Derby manager Phillip Cocu admitted there was more at stake than just a game of football after his team ended a turbulent week with a 3-2 win over Birmingham.
Cocu and owner Mel Morris spoke to fans before the game to apologise for the incident in which Tom Lawrence and Mason Bennett were charged with drink driving and captain Richard Keogh suffered a season-ending knee injury.
The Rams responded on the pitch with Chris Martin turning in a cross in the second minute to mark his first start for the club since December 2017 with a goal.
Martin then provided the pass that sent Martyn Waghorn through for Derby’s second in the 50th minute but Birmingham exploited uncertainty to score twice in four minutes.
Gary Gardner headed in a corner in the 56th minute and when the home side failed to clear, Ivan Sunjic fired a 20-yard shot into the top corner.
The visitors had a great chance to win the Sky Bet Championship contest in the 70th minute when Krystian Bielik tripped Alvaro Gimenez close to the byline but Lukas Jutkiewicz put his penalty too close to goalkeeper Kelle Roos.
Five minutes later Derby broke away and substitute Jack Marriott sent Jamie Paterson clear to score his first goal since he joined on loan from Bristol City in the summer.
Cocu said: “It was a very difficult week, to get the win and the way we got it was special.
“We made it more difficult than we should have but maybe it had to be this way.
“It was very positive and it shows the affection and importance of Derby County for Mel (Morris), the owner. He realises and knows how important the relationship of the fans is to the club. ”
The Dutchman continued: “It’s something we stand for in difficult times, they are backing us which is great so we have to give something back.
“Mel is a very busy man but takes his time to go and talk to the fans so we all try and do our piece.
“There was a little bit more at stake today than just a game of football. It’s a tough week but it’s more important how we deal with it as a club and for my part as a manager.
“I don’t like excuses, brushing things under the carpet, we have to face it like it is.
“People make mistakes, so you have to accept it, there are consequences but we also have to stick together and go forward and play football because the game goes on.”
Birmingham head coach Pep Clotet said: “I think the team has had a good progression since we started but today what punished us was they (Derby) capitalised on the two mistakes that put us behind – but I’m very proud of the players.
“In a very tough situation we went for it and probably deserved to win. It’s a pity for us but I saw a side that never gave up, were much better than them.
“Maybe we don’t win points today but we won a lot more things. I’m more focused on the team getting out of a tough situation when we were 2-0 down.
“The important thing is to deserve what you achieve and today we deserve more than we got.”
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