Derby County continued their charge towards the Championship play-off places with a 2-1 victory at home to Reading on Saturday afternoon.
Goals from Tom Lawrence and captain Wayne Rooney put the Rams in control at half time, before a Ben Hamer error allowed Andy Rinomhota to pull one back for the visitors just after the hour mark.
2-1 was how it finished, although tensions were high following the full time whistle, whilst Lawrence and Reading defender Matt Miazga both saw red for violent conduct following a clash between the two.
Story of the match
It was Derby that had the early possession in the game but the visitors grew into the affair, going close through George Puscas and Yakou Meite before Ovie Ejaria struck the post from a tight angle just after half an hour.
As the game looked to be going into half time even, Derby opened the scoring on 44 minutes through talisman Lawrence. Andre Wisdom found teenager Louie Sibley after a promising run, and Sibley, fresh from his hat-trick at Millwall last week, found Lawrence nicely, and the forward curled a fine effort past Rafael in the Reading goal to give Derby the lead.
And things got better for the Rams. They continued to press into first half stoppage time and were rewarded when Liam Moore brought down Martyn Waghorn in the area. All English football fans will know that Rooney rarely misses from the spot, and today was no different, as he fired home to put Derby in a comfortable position going into the break.
The second half was once again even, with Rooney and Michael Olise causing problems for their respective sides, and the game was made interesting when Rinomhota pulled a goal back for the visitors on 62 minutes.
Derby ‘keeper Hamer opted to punch a John Swift corner rather than catch it, and the ball fell nicely to Rinomhota to place a neat header into the back of the net to get Reading back into the game.
Derby introduced the likes of Curtis Davies and Graeme Shinnie as manager Phillip Cocu opted to hold onto what his team had, and, despite Reading’s best efforts, they couldn’t find an equaliser, as the hosts held on for an important three points in the hunt for a play-off place.
The action didn’t finish there, however. Royals defender Miazga and Derby forward Lawrence had been at each other’s throats all game, and tensions boiled over at full time as the two exchanged blows and both saw red in a sour end to an otherwise exciting match.
Takeaways from the match
Louie Sibley is special
18-year-old Sibley has shown flashes of brilliance before, but fully announced himself last weekend when he netted a hat-trick in the Rams’ 3-2 win at Millwall.
He was once again in form back at Pride Park as he assisted Lawrence’s opener, before being taken off in a defensive move by Cocu on 69 minutes.
The youngster has really made the attacking midfield spot his own, and is set for a bright future.
Rams up for the fight
It was a slow start for Derby this season but two league wins in a row since the break, and four in total, has put them well in the hunt for a play-off place.
They’ll want to reach the top six again after losing last year’s play-off final, and Cocu’s men are worth keeping an eye on during the run in.
Too soon for Reading
Reading barely survived relegation last season, and, after a couple of years of mediocre Championship finishes, the Royals have performed better this season.
They may have had one eye on a potential play-off place, but Saturday’s loss leaves them 11 points off sixth-placed Cardiff.
This year may come too soon for Reading, but manager Mark Bowen is building something positive at the Madejski.
Lawrence hasn’t always been the best behaved player, and his red card for violent conduct after full-time means he will serve a three-game ban, missing key games against Preston North End, Nottingham Forest and West Bromich Albion.
The 26-year-old is Derby’s second top goalscorer and will be a huge miss for his team. A strange move to lash out when the win was secured.
There’s not much left to say about Sibley other than that he pulled the strings once again from midfield. He was unfortunate to get subbed, but will undoubtedly start on Wednesday at Preston. Derby will do well to hold onto him this summer.
Wisdom has flourished since moving to centre-half and he showed his skill once again at Pride Park. He helped out going forward, too, and is starting to build an impressive partnership with defensive partner Matt Clarke.