Football: Wednesday grateful to Hirst for their point

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The Independent Online
Derby County 2 Sheffield Wednesday 2

Mark Pembridge gained his revenge on his Baseball Ground critics by setting up David Hirst for the goal which denied Derby a precious Premiership victory and extended Sheffield Wednesday's fine run of results.

Pembridge, who left Derby for Wednesday, was jeered every time he touched the ball on his return but, in the 76th minute, he provided a pass that released Hirst, who rifled a left-foot shot past Russell Hoult. Hirst had only been on the field less than a minute, and Derby's appeals for offside were in vain as the visitors struck with their first attack of the second half.

The match only went ahead after a late pitch inspection at the Baseball Ground. Driving rain and high winds put the game in doubt and the playing surface was only passed fit after some frantic mopping-up operations by the ground staff. The Surrey referee, Paul Alcock, gave the match the go-ahead just before 7pm.

The match was heavily influenced by the muddy condition of the pitch, which made passing impossible in some areas. Fortunately, the rain, which had lashed across the ground leading up to the kick-off, which had been put back to 8pm, eased - and both sides had chances in an even first half, with Wednesday drawing first blood.

Wayne Collins scored his first goal since his move from Crewe when he hooked in a right foot shot after hesitation in the Derby defence. Derby went close on several occasions before Wednesday conceded their first goal in more than six and a half hours of football when Dean Sturridge turned to beat Kevin Pressman with a low shot.

The second half was dominated by the home side, who went in front in the 71st minute with a goal fashioned and executed in Croatia. Aljosa Asanovic released Chris Powell, whose cross was headed past Pressman by Igor Stimac for his first goal of the season.

But Derby's joy lasted only five minutes as Hirst ploughed through to take Wednesday's unbeaten run to just one defeat in their last 19 games, and they could have claimed victory but for a glaring miss by Andy Booth, who headed tamely over six minutes from the end.

Derby County: Hoult; Carsley, Rowett, McGrath, Stimac, C Powell, Van der Laan (Ward, h-t), Asanovic, Trollope, Dailly, Sturridge. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Simpson, Flynn, Rahmberg.

Sheffield Wednesday: Pressman; Atherton, Nolan, Pembridge, Newsome, Walker, Collins, Nicol (Blinker, 65), Carbone (Donaldson, 82), Booth, Humphreys (Hirst, 75). Substitutes: Clarke (gk), Stefanovic.

Referee: P Alcock (Redhill).

Shaun Newton climbed off the substitutes' bench to secure a creditable 1-1 draw for the Nationwide Football League Under-21 side against their Italian Serie B counterparts in Genoa yesterday. The 21-year-old Charlton midfielder had only been on the pitch for three minutes when he hit the 62nd-minute equaliser. Alessio Pirri had put the Italians ahead in the 35th minute.