They are still proud but not so loud at Pride Park these days. The town's fine old club reached the Premier League last season too soon for their own good and the reward for Billy Davies, the manager behind that triumph, was to be sacked after winning only one of the first 14 games in this campaign.
Now his successor, Paul Jewell, has overseen three more defeats, which means seven in a row all told. As of yesterday Derby are even further behind at the bottom and after deciding how much money to risk in the January sales, their eventual task may be to avoid eclipsing Sunderland's unfortunate record of only three wins and 15 points from a full season. Davies was right that the quality is simply not there, though he did not help himself with his summer purchases.
On a bitterly cold afternoon, dragging Middlesbrough back into trouble turned out to be another task beyond them, the visitors proving much stronger and winning with a superb goal by Tuncay Sanli, the Turkish international signed on a Bosman transfer. It was his third goal in as many games, all of them earning important points to push Gareth Southgate's team closer to their true position after slipping into the bottom three a fortnight ago. A deserved victory over Arsenal last weekend offered the sort of boost to confidence that Derby are understandably lacking, and it showed in what should have been a more comfortable victory. "It was a clinical result," Southgate said. "Last week's result gave us tremendous impetus."
It is good to see a bright young manager getting some results and equally encouraging that the chairman, Steve Gibson, should have been as supportive of him as he was withering of Southgate's opportunistic predecessor Steve McClaren in a recent interview.
Derby, with an average of one goal every four hours, were not due another for some time and Mark Schwarzer was untroubled for a good while.
Any feelgood factor engendered by Jewell taking a bow before his first home game quickly evaporated as the home side's nerves became apparent. Middlesbrough moved forward confidently from the start and Tuncay set up Gary O'Neil early on for a fierce shot that Stephen Bywater managed to beat away.
In the 36th minute George Boateng, well placed on the right of the penalty area, curled his shot too high, but less than 60 seconds later the visitors were in front. Derby again lost the ball, which was sent quickly down the left by David Wheater for Stewart Downing to cross on the half-volley, Tuncay volleying home in spectacular fashion. The immediate response that would have lifted the home side and their supporters failed to materialise when Kenny Miller collected a pass 20 yards out with his back to goal and swivelled to hit a fine shot that clipped the outside of the post.
Instead, Middlesbrough came out to dominate the first 10 minutes of the second half, a period in which they should twice have extended their lead. On a swift break down the middle Tuncay fed Downing, who, with Tyrone Mears not in sufficiently close contact, hit a fizzing low drive that Bywater turned away for a corner. Before that was cleared, Fabio Rochemback's cross eluded Wheater and was headed against the far post by a stooping Boateng.
"Derby came into this league under-prepared," Jewell said. "We're not lacking in effort, just quality." Nobody was arguing.Reuse content