Town’s performance at the iPro Stadium merited more than a two goal defeat, but as per last weekend’s game David Wagner’s side was made to rue missed chances whilst on top against Derby County.
The Terriers started both halves very well, but presentable opportunities were not capitalized upon and the hosts took theirs through Chris Martin and then substitute Johnny Russell.
There was lots of good passing play to admire from Wagner’s side once again, but it wasn’t to be on the afternoon.
The Terriers started well against their promotion-chasing host and could have taken the lead inside the third minute when Tommy Smith’s low cross was deflected into the path of Harry Bunn, but his shot – which was heading inside the far post – was blocked by right back Cyrus Christie.
Derby responded straight away with a well-constructed attack down the Town right, but although the low pull back was perfect for winger Nick Blackman he didn’t connect properly with his first time shot and the ball trickled wide.
That set the tone for a first half full of chances for both sides, with Town giving as good as they got – even though Wagner’s men didn’t make the most of a few opportunities to deliver set pieces into the penalty area by over-hitting crosses.
Joe Lolley and Jamie Paterson were playing well in the attacking third, whereas at the other end Dean Whitehead was back to his imperious best – making several vital blocks and tackles. One came in the 12th minute, when he tracked Tom Ince’s mazy dribble before winning the ball in the Town penalty area.
Paterson and Nahki Wells both shot over from range in response before Lolley created himself a good opportunity in the 17th minute with a trademark dribble at the heart of the Derby defence, eventually pulling wide of target on his right foot from the edge of the box.
As the 25th minute struck, Derby enjoyed a first concerted spell of territorial pressure and almost opened the scoring. Martin Cranie’s intended pass for Whitehead went astray and former Town Player of the Year Jacob Butterfield’s quick pass released Ince into the area. Thankfully, Mark Hudson got enough of a block on his left footed shot to ensure the close range effort hit the post before bouncing clear.
Lolley was back at it two minutes later, driving into the penalty area from the right only to place his low drive too close to goalkeeper Scott Carson.
Sadly for Town, Derby then opened the scoring just after the half hour mark through the familiar source of striker Chris Martin. Right back Christie is always a big threat going forward and he was afforded too much time to curl a cross into the area, where Martin got half a yard on Hudson to nod the ball expertly past the diving Steer and inside the far post.
The Rams enjoyed more of the ball after the opener and Cranie denied a certain second when he got in front of Martin to clear Marcus Olsson’s dangerous cross, but at the other end Paterson made Carson push his powerful long range drive clear.
Town came out of the blocks well again at the start of the second half and Jamie Paterson had a great chance three minutes in. Smith got forward again down the right and his low ball was set back to the Forest loanee, who placed a side-footed effort from around 15 yards out.
Barely a minute later Smith tested the home goalkeeper with a low drive that was creeping inside the far post, with Carson pushing the ball away low to his right.
Carson soon sprang from his line to clear as Paterson ran clear onto Bunn’s pass, but gradually the Rams got a foothold back in the game and Ince should have done better with a tame low shot that Jed Steer pounced upon.
Both sides made subs in an attempt to get the game’s all-important second goal – and it went Derby’s way in the 72nd minute. Johnny Russell was afforded too much space on the edge of the Town penalty area, but he still had a lot to do and executed a perfect curling finish around Steer and into the far corner.
Town sub Karim Matmour saw a few shots deflected wide of target, whilst at the other end Martin blazed a presentable opportunity over and Ince hit the bar with a vicious dipping drive as the game finished 2-0.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Jed Steer; James Husband, Martin Cranie, Mark Hudson (c), Tommy Smith; Kyle Dempsey, Dean Whitehead; Joe Lolley (Elvis Manu, 76), Jamie Paterson (Flo Bojaj, 89), Harry Bunn (Karim Matmour, 64); Nahki Wells
Lloyd Allinson, Jason Davidson, Ishmael Miller, Duane Holmes
Dean Whitehead (36); Mark Hudson (90)