Fowler limps off as Derby sign off

Derby County 0 Leeds United 1
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The Independent Football

With Derby already relegated to the Nationwide League and Leeds unable to improve on guaranteed qualification for the Uefa Cup, this was never likely to be a match pulsating with raw excitement, and a near full-house was probably fortunate to see the one goal it did produce.

In the event, the fans witnessed one of some quality from Lee Bowyer after 16 minutes, consigning Derby to a seventh consecutive defeat as their top-flight membership ends with their worst sequence of results since they were promoted in 1996. There was concern, however, after a first-half injury to Robbie Fowler threatened to create another headache for the England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson.

Fowler was hurt soon after Leeds had gone ahead, stubbing his foot into the turf as he tried to keep the ball in play on the left touchline. First indications suggest a jarred right hip, and although it will be tomorrow before the injury is investigated further the Leeds manager, David O'Leary, doubts that it is a serious problem.

The goal had been noteworthy for both its creation and execution, stemming from a superbly delivered overhead pass by Alan Smith into the path of Bowyer, who had sprinted into vacant space on the right to breach Derby's offside trap. Fowler offered the option of a pass inside as the home side struggled to regroup but the Leeds midfielder made the right choice in going for goal himself and finished with a perfectly judged chip over the advancing Mart Poom.

Derby should have been awarded a penalty barely a minute afterwards when Rio Ferdinand clearly impeded Branko Strupar as the Derby striker shaped to shoot, but Leeds deserved to be in front at half-time. Either Eirik Bakke or the substitute Robbie Keane should have converted an excellent low cross by Harry Kewell, who along with Bowyer brought saves from Poom before the interval, the Estonian goalkeeper looking sharp despite a three-month absence with a finger injury.

The home side's chosen script would have seen them mark their last Premiership fixture at Pride Park with a performance in keeping with their stadium's name but, try as they might, they found a goal beyond them.

Strupar and Malcolm Christie both had opportunities they could not quite take, and Adam Bolder – the half-time replacement for the ineffective Georgi Kinkladze – brought a full-stretch save from Nigel Martyn, but the closest to a second goal came at the other end as Smith cut a weaving path through the Derby rearguard, rounding Poom, only to send his shot thudding against an upright and out for a goal-kick.

With the rival supporters staging an impromptu contest for the most amusing chant – "there's only one Graham Poll" was one joint entry – the match was played in an end-of-term atmosphere. Although there was a less pleasant moment when the Leeds defender Gary Kelly threw the ball at a ball-boy while a teammate was receiving treatment, hitting the unfortunate youngster in the face.

Subsequent attempts by the Leeds man to offer a consoling pat on the head were met with a frosty stare. But Kelly clearly regretted the incident and redeemed himself on the final whistle by taking off his shirt and handing it to the boy, who went home delighted with his prize.

Derby County 0 Leeds United 1
Bowyer 16

Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 30,705

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