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Dublin: 4°C Thursday 13 May 2021

Derby's relegation concerns deepen, Mick McCarthy's Cardiff draw at Reading

Wayne Rooney’s side fell to a 2-1 defeat at Blackburn.

Derby manager Wayne Rooney.
Derby manager Wayne Rooney.
Image: PA

DERBY’S RELEGATION WORRIES deepened after Harvey Elliott’s strike condemned them to a damaging 2-1 defeat at Blackburn, while Reading’s outside chances of reaching the Championship play-offs suffered a setback when they were held to a late 1-1 draw by Mick McCarthy’s Cardiff City at the Madejski Stadium.

Wayne Rooney’s Derby side went ahead against the only team in worse form in the last six games when former Rovers loanee Tom Lawrence headed in from close range.

They looked comfortable for spells afterwards but gave away two soft goals that turned the game in Blackburn’s favour, through Sam Gallagher’s clever header just before the break – his seventh of the season – and Liverpool loanee Elliott marking his 50th senior appearance in style, profiting after Andre Wisdom needlessly surrendered possession.

These are worrying times for Rooney’s men who, despite a decent performance, lost their fourth game in five outings and remain fourth from bottom, four points above Rotherham who have three games in hand.

Rovers can breathe a sigh of relief after surely putting any lingering relegation worries to bed following an encouraging second-half display in particular, which yielded their first win at Ewood since the end of January.

Blackburn captain and Republic of Ireland international Darragh Lenihan missed out with a groin strain so Jarrad Branthwaite made his first start since February. The Rams, meanwhile, welcomed back Matthew Clarke and Nathan Byrne.

Adam Armstrong’s 20th-minute free-kick was superbly repelled by the outstretched David Marshall, and it proved crucial as Derby went ahead two minutes later when Graeme Shinnie’s glorious left-wing cross was met by Lawrence, who powered in a close-range header.

Derby dominated most of the half, toying with Blackburn at times, and Patrick Roberts ought to have ended a slick move with a goal but curled narrowly wide.

And they paid the price three minutes before the break when Barry Douglas curled in an inviting corner that Gallagher was afforded space to skilfully flick a header beyond Marshall.

Louie Sibley went close to restoring the lead moments later with a left-foot drive, but Thomas Kaminski produced a brilliant save, tipping it out for a corner.

Armstrong missed a hat-trick of chances within the first 15 minutes of the restart, with Marshall standing firm all three times.

Marshall was beaten in the 66th minute when Wisdom lost the ball and Armstrong fed Elliott before the teenager hammered into the bottom-right corner for his sixth this season.

Kaminski parried a rasping Lawrence free-kick into the path of Byrne, whose effort cannoned off the post five minutes later before an even better save in the dying minutes saw him superbly tip away Colin Kazim-Richards’ downward header.

Byrne’s stoppage-time corner went agonisingly close to going straight in, but Kaminski intervened before the last play of the game saw Ireland U21 international Louie Watson go down in the box, leaving the Rams furious as the final whistle blew.

At the Madejski Stadium, a poor first half produced little goalmouth action at either end, though Reading goalkeeper Rafael did have to make a smart save to push away a well-struck shot from Harry Wilson.

Although Reading improved radically after the break, they missed a series of chances and paid the price when Kieffer Moore slammed in an 87th-minute penalty.

But they responded in the fourth minute of stoppage time when Yakou Meite nodded home from close range to rescue a point.

After a poor recent run with just one win in six games, Reading found themselves out of the top six for the first time since mid-December – five points adrift of AFC Bournemouth and Barnsley.

Cardiff had recorded only one victory in seven outings before the trip to Berkshire, the Welsh club having fallen well off the promotion pace to sit 12 points off the top six and seven behind Reading.

Cardiff began the better in the bright sunshine, with Wilson surging forward only to be brought down by Liam Moore on the edge of the home area.

Wilson tapped the resulting free-kick to Will Vaulks but his powerful shot was kept out by the defensive wall.

And again it was Wilson involved when the Wales winger cut in from the right flank, unleashing a fierce drive that Rafael did well to parry away.

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Little was seen of Reading as an attacking threat until shortly before the half-hour, when Michael Olise and Ovie Ejaria saw long-range attempts blocked by the solid City rearguard.

Meite went closer soon after but his goalward flick from Olise’s chipped pass was comfortably saved by goalkeeper Alex Smithies.

Reading started brightly after the interval, with Ejaria testing Smithies from outside the box.

But the hosts were dealt a blow when 22-goal top scorer Lucas Joao had to be substituted in the 58th minute due to an injury.

Cardiff were grimly holding on but were assisted by wayward finishing from Meite, who squandered three decent opportunities in swift succession.

City could have gone ahead on the break towards the end but Wilson’s clever dink over the onrushing Rafael was hacked off the goal-line by Andy Yiadom.

But they fared better with three minutes remaining when Omar Richards clumsily fouled Kieffer Moore, who then rifled home the spot-kick for his 17th league goal of the season.

However, Reading hit back in stoppage time when Meite was on hand to nod home a Sam Baldock cross from close range to secure a share of the spoils.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Derek Bowler

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