Derby County were plunged even deeper into a relegation dogfight after being hammered 3-0 by Preston North End at Deepdale.
Goals from Ben Whiteman, Ched Evans and Ryan Ledson condemned the Rams to a fourth straight defeat and it’s a result that will probably give Rotherham United a real boost going into their clash against Middlesbrough tomorrow night.
There was a slow start to the game with the away side on the front foot without creating many openings, and they would soon pay for their lack of threat.
As North End started to get more of a foot on the ball, they eventually breached the Derby defence on 17 minutes.
A warning sign was fired moments before as Ben Whiteman’s shot into the ground bounced over the bar, and the same player was able to find the back of the net eventually.
Tom Barkhuizen slid in Alan Browne down the right side, and his cross found the onrushing Whiteman, whose powerful header was too much for David Marshall to handle and it meant a first PNE goal for the January signing.
Derby did have the ball in the back of the net not long after, with Tom Lawrence sliding the ball beyond Daniel Iversen in the North End goal but it was ruled out for offside.
The Rams suffered a big blow in the first half with yet another defensive injury – Andre Widsom hobbled off with what looked to be a groin injury and replacing him was George Edmundson.
Wayne Rooney made more changes at the break – these ones not enforced though as both Martyn Waghorn and Lee Buchanan replaced Jason Knight and Craig Forsyth in an attempt to make the Rams more of an attacking threat.
It seemed to work a treat as they had a huge chance to level things up before the hour nark, with Waghorn’s effort from close range blocked by Andrew Hughes and whilst Edmundson’s effort from the edge of the box looked destined for the net, Iversen had other ideas as he turned it away with his palms.
For all of Derby’s pushing forward though it was North End who netted the second goal of the game, and the Rams were their own worst enemy as they fell asleep at the back.
Thinking substitute Brad Potts was being played offside, Derby allowed PNE’s midfielder to fire the ball across the box – an effort which stung the palms of David Marshall – and the ball ended up falling to Ched Evans who made no mistake from close range to double the advantage.
Derby did have the ball in the back of the net again in the final 10 minutes of the game as Nathan Byrne’s corner evaded everyone in the six-yard box and ended up in the back of the net at the back post – but referee Geoff Eltringham spotted an infringement on Iversen and blew up for a foul.
And North End dealt Derby a fatal blow not long after, as a Ryan Ledson free kick which seemed to be in a not-so dangerous position managed to avoid absolutely everyone in the box and find the back of the net to make it 3-0 to North End.
That’s as good as it got for the Lilywhites as they plunged the Rams into even worse relegation trouble than they were already in.
FULL TIME: Preston North End 3-0 Derby County