Relief for Derby County after Southport 'struggle'
Derby County 1 Southport 0
Steve McClaren admitted he felt "absolute relief" after an injury-time penalty guided Championship high-flyers Derby into the fourth round of the FA Cup with a victory over Conference side Southport at the iPro Stadium.
It was cruel on the Sandgrounders, who belied the 88-place gap between the sides - and it was especially harsh on goalkeeper David Raya Martin, who produced heroics for the Conference strugglers.
Paul Coutts, Craig Bryson and Jamie Ward were among those denied by the 'keeper, before Luke Foster brought down Johnny Russell in the final minute of injury time, and Chris Martin coolly converted from the penalty spot.
The deadlock was broken after a triple substitution by McClaren, with a little under half an hour of the game remaining, when Martin and Russell joined the fray, along with Liverpool loanee Jordon Ibe, who was involved in the build-up to the penalty.
While Southport had carried little attacking threat until play got stretched late on, Gary Brabin's side were stubborn in defence and disciplined throughout.
McClaren said: "(It's) absolute relief. We got the result; I don't think there is a lot to say about the performance, I think only a lot to say about Southport and their performance. It's the third round of the FA Cup and that was a typical third-round tie.
"They came here (and) frustrated, did their job, defended heroically, played when they could, the 'keeper was magnificent, and Gary and his staff can be very proud of their performance. I thought it was excellent. Just exactly what I expected."
McClaren made nine changes to the side that beat Leeds 2-0 in the league last time out, as Derby finished 2014 in third place in the Championship.
They came within inches of going ahead in the 20th minute, when Raya Martin was beaten by Craig Bryson's low shot across goal, only for the ball to come back off the post.
At times it was one-way traffic. Raya Martin produced a flying stop from Coutts' shot from distance, and then made a double save from Bryson and Ward. Richard Keogh and Jake Buxton were also denied as the goalkeeper pulled off save after save.
McClaren was looking forward to sharing a glass of Amarone wine with opposite number Brabin, who pulled no punches about the effect of the defeat. "They were devastated afterwards in the dressing room," said Brabin. "A couple of senior players were going round trying to lift them.
"I was gutted to see them so down - it's a cruel way to lose a game. I'm disappointed, but proud of what we did today. But, genuinely, I didn't think we were going to win the FA Cup."
Sunday Indo Sport