Jefferies (Keys 73), Ocran (Jones 61), Wright, Peter, Pollard, Brown, McKeown, Szmodics (Clampin 45), Dunne, Harrison
Substitutes not used: Phillips, Howard
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