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Derby suffer play-off blow in draw with Birmingham

Derby’s Championship play-off hopes suffered a setback as they had to settle for a 2-2 draw at Birmingham.

In an explosive start Birmingham twice took the lead following corners from Jota. Lukas Jutkiewicz was on the mark in the second minute with his 13th goal of the season and skipper Michael Morrison notched a second in the 19th minute.

Martyn Waghorn produced a solo goal and his 12th of the season for the first equaliser after only seven minutes and Rams captain Richard Keogh was on the mark with a fine 28th-minute header to salvage a precious point.

Unchanged Derby, unbeaten in their last six visits to Birmingham, had to recover from a dreadful start when they found themselves a goal down in only the second minute.

A corner from the right by Jota was completely missed by a packed Derby defence and the unmarked Jutkiewicz rammed the ball into the back of the net.

Birmingham’s all-out attacking policy, however, proved to be their downfall as Derby were level in the seventh minute.

The home side were caught marooned in the opposition half when a ball out of defence by Jayden Bogle was collected by Waghorn after running past Morrison. Although Blues appealed for offside, Waghorn was allowed to progress unhindered and cleverly lobbed Lee Camp for the equaliser.

In an all-action encounter Derby’s defence was again penetrated in the 19th minute from another Jota corner, this time from the left. Derby attempted to clear a tame shot by Craig Gardner but the ball rebounded for Morrison to regain the lead for Birmingham with a close-range shot.

The Rams had only themselves to blame for some indifferent defensive work faced by a Birmingham side determined to improve their lowly position.

But they regained their composure to score a second equaliser in the 28th minute. A short corner on the left from Mason Mount found Ashley Cole and the former England defender’s high cross to the far post picked out the unmarked Keogh to score with a high looping header.

In such an open game Birmingham wasted a fine opportunity to take the lead for the third time. Che Adams cleverly set up Jutkiewicz but the big striker slotted his low shot just wide of the post.

Derby dominated the early part of the second half as Birmingham were forced back onto the defensive, but they could not find a winning goal.