Derby County vs Sheffield Wednesday
Reda Johnson’s stoppage time header salvaged a deserved point for the Owls, who had found themselves two goals down inside the opening 30 minutes at Pride Park. After goals from Nathan Tyson and Jake Buxton had given the Rams a comfortable lead, it looked like Wednesday’s first game back in the second tier was going to be a miserable one. But Chris O’Grady gave his side a lifeline with a stunning strike just short of half-time, before Johnson pounced to reward a spell of heavy pressure from the visitors.
The Owls went in to the game looking for their first league goal in almost six years against the Rams, but unbeaten since February and backed by an army of 6,000 at Pride Park, they were hoping to put that right this time around.
Derby made two changes from Tuesday’s cup defeat to Scunthorpe, with Jeff Hendrick and Jamie Ward coming in for Michael Jacobs and Theo Robinson. Wednesday also made two changes from their 4-2 victory over Oldham, bringing in Rhys McCabe and Chris O’Grady in place of Gary Madine and Chris Maguire, who only moved to Hillsborough in July, having fallen out of favour with Rams boss Nigel Clough.
The visitors showed intent from the off, winger Jermaine Johnson found space in the middle of the park, but his run and shot was comfortably dealt with by Frank Fielding. But Derby soon took control and when Gareth Roberts’ left wing cross was flicked on by Jamie Ward, Tyson was waiting unmarked to slot home the opener. It was the injury-plagued striker’s first league goal for the club since joining from Nottingham Forest in July 2011.
The home side continued to press and it was no real surprise when they added a second shortly before the half hour mark. Wednesday failed to clear their lines and when the ball was drilled back across goal, Paul Coutts was on hand to whip in a cross which was met perfectly by centre back Buxton, who headed low into Chris Kirkland’s bottom corner.
Minutes later it could have been three. The ball found its way to Tyson after confusion in the visitor’s box, but Kirkland was out to thwart the striker’s effort on goal. It was poor defending again from the Owls, who had failed to learn their lesson from Monday’s trip to Oldham. Chris O’Grady was the hero from the bench that day and ten minutes later he picked up where he left off. There seemed to be nothing on as he received Jose Semedo’s pass with his back to goal, but the burly striker managed to hold off his marker and smash an unstoppable left-footed effort which flew in to the top corner.
After the break O’Grady went close again, latching on to Rhys McCabe’s pass and unleashing a fierce drive, which Fielding did well to tip over. Wednesday continued to grow in confidence. Full back Lewis Buxton received the ball on the edge of the box, before pirouetting his way through the Derby defence and finding Gary Madine at the far post, only for the striker’s effort to be ruled out for offside.
A well-struck free kick from Ward forced Kirkland into a smart save soon after, but it was the travelling fans were off their seats again moments later. O’Grady found the bottom corner with a placed effort from 18 yards, only to see the referee had blown his whistle with Madine adjudged to have handled in the build up.
The Owls had the momentum now, as chants of “we’re going to score in a minute” began to echo around Pride Park. Clough obviously heard it too and brought on defenders James O’Connor and Valentin Gjokaj to try and kill the game.
But as the Rams dropped deeper, the visitors continued to press and when the Derby defence failed to clear their lines at the death, Wednesday seized the opportunity. The equaliser owed much to the two Johnson’s. Jermaine’s run from deep found Buxton and when his cross was knocked down by Madine at the far post, Reda stooped to head home from inside the six yard box. It was a real striker’s finish from the Benin international, who’d struggled at left back for large parts of the afternoon.
Remarkably, there was still time for O’Grady to snatch it for the Owls, but his fierce shot was tipped away by Fielding as both sides left Pride Park with a sense of déjà vu from their midweek cup games.
Derby: Fielding, Brayford, Keogh, J.Buxton, Roberts, Bryson, Coutts, Hendrick, Hughes (Gjokaj), Ward (Robinson), Tyson (O’Connor).
Wednesday: Kirkland, L.Buxton, Llera, Gardner (Beevers), R.Johnson, Antonio, McCabe, Semedo, J.Johnson, Pecnik (Madine), O’Grady.
Bookings: Buxton, R.Johnson.
Man of the Match: Jermaine Johnson (Sheff Weds)