Wanderers’ hopes of a trip to Manchester United in the third round of the FA Youth Cup were extinguished on a testing night at the Toughsheet Community Stadium.
Derby County play their football in the U18 Premier League as a Category One Academy and made the difference in status pay as they booked the trip to Old Trafford.
Julian Darby’s side had advanced at the expense of EFL Youth Alliance rivals Blackpool in round one but were no match for the Rams, who struck twice before half-time to all but settle the tie.
A penalty early in the second half then snuffed out any prospect of a fightback and Derby had added a fourth to follow up their first-round win at Mansfield before Wanderers got some reward for their persistence when substitute Daeshon Lawrence got on the scoresheet with the last kick of the game.
“Congratulations to Derby and good luck to them in the next round,” said Wanderers’ Academy Head Dave Gardiner. “The boys came up against an excellent footballing team who are really well coached.
“I thought for the first 30 minutes we frustrated them and didn’t give them many opportunities, but we are a possession-based team that like to play through the lines and you have to give credit to Derby that they stopped us doing that.
“The moments when we did get the ball, we probably made the wrong decisions or seemed to rush our decisions and gave the ball back too easily. But we were playing against better opposition and take nothing away from them. They did a really good job of stopping us playing.”
Gardiner added: “It was important to try and get to half-time 0-0 but they scored at a really good moment for them and it seemed to knock the wind out of the lads’ sails.
“Just on the stroke of half-time they got the second one and that highlights the levels you have to get to. You have to stay switched on all the time and then at the start of the second-half we felt the next score was really important.
“Unfortunately, the referee and gave a penalty but I think after that we went on to have a really good spell in the game. I was really pleased that the boys managed to stick at it and showed great courage to stick at it and I thought probably deserved the goal in the end.
“This is just the start of their journey. I think we finished with nine first-year scholars on the pitch who will get to play in the competition again next year.”
This season’s run was ended as the young Whites never really got into their stride and play to their full potential as they again exited the competition at the second stage.
Wanderers didn’t keep the ball well enough to impose themselves on the contest and despite a brief spell mid-way through the first half, when Harrison Fleury tried to light a spark and Conor Lewis had a fleeting sight of goal, could have been behind before Derby struck twice just before the break.
George Barlow made a couple of fine stops in the Whites’ goal but was powerless to prevent Derby going ahead when Harry Hawkins fired home a first-time effort from the edge of the box after Wanderers had only half-cleared a corner with 40 minutes gone.
Had Darby’s youngsters made it to half-time only 1-0 down they may still have been in the hunt. But in first-half stoppage time they gave up one chance too many as Lennon Wheeldon took the opportunity to stride into the box and hammer a shot into the bottom corner.
A difficult task then became almost impossible eight minutes into the second half when Derby added to their lead from the penalty spot.
Dajaune Brown had just fired an effort inches wide when another run into the box was ended by Emile Oliver’s challenge and the Derby striker picked himself up to convert the spot-kick.
To Wanderers’ credit they didn’t go under and had their best spell of the match as they looked to reduce the deficit. Lewis had another chance from a mis-placed clearance from Derby keeper Jack Thompson but elected to try and find a colleague rather than go for goal before Lawrence saw a shot blocked.
The Whites were belatedly causing problems, though, and after substitute Owen Eames had slotted home Derby’s fourth seven minutes from the end, Wanderers finished on the front foot and denied the visitors a clean sheet when David Adimbola pulled the ball back for Lawrence to fire home a response from eight yards out.
Wanderers: Barlow; Smith, Hogan, Inwood (Adimbola 71); Pinto, Westwood (Leigh 55), Irwin, Oliver; Fleury; Shakespear (Lawrence 68), Lewis. Substitutes: Lomax, O’Neill, Nuttall, Ritchie.
Derby County: Thompson; Perry, Cox, Robinson, Gough; McAndrew, Allen (Oguntolu 78), Hawkins, Osong (Eames 61); Brown, Wheeldon. Substitutes: Price, Banks, Gordon, Tola, Agustien, Eames
Referee: Zharir Mustafa
Images: Ben Livingstone and Jake Horrocks