Derby County vs Hull City match report: Ruthless Tigers put one foot in Championship play-off final

Derby County 0 Hull City 3: Defensive mistakes cost Rams before late breakaway third wraps up tie

Jon Culley
iPro Stadium
Saturday 14 May 2016 16:11
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A dejected Tom Ince walks away from Hull City players celebrating their second goal of the game
A dejected Tom Ince walks away from Hull City players celebrating their second goal of the game

Derby beat Hull twice in the regular season without conceding a goal, winning 4-0 at the iPro Stadium only last month. Yet those results counted for nothing as Steve Bruce's side took a firm grip on this Championship play-off semi-final.

After a season dogged by inconsistency, Bruce hailed a performance in which his team “hit the level we are capable of” to leave Derby facing a near-impossible task to reach the Wembley final.

In a match with few moments of real quality, Derby produced one of their flattest performances of the season and will travel to Hull for Tuesday's second leg in the knowledge that their promotion ambitions are likely to come to nothing for a third season in a row.

Beaten by Queen's Park Rangers at Wembley in 2014, Derby led the field at several points last season only to fall away so dramatically that they did not even make the play-offs.

Now they have the weight of play-off history against them: no team has recovered from a two-goal deficit after the first leg of a semi-final, let alone three.

There were impressive performances all over the pitch from Hull, for whom the full backs, Moses Odubajo and Andy Robertson, were outstanding going forward, and centre-backs Michael Dawson and Curtis Davies commanding at the back. Jake Livermore worked tirelessly in midfield.

Hull went ahead after half an hour when leading scorer Abel Hernandez drilled the ball home from 25 yards following a mistake by Derby's Bradley Johnson.

Livermore nipped the ball away from defender Jason Shackell and Hernandez showed the kind of sharp finishing that enabled him to score 20 goals during the regular season.

Their second goal, five minutes from half-time, was a fluke, a cross from Odubajo flying into the net via a huge deflection off the unfortunate Shackell.

But given that Derby did not manage a shot on target until nine minutes from the end they could hardly complain that they were unlucky, their failure to test stand-in goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic the biggest indictment of their performance.

Jakupovic, who had appeared in only two Championship matches during the regular season, was called up after regular goalkeeper Allan McGregor cried off with a back injury but a well-drilled and highly disciplined defence made sure he was barely tested.

The final blow came in the eighth minute of stoppage time as a lightning Hull breakaway from a Derby corner ended with left back Andy Robertson driving the ball past Scott Carson from the edge of the penalty area to turn a daunting lead into one that is probably unassailable.

Derby's Will Hughes takes on Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone but the hosts enjoyed little fortune 

“You want your big players, the experienced players to turn up for the big games,” Bruce said. “We have players who have played in big games, in the Premier League and they had put in a performance that showed that.

“We have to guard against complacency on Tuesday because the reason we have not made the top two is that we have thrown in a curve ball every now and again.

“In the game here last month we went behind through a mistake and then Moses [Odubajo] gets sent off and we got out backsides kicked.

“But today we looked a very good team all over the pitch. If we perform to the level we are capable of, it takes a good team to beat us.

“After what happened here in the league, it was important we stayed disciplined today and defensively as a team I felt we were magnificent. For Derby not to create a chance was testament to the way we played.

“If they had been able to wedge me in somehow, I could have played in goal today.”

Bruce felt for Derby head coach Darren Wassall, the former central defender who briefly played alongside him at Birmingham.

“In a big game like today the first goal is hugely important and we've all been there, in big games in front of an expectant crowd, when all of a sudden you can't put one foot in front of the other.

“But I would rather say it was the excellence of our side, that they were beaten by a far better team on the day. I don't think there is any disputing that.”

Wassall, who had seen his side lose only two of their last nine regular season matches since Harry Redknapp was appointed as football advisor, admitted the odds are stacked against his team making further progress.

“We have to show some character now and on Tuesday night, we're playing for some pride and some character and to show what we're made of,” he said.

“We've left ourselves with a mountain to climb. To lose 3-0 at home in a play-off is your worst nightmare, but we have to dust ourselves down and go again on Tuesday.”

Derby County (4-3-3) Carson; Christie, Keogh, Shackell, Olsson; Bryson, Hughes (Bent, 87), Johnson (Butterfield, 59); Russell (Blackman, 70), Martin, Ince. Substitutes not used: Grant (gk), Buxton, Hendrick, Baird.

Hull City (4-1-4-1) Jakupovic; Odubajo, Dawson, Davies, Robertson; Huddlestone; Elmohamady, Livermore, Diame (Bruce, 90), Snodgrass (Clucas, 87); Hernandez (Akpom, 82). Substitutes not used: Kuciak (gk), Maguire, Maloney, Aluko.

Referee Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire)

Bookings: Derby Olsson. Hull Dawson, Livermore, Odubajo.

Attendance 29,969.

Man of the match Odubajo.

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