Idiakez catches Preston on hop to boost Derby fortune

Derby County 3 - Preston North End 1
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The Independent Football

Derby County's place in the Championship play-offs was effectively secured after 21 minutes, not by anything that had happened at Pride Park but because Wigan had scored twice against Reading, after which the result of this match was always likely to be academic.

Derby County's place in the Championship play-offs was effectively secured after 21 minutes, not by anything that had happened at Pride Park but because Wigan had scored twice against Reading, after which the result of this match was always likely to be academic.

None the less, George Burley's side may have scored an important victory, given that it is Preston North End who stand between them and a trip to the Millennium Stadium at the end of the month. Three points for Derby means they finish fourth to Preston's fifth, giving them the potential advantage of playing the second leg of their semi-final - on Thursday week - at home. The first encounter, at Deepdale, is on Sunday.

Burley admitted he had been as surprised as anyone by the success of his side. "We have not spent a penny on transfer fees and after finishing just outside the relegation places last season, I didn't think we were capable of being in the top six," he said. "But where you finish is where you deserve to and I've been proved wrong. It is a tremendous achievement by the players."

Preston were already sure of their top-six finish, which was not hard to deduce from a drab first 45 minutes in which Derby appeared content to play for the point they needed. But then, in stoppage time, Preston were caught out when Derby's player of the year, Inigo Idiakez, curled a free-kick home from 25 yards while the goalkeeper Carlo Nash organised the wall.

"It was an unprofessional goal to concede," the Preston manager, Billy Davies, said. The goal gave Derby fresh impetus and within four minutes of the restart they had doubled their lead, withTommy Smith tucking a neat shot inside the far post after Paul Peschisolido had picked him out in space on the left.

Patrick Agyemang pulled one back for Preston with 21 minutes left, following up after substitute Marlon Broomes's effort had been saved. However, Peschisolido, who was making a rare start with the leading scorer Grzegorz Rasiak recovering from surgery, added a third for Derby, running on to Richard Jackson's pass to score his ninth of the season in injury-time.

Goals: Idiakez (45) 1-0; Smith (49) 2-0; Agyemang (69) 2-1; Peschisolido (90) 3-1.

Derby County (4-4-2): Camp; Kenna, Huddlestone, Johnson, Jackson; Bisgaard, Idiakez (Taylor, 71), Bolder, Smith (Holmes 71); Reich (Konjic, 89), Peschisolido. Substitutes not used: Miller (gk), Junior.

Preston North End (4-4-2): Nash; Alexander, Mawene (Broomes, h-t), Davis, Hill; Mears, Etuhu, McKenna, Sedgwick (O'Neil, 51); Cresswell (Nugent, 65), Agyemang. Substitutes not used: Ward (gk), Lucketti.

Referee: P Crossley (Kent).

Bookings: Derby Idiakez; Preston Mears, O'Neil, Hill.

Man of the match: Idiakez.

Attendance: 31,237.

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