Four games into the season and, with the jeers ringing round Pride Park, there is already a detectable whiff of what could be termed the Watford factor about Derby. Just like the Watford of late, lamented Premier League memory, Derby ran and ran, worked and worked, hoped and hoped, without ever threatening to claim their first win. There is, it is already clear, not enough class in the squad to keep them afloat in a difficult world.
Billy Davies, Derby's manager, lamented a "lack of discipline" but his problems go deeper than that. Birmingham, hardly the Rolls-Royces of the top flight, cavorted to their own first three points but as their manager, Steve Bruce, pointed out they made hard work of this success. "We should have been four up by half-time," he said. "The game should have been out of sight."
Birmingham's joy, and Derby's grief, could be laid at the feet of Cameron Jerome and, until his departure with cramp on the hour, Mikael Forssell. From the time they combined after just 32 seconds to put Birmingham in front they harassed Derby's back line, with Jerome's speed the biggest factor.
Jerome, a £3 million buy from Cardiff last season, was making his first start of the season, replacing Garry O'Connor, who had been on international duty with Scotland. "Cameron has been chomping at the bit," Bruce said. "He has frightening speed, as quick as I've ever seen. It was one of his best performances."
Derby last beat Birmingham at home 15 years ago, and that wait was never likely after they fell behind so quickly. For the first, but by no means last time Birmingham were able to exploit uncertainty in the home defence, Jerome exchanging passes with Forssell before driving left-footed across Stephen Bywater to score off the far post.
Birmingham's striking duo came close to creating a second goal 20 minutes after the first. Jerome headed over Andy Todd for Forssell to sprint through and go round Bywater, but he delayed his tap-in long enough for the keeper to turn it behind for a corner, from which Radhi Jaidi's header came back off the bar.
Derby, with little answer to Birmingham's slick build-ups, were again in debt to Bywater on the brink of half-time when Fabrice Muamba, cleverly slipped through by Olivier Kapo, was denied by the keeper's sprint to the very edge of the penalty area.
The lively Jerome was at it again on the resumption, outpacing his markers and getting past Bywater, only to find the shooting angle too sharp. His pull-back offered Forssell space for a shot that was deflected for a corner with Bywater stranded.
It was a miss Birmingham were to regret, if briefly. Gary Teale's ball down the left allowed Eddie Lewis, Derby's new signing from Leeds with 70 caps for the United States, to cross precisely to Derby's captain Matt Oakley, who volleyed viciously home.
Derby were level for just 12 minutes, and there was irony in Birmingham's second strike. With the experienced Darren Moore waiting to come on for Claude Davis, Forssell was forced off, to be replaced by Sebastian Larsson but, with Moore still looking for a man to mark, the reorganised defence was breached as Jerome, collecting a cross from Stephen Kelly, turned to thump past Bywater.
Although Oakley was to come close in added time, Maik Taylor turning away his long-range effort, Derby did not deserve to get anything out of this. They will need to learn, and quick.Reuse content