2017-18 English League Championship, Regular Season
  • Tom Lawrence (52')

Tom Lawrence gets Derby firing again

Tom Lawrence's free-kick ended Derby's run of eight games without a win and secured a crucial 1-0 victory over play-off rivals Preston.
The Wales international struck in the second half after Alan Browne missed a first-half penalty.
Just two points separated six teams in the Championship play-off race at the start of the afternoon, with Derby fifth and Preston in 10th.
The similarity in strength of the two teams was reflected in an even opening to the match, with both enjoying plenty of the ball but neither really able to fashion a clear-cut chance.
Preston were the first to hit the target on the half-hour mark when Browne slipped in Callum Robinson, whose low shot was saved with his feet by Scott Carson.
Robinson threatened again after 35 minutes, flicking a header just wide of the far post.
But Preston had a golden chance to go ahead a minute later from the spot as Browne went down in the area under the close attentions of Andre Wisdom.
Midfielder Browne stepped up to take the penalty himself but placed it wide, clipping the bottom of the right-hand post after sending Carson the wrong way.
Preston's missed opportunity was made even worse eight minutes after the break as Derby took the lead.
Lawrence hit a well-struck free-kick to find the bottom corner from 25 yards but Chris Maxwell will be disappointed not to have saved the effort, having got two hands to the ball.
North End had the chance to get back on level terms after 69 minutes as the ball broke to Paul Huntington from a corner but the centre-back volleyed high over the bar from 12 yards.
Alex Neil's side, who have not beaten Derby since Boxing Day 2008, were failing to test Carson, despite dominating possession as Louis Moult's mishit shot from range bobbled harmlessly wide.
And Derby could have put the game out of reach after 78 minutes when substitute Kasey Palmer breached the Preston defence but fired wide of the far post from 12 yards.
The host's best chance to grab the equaliser came seven minutes from time as Carson's punch dropped for Paul Gallagher 12 yards out but fired over the bar with his left foot.