Football League Championship
Pride Park, Derby
Match Rating: 2
I had planned to tick off a visit to Pride Park later this season when my team Charlton will be the visitors in March. However, noticing tickets were available at a bargain price in one section of the ground for home supporters for this match - and less than half the price of what visiting fans would be charged - I decided to bring forward a visit to today, when my local team who I have a soft spot for were the visitors. Although it wouldn't be ideal being in the "wrong" end today, better that than against the team I support.
Pride Park is situated about a 20 minute walk eastwards from Derby train station, a further ten minutes from the city centre. One often fears for a dull experience at a modern, out of town stadium, as this one is. However, it is a really impressive stadium inside and out. It has an interesting and colourful exterior, with a classy rather than tacky feel to it, and a couple of nice touches honouring the club's history are located in one corner. The Lionel Pickering entrance, a brick archway which is an exact replica of the entrance to the club's former home, the Baseball Ground and built using materials from the Baseball Ground, constructed in honour of the man who masterminded the club's move to Pride Park and did so much for the club in the nineties. Further away from the stadium in this corner is a bronze statue of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor holding the Division One trophy in 1972. Inside the stadium is very easy on the eye too, with unobstructed views throughout, and all four stands are single tiered and joined together, although one stand is taller than the other three. A corner adjacent to this stand houses executive boxes. The 84 page programme had a smaller size than most programmes but is certainly one of the better ones with plenty of interesting articles to read.
Today's match would be between two teams occupying play-off positions, with Derby in fourth place, with 44 points from 25 games, two places and five points ahead of Brighton, having played the same number of games. Derby went on a fabulous run towards the end of 2013, winning eight and drawing the other of their last nine league games, although 2014 brought an unwanted changed of fortunes, losing both league games played and going out of the FA Cup. Brighton have been in good form too, picking up 7 points from their last three league games and progressing in the FA Cup, and have lost only twice in their last 14 league games. Rather intriguingly, Derby went into this game as top scorers in the Championship, whilst Brighton had conceded the fewest goals away from home, just nine in twelve away games. When the two teams met in August, Derby won 1-2.
The second half continued in much the same vein, and there was an increasing feeling of inevitability that the game would end goalless. However, on 76 minutes, the deadlock was broken. Derby passed the ball forward and eventually Jamie Ward was fouled right outside the penalty area, but the ball fell to Patrick Bamford, on loan from Chelsea and who came on as substitute on the hour mark, and he curled a fantastic shot from the edge of the box into the corner of the net. It was a real touch of class, something that had been sorely lacking throughout the match. That gave the hosts some impetus and they might have added to their lead, and although Brighton tried to carve out some goalscoring chances in the final minutes, it never looked likely to happen for them as Derby cemented their play-off places with a crucial role in against a play-off rival, whilst Brighton slip out of the play-off places and are now two points adrift.