Hourihane winner for Derby against Oxford brings relief after uncertainty | soccer league

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For Derby it was a day just a few weeks ago many worries would never come. Before kick-off, Liam Rosenior showed his players a video montage of the journey to this point, some of the toughest moments of the past two years – fans marching past this stadium in fear of the future of the club for nine grueling months in administration. – but now the fan base, whose new owner, David Clowes, senses happier times.

According to benchmarks, it was an encouraging start to the new era. As Conor Hourihane celebrated the only goal by strolling down the south stand, followed by his team-mates, Derby supporters were able to drink in the moment that earned a victory that carries much more weight than the three points it earned them on the first afternoon of the League One season.

There was seven minutes of stoppage time in the second half, but that suffering was nothing compared to some of the bumps in the road in recent months, Hourihane’s powerful low strike 10 minutes from enough time to edge past Oxford United. By then Cameron Brannagan had cleared the line to prevent James Collins from making his debut and Steve Seddon prevented Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, another debutant, from getting a shot on goal.

In some ways, given how close the Derby were to the precipice just over a month ago, the football – possession, tactics and box entries – didn’t seem relevant, even if it didn’t. won’t be for long.

Fans are grateful their team exists, thrilled to still be able to make the pilgrimage to this arena, and that nearly 19,000 season ticket holders have signed up for their first season in the third tier since 1986 says a lot about how the club is integrated into the community. There is a free seat in the North Stand these days, however, with Clowes, a local property developer, conceding that giving up his usual spot for a place in the Directors’ Stand is one of the downsides of his take over.

“Thank you, David Clowes,” came the home support chant with two minutes left.

David Clowes watches the action after saving Derby with his summer takeover. Photography: Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

Clowes’ first Derby game was against Nottingham Forest at the Baseball Ground in 1978, but few have been as anticipated as this one. “We’re back, we’re Derby,” roared emotional stadium announcer Matt McGibbon before the players emerged from the tunnel for kick-off.

Derby supporters turned out in droves – a crowd of 31,053 was the largest at an English league game on Saturday – and, with the help of more than 3,000 visiting Oxford fans, most of whom were decorated in yellow, they created a heated atmosphere during a hectic contest, relegating those troubling days to the past.

“There were times when it was scary, not just for me, but for all staff and anyone with a connection to Derby County,” Rosenior said. “It makes days like this sweeter. This day will forever be etched in our memories. »

For Rosenior, in caretaker charge following Wayne Rooney’s resignation, it marked his first game as first-team manager, a day he had been preparing for since coaching a school team as a teenager. and picked teams with his father, Leroy, a former manager. . Rosenior isn’t afraid of having to make the big calls – on day one he released a player whose kids attend the same school as his – but there’s no selection headache yet, a thin team means that the team chooses itself. The starting line-up featured seven signings, including dynamic Brighton player Haydon Roberts, who excelled from left-back, and eight players who were in the Championship last season, four with Derby.

Rooney called Friday to wish Rosenior well. Another symbol of the unity born out of chaos was in the full-time locker room. Krystian Bielik, who joined Birmingham on loan on Friday to give himself a shot at making Poland’s World Cup squad, wished everyone well.

“I finished teamtalk, turned around and Krystian is standing there,” Rosenior said. “He’s not leaving the club because he doesn’t want to be here, he’s leaving to follow his dream and we have to appreciate that and give him the best chance to do that.”

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