Derby County ended their 2021/22 Sky Bet Championship campaign with a 1-0 defeat against Cardiff City at Pride Park Stadium.

Bluebirds striker Jordan Hugill scored the only goal of the game on 56 minutes to secure all three points for the visitors and ensure Derby finished the campaign in 23rd position.

Manager Wayne Rooney made four changes to his side as Ryan Allsop returned in goal, whilst Tom Lawrence was back in the side following a two-game suspension.

On a sunny afternoon in the East Midlands, the Rams were backed by a lively home support who were in fine voice all afternoon.

A tifo, organised by supporter group Club 84, was visible as the players emerged from the tunnel, whilst the atmosphere was spine-tingling.

But, there was a certain end of season feeling about the game with neither side really creating much in terms of clear cut opportunities in the opening half an hour.

Malcolm Ebiowei, fresh from scoring his first league goal for the Rams last week against Blackpool, was a bright spark on the right-hand side, whilst the energy in midfield was provided by Liam Thompson who showed neat touches and a burst of pace when needed.

It took 36 minutes for either side to have the first shot of the game, and it was Thompson who forced a good save from Cardiff City goalkeeper Dillon Phillips. The midfielder had time and space to shoot on the edge of the box but his effort was tipped wide by the shot stopper.

And the goalkeeper had to be alert five minutes later as the returning skipper almost netted the game’s opening goal. He picked up the ball 25 yards from goal, and with little options around him, he curled towards goal but Phillips made a good diving save to his left to tip his effort wide.

Derby certainly finished the half the stronger of the two sides as Louie Sibley was denied at the back post from a corner into the box, whilst Lawrence struck the post after meeting a Craig Forsyth cross, but the linesman’s flag was already up for offside.

But, ten minutes into the second half, the Rams fell behind as striker Hugill gave Cardiff City the lead. He had drifted into space into the penalty area and received a pass from Eli King before coolly slotting into an empty goal to give the visitors the advantage.

Derby nearly hit back immediately as a cross from substitute Luke Plange, who had replaced Lawrence, found Forsyth at the back post, but the defender’s effort was hit straight at Bluebirds goalkeeper Phillips.

The defender soon left the field to a standing ovation as he was replaced by Festy Ebosele, whose first act was to win a free kick on the edge of the box after being fouled by Perry Ng. Ebiowei took the set piece but his effort deflected off the wall and behind.

Rooney’s third and final change came with 20 minutes remaining as goalkeeper Ryan Allsop was replaced by Kelle Roos but the Rams were struggling to create a chance to get back into the game. Sibley went the closest as he fired wide from the edge of the box with just over five minutes remaining.

Derby did push for an equaliser, and with the final touch Curtis Davies almost scored, but the Rams just left themselves too much to do as they concluded their Sky Bet Championship season with only their fifth home defeat of the season against Steve Morison’s Cardiff City.

Derby County: Allsop (Roos 71’), Forsyth (Ebosele 65’), Bird, Lawrence (C) (Plange 59’), Morrison, Sibley, Ebiowei, Davies, Knight, Cashin, Thompson.

Substitutes: Stearman, Watson, Aghatise, Cybulski.

Cardiff City: Phillips, Bagan, Flint (C), Hugill, Wintle, Nelson, Drameh, Harris, King (Davies 62’, Watters 78’), Ng, Denham (Colwill 46’).

Substitutes: Luthra, McGuinness, Collins, Semenyo.

Attendance: 29,402 (1,665 visiting supporters)