Ward seals it for Derby

Derby County 2 Ward 56, Whitlow 89 og Leicester City 0 Attendance: 18,010
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The Independent Online
There's nothing like victory in a local derby to lift the spirits and Derby - one point from their last four games - were badly in need of something to bring the colour back to their cheeks. Leicester, on a high with Newcastle's scalp dangling fresh at their belt, had to reshuffle their defence because of injury and suspension and were found wanting in the late frantic effort to save a point.

Even when the visitors did raise the energy for that belated surge, rarely did Paul McGrath and his mates look ruffled. The raw talent that is Emile Heskey was well and truly in the veteran defender's pocket and it fell to Steve Claridge to mount anything approaching a threat for most of the game.

He did manage to clip a cross-cum-shot against Russell Hoult's crossbar in the first half and force a good save from a header in the closing minutes - but that was almost the sum total of Leicester's aggression. Derby's likeliest route to finding the net seemed to lie with the delicate touch of Aljosa Asanovic which threatened to unravel the City defence, which was further weakened when Spencer Prior was injured and had to be substituted a couple of minutes before half-time.

A beautiful chip pass from the Croat gave Ashley Ward an opportunity wasted with an indecisive header, and then his sweet cross saw Kevin Poole beat Christian Dailly to the vital punch by inches. Minutes before half- time it seemed as if Asanovic had engineered a break in the stalemate, but Gary Rowett's header from the right-wing corner was scrambled off the City line by Mustafa Izzet.

Simon Grayson, City's captain for the day, made several timely interceptions that kept the scoresheet blank until the 56th minute. Sean Flynn's deep cross from the right found Dailly climbing above the Leicester defence, and his nod down into the goalmouth was forced home by Ward.

Leicester threw on Ian Marshall and Garry Parker to add some aggression in their struggle to save a point, but it was to little avail. The estimable McGrath was still controlling the traffic with the minimum of effort when it came his way.

Dean Sturridge replaced Dailly eight minutes from time and his fresh legs were decisive for Derby's second goal in the 88th minute. Again, a Ward headed flick sent the substitute racing into the penalty box. The angle seemed too tight for his shot but Mike Whitlow, hurrying back to protect his goalkeeper, found the shot bouncing off him into his own net.

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