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Fulham 2-0 Derby Cham 34 1415 The Guardian

last updated Monday 02nd March 2015, 1:54 PM

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Alan Smith at The Guardian

Fulham (2) 2-0 (0) Derby County

This was not part of Derby's script. Their seemingly rampant drive for promotion was met by a hefty obstacle by the name of Fulham.

It should not derail them, especially considering Middlesbrough and Bournemouth failed to capitalise but, entering a vital month, this display served as a reminder that the leaders are there to be shot down.

"There's going to be lots of twists and turns. We missed an opportunity today," the Derby manager, Steve McClaren conceded. "We have to dust ourselves down now: there are 13 big games to go."

For Fulham, the threat of consecutive relegations still lingers but, led by a tenacious Scott Parker, they showed great endeavour here. If they performed like this every weekend, they would be looking towards the playoffs rather than nervously over their shoulder.

The goals arrived late in the first half from Nikolay Bodurov and Cauley Woodrow but it was at the back where they really shone. Derby, who had scored at least twice in seven of their past eight league games, looked bereft of ideas but they were also convincingly negated by Shaun Hutchinson and Bodurov. It was the first time Derby have failed to score in 17 games, leaving the Fulham manager, Kit Symons, more than pleased.

"It means a lot to us," he said. "The majority of our defending this season has been very good but isolated incidents have cost us. It will give everyone a lot of confidence. Teams who sit off Derby get put to the sword, so we knew we had to press them and harry them high up the pitch."

Darren Bent's every touch was greeted by boos from the Fulham faithful, having failed to impress in a loan spell at Craven Cottage last season. He had the first chance of note when shooting wide six minutes in but Fulham soon settled.

They took the lead on the half hour when Bryan Ruiz's blocked shot from an overhit corner fell kindly for Bodurov via Cyrus Christie's backside. From a tight angle and with Richard Keogh in his way, the centre-half produced an unorthodox right-footed finish with no backlift which flew across Lee Grant and into the far corner.

The second arrived a minute before the break due to some lackadaisical midfield play from the visitors which was deservedly punished. Parker dispossessed Will Hughes, who was unaware of the former England international's presence alongside him in the centre circle.

Parker broke from midfield and picked out Ross McCormack to his left. The club's big-money signing last summer, who was meant to spearhead an immediate return to the Premier League rather than drag them from a relegation fight, steadied before clipping a cross to the back post, where Woodrow arrived to head past Grant.

McClaren took off Christie and Jesse Lingard at the interval, replacing them with Jake Buxton and Johnny Russell, and when they won a corner inside 30 seconds of the restart, spawning roars of encouragement from the 3,000 travelling fans behind the goal, many would have expected an onslaught to follow. It never materialised.

"They played a diamond and it was a full-backs game," McClaren said by way of explanation for the substitutions. "Our full-backs didn't do enough. We had no quality today."

Derby were restricted to two shots on target and failed to fashion any sort of comeback. The closest they came was when Tom Ince's shot, deflected by Tunnicliffe, could easily have spun fortuitously past Marcus Bettinelli's grasp 20 minutes from the end. "Fulham defended for their lives," McClaren added. "We wouldn't have scored if we played until Tuesday."

McCormack had a shot saved by Grant on 79 minutes and Moussa Dembélé hit a post in time added on.

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