Derby COUNTY were forced to play captain Robbie Savage in goal for nearly 50 minutes as they slumped to a 4-1 Championship defeat at Reading last night.
Savage took the gloves in the 41st minute when substitute keeper Saul Deeney was red-carded on his Rams debut, and he pulled off a stunning second-half save before being beaten.
Deeney had come on less than half an hour earlier when Stephen Bywater was injured, but his exit left manager Nigel Clough with the unenviable necessity of sending Savage into goal.
On-song striker Shane Long had opened the scoring early on for the hosts but Clough's side rallied when Gilles Sunu scored his first goal on 21 minutes.
Jimmy Kebe had Reading back ahead before Deeney was sent off and Long struck the resulting penalty high over the crossbar.
Savage then entertained the crowd with a couple of fine stops before Ryan Bertrand hit a deflected shot past him to kill the game off. Simon Church then grabbed a late Royals fourth.
The win lifts Brian McDermott's men four points clear of the drop zone, while the Rams remain in trouble themselves.
Ex-Derby favourite Grzegorz Rasiak started the move which ended in Long opening the scoring on eight minutes, the Irishman striking his shot past Bywater into the far corner.
Bywater then hobbled off with an injury to give Deeney his Rams debut between the sticks.
Clough's side failed to show any invention but drew level with their first attack on 21 minutes.
Stephen Pearson and Rob Hulse worked a smart one-two on the left side of the area, but when Pearson was halted by a challenge on-loan Arsenal teenager Sunu poked the loose ball past Adam Federici from the edge of the area.
Hulse then had the ball in the net again but was offside, while Deeney made his first save as he blocked Bertrand's effort.
It was a brave stop but counted for little as Kebe put the hosts back ahead in the 34th minute.
Kebe then hammered a volley over from a Long cross as Reading looked for a killer third before Deeney saw red in the 41st minute for bringing down Tabb. Paul Green was at fault for underhitting a back-pass to the debutant keeper.
So Savage took the gloves to the delight of the Reading fans and watched on as Long smashed the penalty way over the bar.
Savage then had the whole ground on their feet in the second half with a fine save to tip over a free-kick from Gylfi Sigurdsson before he was finally beaten on 69 minutes.
Bertrand cut in from the left and hammered in a shot from 15 yards, which was deflected cruelly past Savage, who had no chance.
Substitute Church then made it four from close in to seal the win for Reading.