Derby County 1 Sheffield Wednesday 0: Davies may take Derby far

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The Independent Online

Derby County's unlikely rise on to the shoulder of the Championship leaders is certainly no goal-fest; pragmatism rather than daring is the lifeblood of their ascent.

In eight League games since the end of November, Derby have scored six times yet climbed from fourth to second in the table and gone level on points with Birmingham City in first place. They do not do victories by more than the odd goal - at least they have not in the last two months - but they are becoming expert at grinding them out.

This one against the similarly resurgent Sheffield Wednesday came from a wonderful curling free-kick from David Jones out on the right with virtually the last kick of three minutes of stoppage time.

"I think Sheffield are the best side we've played since I came here," said Jones, the former Manchester United reserve midfielder whose arrival in November on loan has recently been made permanent. "It was a battling performance from us and it's good that we pick up these 1-0."

Organised as ever, Billy Davies, the Derby manager, has overseen five clean sheets in seven League matches and decided that his recruitment priorities lie away from the defence.

There was an encouraging debut here by Gary Teale on the right wing and last week's two other captures, the midfielder Stephen Pearson and forward Craig Fagan, made an impact coming off the substitutes' bench. More signings are likely.

Fagan won the decisive set piece, the route that always looked Derby's likeliest way through on a day when Wednesday's defending was excellent. The 37-year-old Mark Crossley hardly made a save, although he should have got something on Jones' shot high to his near post.

On this form, Wednesday will challenge for the play-offs. Like Derby, they were resolute, and built well through the skilful Steve MacLean. "No disrespect but, if that's the top of the division, we've got nothing to fear," said Brian Laws, the Wednesday manager.

Goal: Jones (90) 1-0.

Derby County (4-3-3): Bywater; Edworthy, Moore, Leacock, Camara; Barnes (Fagan, 62), S Johnson (Pearson, 64), Jones; Teale (Bisgaard, 71), Howard, Lupoli. Substitutes not used: M Johnson, Malcolm.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Crossley; Simek, Bullen, Bougherra, Spurr; Tudgay, Lunt, Whelan, Brunt (Small, 69); Burton, MacLean (Graham, 89). Substitutes not used: Adamson (gk), Coughlan, Folly.

Referee: C Oliver (Northumberland).

Booked: Sheffield Wednesday Simek, Crossley, Spurr.

Man of the match: Bullen.

Attendance: 28,936.

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