Derby County Under-23s’ relegation from Premier League 2 - Division 1 was confirmed on Friday afternoon with a late 2-1 loss at Leicester City.
Derby took the lead after five minutes through Jack Stretton’s eighth goal of the league season for the Under-23s, from just ten appearances, but Shane Flynn quickly equalised for the hosts.
Substitute Tawanda Maswanhise went on to win it for the home side with seven minutes remaining to pick up all three points at the King Power Stadium.
The Rams’ drop back to Premier League 2 - Division 2 ends an impressive six-season stay in the top tier after achieving automatic promotion back in 2016.
Pat Lyons’ side went into the contest with the Foxes knowing they would need to win all four of their remaining fixtures and rely on results elsewhere to avoid the drop following a testing season, with the club’s well documented off-field issues having a knock-on effect for the Under-23s all year.
With Derby’s first team in action later in the day against Fulham at Pride Park Stadium, it meant that Lyons once had a limited number of players, and a youthful group, to call upon for the trip across the East Midlands.
Trialist George Nunn was named in the starting line-up but, otherwise, Lyons had a similar squad to the one that featured in the 4-3 Premier League Cup Quarter Final defeat to West Bromwich Albion last weekend.
Derby flew out of the traps in the Leicestershire sunshine and took the lead inside the opening five minutes through Stretton. Midfielder Connor Dixon's powerful run into the Leicester box drew defenders towards him and he found a pass for Stretton in the centre of goal, where he finished well on the stretch.
The lead only lasted four minutes, however, as Flynn levelled before the ten-minute mark. Joe Wormleighton delivered a ball into the Rams’ box and the defender was on hand to volley the ball beyond Harry Evans.
Evans had to be alert to make a number of good stops in the opening 45 minutes to keep the hosts out, while Derby were forced into two changes in the first half with Dixon and Stretton picking up early injuries.
Leicester pushed to take the lead early in the second half, but the Rams defended well and in numbers to make some vital blocks to keep their opponents at bay.
Chances were few and far between for long spells in the second period, until Foxes substitute Maswanhise won possession off Courtney Clarke and fired beyond Evans with 83 minutes on the clock.
The Rams pushed for a late leveller, but it wasn’t to be as their spell in the top division of Premier League 2 came to an end with defeat.
Derby’s Under-23s have three games to play out in the campaign, starting with the visit of Tottenham Hotspur to Pride Park Stadium in their final home fixture of the season on Monday 25th April (7pm kick-off).
Leicester City Under-23s: Young (GK), Wormleighton, Brunt (C), R Nelson (Cartwright 56), Flynn, B Nelson, Marcal-Madivadua (Hughes 70), Leshabela, Popov (Maswanhise 64), Suengchitthawon, Alves.
Substitutes Not Used: Chibueze (GK), Pennant.
Derby County Under-23s: Evans (GK), McDonald, Grewal-Pollard, Watson (C), Solomon, Clarke, Nunn, Robinson (Matthews 79), Stretton (Wilson 35), Dixon (Shonibare 19), Aghatise.
Substitutes Not Used: Roberts (GK).