Defiant Derby fightback denies Fulham promotion party and keeps hope alive | Championship

Fulham’s bid for an immediate return to the Premier League was put on hold again after they suffered a surprise 2-1 defeat at relegation-battling Derby.

The visitors would have sealed promotion with victory and the Championship leaders were on track to do just that when Fabio Carvalho put them ahead in the 20th minute. But Derby hit back and, inspired by teenager Luke Plange, claimed a victory which was much-needed after fellow strugglers Peterborough and Reading won earlier in the day.

Plange drew the teams level in the 51st minute and the forward, loaned back by Crystal Palace after they signed him in January, then pressured Tosin Adarabioyo into a 73rd-minute own goal as they competed for Tom Lawrence’s cross. Fulham fought back but could not find an equaliser, let alone a winner, meaning they have to wait to celebrate a third top-flight promotion in five seasons.

“Our first-half was good and in the second-half, we expected a reaction and it was important for us to control the game and we made a mistake,” said Fulham’s manager Marco Silva. “We had chances to win. We are at the top of this league for a reason but we lost our focus. We have to improve.

“We knew before the match it would be emotional. We knew what would happen with three points. Derby’s pressure is much tougher. Our pressure is the nicest pressure. But if we want to play in the Premier League, we have to deal with pressure.”

The result leaves Derby nine points behind fourth-bottom Reading and safety with four games to play.

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“We knew it would be a tough game, but I believed we would win,” said Derby’s manager Wayne Rooney. “When I saw Reading score in the last minute [to win at Sheffield United], you are worried young players were watching that and it would take energy out of them.

“But I felt at half-time if we had more belief, we would win. The character of the players is incredible. Whatever happens in these last few games, there have been some real positives. I can see a difference around the place, in the staff, they are starting to feel like this club has a future. You could sense that tonight with the fans.”

Rooney added that his future at Derby “depends on this takeover being completed,” having been linked to the Burnley job on Friday. “I was shocked today when Sean Dyche was sacked but to see my name linked is a compliment to me and the staff, as it was when we were linked with Everton.”

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