Report from DERBY COUNTY 3-1 WBA as the Rams secure a play-off place

Martyn Waghorn heads home the opening goal.
Martyn Waghorn heads home the opening goal.

Derby County will contest the Sky Bet Championship play-offs for the fourth time in six years after beating West Bromwich Albion at Pride Park on Sunday.

Two goals in three second-half minutes proved the difference in a pulsating encounter that saw both sides give as good as they got until the Rams took control in the game's final quarter.

Harry Wilson celebrates the third goal. Photo by Jez Tighe.

Harry Wilson celebrates the third goal. Photo by Jez Tighe.

Their opponents, whose play-off place was already secured, did their best to spoil the party but despite cancelling out Martyn Waghorn's first-half opener just after the break through Stefan Johansen, strikes from sub Mason Bennett and Harry Wilson would ensure the Rams will now host Leeds United at Pride Park next Saturday evening in the semi-final first leg.

The Rams' task was simple - win and the final play-off slot was theirs, any other result and Middlesbrough and Bristol City's results would come into play. The fitness of the key, and regular, central defensive pairing of Fikayo Tomori and Richard Keogh being a big boost to their chances after each of them had picked up knocks at Swansea in midweek.

For the Baggies, it was about momentum as they prepare for their play-off battle with local rivals Aston Villa, caretaker boss James Shan not in the mood for many changes as Jacob Murphy came into the side to replace Chris Brunt to be the only change from the side that beat Rotherham.

The game took a while to produce much in the way of chances, Jay Rodriguez with the first effort on goal ten minutes in after bursting forward but, his shot too high from 25 yards out.

They then had an even better chance moments later as Rodriguez threaded a ball through to Murphy who was only just onside but put his low shot across the face of goal and wide of the post when he should have at least hit the target.

The Rams responded with Tom Lawrence shooting from distance but seeing Sam Johnstone push his low shot away for a corner, but their opener would come on 20 minutes and it was a well-worked goal.

Duane Holmes, excellent throughout, did well to find Jayden Bogle out on the right, the young full-back putting in a superb cross which found Waghorn who steered his header superbly past Johnstone.

The Baggies wasted another good opening ten minutes later as Murphy pulled the ball back to Dwight Gayle who mis-cued his shot wide when in a good position, Ahmed Hegazi then flicking a near post header too high from a corner.

Waghorn headed a Scott Malone cross straight at Johnstone moments later, but that would be his last action as he picked up a knock five minutes before the break and had to be replaced by David Nugent, half-time soon arriving with the narrow lead intact.

But that all changed just two minutes into the second-half. The Baggies attacked from the off and when the ball found Johansen just inside the penalty area he shifted the ball onto his left foot and curled it into the far corner of the net.

The Rams responded with Nugent driving low at Johnstone from 25 yards, then the same player was fed by Lawrence but again Johnstone was equal to a slightly weak effort that should have perhaps found the net.

Mason Mount had been quiet up to this point but his 25-yarder was then pushed wide by Johnstone, Bradley Johnson's effort from the resulting corner cleared from goal by Kyle Bartley.

Then Malone's low drive saw the Baggies keeper again in action to palm the effort away, but the Rams would soon be back in front and it was one of their own that got the goal.

Lawrence, who was enjoying a superb and influential second-half, burst into the box and saw his shot parried by Johnstone but Mason Bennett was on hand to tap home the rebound after the ball had hit Hegazi.

And moments later Lawrence was again the provider as Derby got a third. This time he danced into the penalty area before being brought down by Mason Holgate as he was about to shoot, although contact looked minimal. Up stepped Wilson to slide the ball low past Johnstone and send the home fans into even more ecstasy.

The Rams were on the crest of a wave once again and Nugent then saw a low shot find the hands of the keeper with nine minutes to go, then Mount shot just wide from 25 yards.

A good move ended with Malone's low shot being parried away by Johnstone who was becoming ever busier as the afternoon went on, Mount producing a similar reaction from distance moments later.

The Baggies had sub Hal Robson-Kanu sent off in stoppage time for violent conduct after a foul on Johnson, the final whistle soon sounding to ensure the Rams' season will continue with Leeds United their opponents next week.

Derby: Roos, Tomori, Keogh (c), Wilson (Evans 90+1), Mount, Waghorn (Nugent 41), Lawrence, Johnson, Holmes (Bennett 65), Bogle, Malone

Subs not used: Carson, Marriott, Evans, MacDonald, Huddlestone

WBA: Johnstone, Gibbs, Bartley (c) (Robson-Kanu 78), Johansen (Field 75), Gayle, Rodriguez, Dawson, Hegazi, Harper, Holgate, Murphy (Phillips 60)

Subs not used: Bond, Morrison, Mears, Townsend

Ref: Tim Robinson

Att: 32,055

Star Ram: Tom Lawrence

Goals:

Derby - Waghorn 20, Bennett 71, Wilson 73pen

West Brom - Johansen 47