Incredible Hulse returns to inspire Derby's comeback

Derby City 2 Coventry City 1
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Rob Hulse, twice showing marksmanship of Premier League quality, ensured a desperately needed respite for Derby and their manager Nigel Clough last night as they pitted a record of eight defeats in 11 Championship fixtures against a Coventry run without a win that stretches back to September.

Hulse spurned an opportunity to score a hat-trick – and double his total for the season in one night – when Dimi Konstantopoulos saved his 81st-minute penalty. Derby, however, had recovered well from Leon Best's early goal, while Coventry's anguish was compounded when Jordan Clarke was sent off in the 63rd minute after a challenge on Robbie Savage. Clinton Morrison protested angrily to Savage and referee Phil Crossley that Clarke's tackle had not merited his theatrical fall. The Coventry manager Chris Coleman, a friend and former Wales team-mate of Savage's, said pointedly: "You know what 'Sav' is going to do. He winds people up, gets in their face. You know he's going to do a bit of play-acting. I thought he'd been shot the way he was rolling on the floor."

Savage, his nose bloodied from the impact of hitting the turf, described the 17-year-old challenge as "naive" but claimed Derby's "good football" rather than Clarke's "inexperience" had turned the contest on its head. Clough, meanwhile, admitted he was "relieved" to take the points.

Coventry had taken a fourth-minute lead when Best volleyed his seventh goal of the season from 16 yards. Derby equalised when Paul Dickov's cross from the left picked out the oddly unmarked Hulse, who stabbed the ball past Konstantopoulos. Dickov then chased down a deep cross by the outstanding Stephen Pearson and laid the ball back for Hulse, whose first-time shot from 10 yards gave the keeper no chance.

Derby County (4-4-2): Bywater; Stoor, Barker, Leacock (Addison, 78), Moxey; Green (Livermore, 88), Savage, Pearson, Teale; Hulse, Dickov (Croft, 80). Substitutes not used: Atkins (gk), Connolly, McEveley, Hughes.

Coventry City (4-5-1): Konstantopoulos; Clarke, Barnett, Ward, Van Aanholt (Hussey, 67); Morrison, Cork (McIndoe, 67), Gunnarsson, Osbourne, Eastwood (Bell, 67); Best. Substitutes not used: Ireland (gk), Madine, Grandison, Jeffers.

Referee: PT Crossley (Kent).