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Match Report  |  Gresley Rovers vs Derby County

Note that this page is from our Gresley Rovers archive. It may not be related to the new Gresley Rovers (formerly Gresley FC until 2020).
21st July 2003

Match Photos

Gresley Rovers vs Derby County

The curtain raiser for this years Bass Charity Vase ended up a six goal thriller with Gresley Rovers holding their illustrious visitors to a draw after twice coming back from the brink of defeat.

Derby County fielded a strong side and were soon testing the Rovers defence and almost took an early lead when on 2 minutes. David Cassidy tried to take the ball round the home keeper Mark Sheils but the young keeper did well to force the striker wide and the ball went out of play for a goal kick.

A minute later the Rams created another chance but the shot by Chris Palmer went straight into the arms of Sheils.

The new look Rovers defence was looking a little shaky as the Rams continued to pile on the pressure and a slip by a home defender allowed the visitors another chance but the end shot went well wide.

Rovers' first chance of the evening came on 16 minutes when a fine pass from Chris Gray found Matt Moran and his cross from the right cause panic in the Rams defence and the ball and to be hurriedly cleared by Tom Huddlestone for a corner.

Just minutes later Rovers had another half chance when Gary White after expertly side stepping two Derby defenders hammered a shot that unfortunately went high and wide.

On 21 minutes Derby were awarded a free kick that Sheils did extremely well to hold as Steve Elliott blasted in the shot.

A free kick on 37 minutes by Gray led to a Rams keeper and defender mix-up in the area and the ball flew to Earl Alexander but the youngster was taken a bit by surprise and put his header over the bar.

Two minutes later, however, derby took the lead. A defensive slip led to Gary Twigg hitting in a vicious shot that Sheils did well to get down to and palm the ball away for a corner. From the resultant kick Elliott fired in a low shot through a crowd of players giving the keeper no chance as the ball flew into the net.

The floodgates seemed to have open for two minutes later the visitors had doubled their lead.

Carl Slater fouled Barry Molloy and from 25 yards Twigg curled in a terrific free kick which flew past the stranded Sheils.

It looked as if Gresley were going to go down under the pressure and man-of-the-match Sheils was called on again to save his team mates pulling of a superb save from Palmer down to his right.

At the interval, Gresley made a couple of changes bringing on Richard Wardle and reverting to a 4-4-2 and the changes soon paid off.

On 53 minutes Gresley were back in the game. A White corner from the right was headed home by Neil Kitching and the home side should have been on equal terms shortly after when Tom Huddlestone lost control in his own area but the Rams young keeper was on hand to save his blushes pushing away a vicious shot from Kitching.

The home fans didn't have long to wait to see their side get on terms and it was no more than they deserved. On 59 minutes White again sent in an inswinging corner but this time it was substitute Ian Pitt who was on hand to flick the ball past Liam Richardson.

On 74 minutes Derby did have the ball in the net again but was adjudged to have been off side.

For the moment Sheils was the busier of the two keepers making good saves from both Twigg and Palmer. Elliott went close with a free kick that whistled just past the post on 80 minutes.

On 84 minutes the visitors were back in front. Rams substitute Faz Kuduzovic found himself in acres of space as the Rovers defenders backed off and the Croation fired in a superb shot from all of 25-yards that gave Sheils no chance.

Time was slipping away for Gresley but they rallied and went at Derby looking for an equaliser and it came with only three minutes remaining on the clock.

Gresley played a shot corner and substitute Mick Lonergan fired in a cross into the Rams area and Huddlestone, who'd looked uncomfortable with whipped in crosses all night, this time hit the ball into his own net.

A draw was fully justified and I wonder what the Derby manager George Burley, watching from the stands, thought having watched his reserve side, which had contained a number of first team players such as Steve Elliott, Pablo Mills Adam Murray and Lewis Hunt being held to a draw by Gresley Rovers.

Gary Norton's view of the game

"I'm still buzzing at the moment but I'm delighted with how the match went. I've been very nervous all day hoping the class wouldn't show and we wouldn't get ripped apart.

"For the first 30 minutes Derby had a lot of possession and we worked hard to try and close them down but the quality was starting to show with little five yard balls here and there and they seem to make a lot of extra space. The wheels came off during a five minute spell just before half time when we gave away a couple of sloppy goals.
We were disappointed and the lads heads were down at the interval.

"We took the positives out of that first half and looked at the quality we were playing against with several of their squad having had first team experience.

"So second half we decided to go out and give it a go. We changed the shape because we were not comfortable with playing three at the back but their were reasons for that and we played 4-4-2 in the second half bringing Richard Wardle on we looked far more solid. We also brought Ian Pitt on upfront to replace Aaron Brady who still needs to build up his fitness. He's trained in a few sessions but he's not there yet. I was pleased Pitt got on the end of a couple of goals.

"Our shape was a lot better in the second half and we caused them a few problems apart from the goal they scored, which I've still got to ask Sheils about whether the ball moved much in the air, we did well. I was gutted when they scored their third after coming back from 2-0 down to 2-2. I was hoping we could hang on for a draw.

"But to get back on equal terms again I was delighted. The lads showed a lot of character. They dug in and worked hard and the fitness showed because of the work we've done. Derby didn't look that much fitter than us and they were not pulling us apart in the last ten to fifteen minutes as I saw often last season. In my opinion we are fitter than this time last season.

"We had a very good second half and we matched them. There is more to come from our two goal scorers Kitching and Pitt. They both need to get more match fitness and they are the first to admit that. I was absolutely delighted for Kitch in particular but also for Pitt because he's a confidence player and this will get his feet back on the ground.

"I was delighted for Matt Smith. We had a chat before the game and he admits he's not match fit but you could see his quality. His through balls and short play was good and he was confident in the air. He didnít miss many headers.

"I thought both Craig Hopkins and Carl Slater were superb in midfield. They really put themselves about and I'm very, very pleased with them. They had a lot of work to get through in the midfield and they didn't let their heads go down once. They just got on with the work and moved the ball about.

"Matt Moran had a great second half and was flying. The only reason we took him off was that I wanted to have a 20-minute look at Mick Lonergan. He's another one who has shown well in pre-season and there is a lot of experience and quality there.

"Mark Sheils looked sound in goal. He made some good saves but he said he was a little bit disappointed with the second goal and he felt he could have done a little better which is fair play to him to hold his hands up and admit that. He was confident in the box but he's got to work on his kicking a little bit.

"This was only the first game of the pre-season and we've another six or seven to go. So overall I'm delighted with the performance tonight."

Gresley Rovers (0) 3

Derby County (2) 3

Scorers: Kitching 53, Pitt 58, Huddlestone (og) 87 (Gresley Rovers); Elliott 39, Twigg 41, Kuduzovic 84 (Derby County).

Gresley Rovers: Sheils, Moran (Lonergan 69), G White, Cheetham, Smith, Slater (Blastland 69), Gray, Hopkins (Timms 82), Kitching, Brady (Pitt 45), Alexander (Wardle 45). Subs not used: Clarke, Hurr.

Derby County: Richardson, Hunt (Hamilton 45), Palmer, Huddlestone, Mills (Deans 45), Elliott, Doyle, Murray (Kuduzovic 45), Cassidy, Twigg (Sheard 82), Molloy. Subs not used: Turner, Short.

Star ManRovers Star Man: Mark Sheils Ė terrific saves.

Referee: R Oliver (Sutton Coldfield).

Attendance: 500