Derby 1-0 Oxford: Conor Hourihane's debut goal seals win for the Rams

Derby County 1-0 Oxford United: Conor Hourihane scores on debut to give beleaguered Rams begin life in League One with victory – in front of a 31,053 fans at Pride Park

  • Derby County earn 1-0 after back-and-forth tie at Pride Park
  • Republic of Ireland midfielder Conor Hourihane scored in the 80th minute 
  • The win marks a positive start to life in third tier for new-look Derby side

‘We are back, Derby are back,’ screamed the PA announcer after fans and employees alike had spent the summer doubting whether their club would even exist on the first day of the new season.

So the spine-tingling roar that greeted Conor Hourihane’s winning goal, on his Derby debut, encapsulated the joy, pride and pure relief of a fanbase who have suffered too much.

For these supporters are simply happy still to be able to follow their team. They may have been relegated to League One and Wayne Rooney may no longer be the manager, but still the majority of a 31,053 crowd – an astonishing attendance for a third-tier fixture – turned up to roar on the Rams.

Conor Hourihane scored with just ten minutes remaining to give Derby the win

The former Aston Villa midfielder joined the club this summer after his contract expired

Local property developer and lifelong fan David Clowes saved Derby from possible liquidation when he brought them out of a nine-month period of administration, and the new owner was in the directors’ box for this one. Clowes stepped in to rescue the Rams when a proposed takeover bid by American businessman Chris Kirchner collapsed.

Rooney’s former assistant Liam Rosenior, now in interim charge, was like a cat on hot bricks in the technical area, leading to numerous feisty exchanges with Oxford boss Karl Robinson and fourth official Scott Tallis.

Derby have signed a number of solid EFL players like Hourihane, Tom Barkhuizen, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and James Collins, while Curtis Davies, now 37, still wears the armband.

Former Hull City full-back Liam Rosenior has been placed in temporary charge at the club

Rosenior(right) previously served as assistant to Wayne Rooney at Pride Park

Yet it was Oxford who created the better chances early on, with Billy Bodin and Matty Taylor going close. Soon after the half-hour mark, the visitors should have taken the lead when James Henry shot straight at Joe Wildsmith.

Either side of half-time, Derby had two chances to seize the advantage. Mendez-Laing was released by Korey Smith’s lofted pass following a quick free-kick, only to shoot too close to Simon Eastwood. Then just after the hour mark, Collins was denied by Cameron Brannagan’s magnificent goalline clearance. Derby were piling on the pressure and when Mendez-Laing sent a volley goalwards, Oxford were relieved to see it bounce off Rams sub Louie Sibley to safety.

But they could hold on no longer when with 10 minutes left Hourihane – who had had a patchy game until then – was teed up by Sibley and beat Eastwood with his left foot from 20 yards. ‘Thank you, David Clowes’ they sang as the seconds ticked by. The owner will be the most popular man in these parts for some time yet.

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