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Derby County a step closer to Premier League football with semi-final first-leg win

Cameron Jerome scored the only goal of the game for the Rams against Fulham.

Cameron Jerome celebrates his goal.
Cameron Jerome celebrates his goal.
Image: Richard Sellers

CAMERON JEROME PUT Derby in control of their Championship play-off semi-final against Fulham as the striker clinched a 1-0 win in the first leg on Friday.

Jerome struck late in the first half at Pride Park to give Derby a crucial lead to take into the second leg in west London on Monday.

“Thankfully of late it’s been a purple patch for myself and I’ve been able to contribute,” Jerome said.

Hoping to avoid a repeat of their play-off semi-final defeat against Reading last season, Fulham will need to improve their finishing in the return at Craven Cottage if they are to keep their promotion bid alive.

Derby defender Curtis Davies said: “It’s good to have a lead going into the second leg and we’re a clean sheet away from Wembley.

“They’re going to have to come out, hopefully we can get on the break and take a couple of chances and seal the tie.”

Fulham missed out on automatic promotion to the Premier League by just two points after being pipped by Cardiff on the final weekend of the regular season.

The Cottagers finished third in the Championship — 13 points ahead of sixth-placed Derby, who needed to win their last match to book their place in the play-offs.

But the points gap between the clubs wasn’t apparent in the first half as Derby seized control.

The Rams took the lead in the 34th minute when Craig Forsyth’s cross was met by Jerome with a powerful header past Marcus Bettinelli at the far post.

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It was Jerome’s fifth goal in four games as the well-travelled forward spearheads Derby’s attempt to return to the top flight for the first time since 2008.

Fulham, last in the Premier League in 2014, have failed to win promotion in all three of their previous play-off appearances.

They nearly drew level nine minutes after the break when Kevin McDonald hit the crossbar from the edge of the area.

Scott Carson beat away Tom Cairney’s drive after 63 minutes as Fulham’s threat grew.

Derby escaped again when Cairney curled wide with four minutes left, but the hosts held on to preserve their lead.

Middlesbrough host Aston Villa in the other semi-final first leg on Saturday.

© AFP 2018

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