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12th August

Portsmouth     2         Adam McGurk 49, Conor Chaplin 76

Derby County  1         Jason Shackell 73

A Rams team lacking in energy and urgency were deservedly beaten by League Two Portsmouth in the First Round of the League Cup.

The home team were consistently in our faces, more determined and recovered from the Rams equalising with 15 minutes to go to hit back almost immediately and score the winning goal.

There was no sense of injustice at this result as the home team bridged the two division gap between the teams with seeming ease.

Paul Clement made eight changes for this game, in came Lee Grant, Isak Ssewankambo (for his debut), Alex Pearce (another debut), Craig Forsyth, Jeff Hendrick, Andreas Weimann, Simon Dawkins and Darren Bent.

The Rams lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Chris Baird & Hendrick anchoring the midfield and Russell, Weimann and Dawkins in support of Bent.

Pompey managed by the former Chesterfield firecracker of a manager Paul Cook started well and former Burton Albion player Adam McGurk pulled a chance wide in the first quarter of an hour after some Rams confusion on the right of the defence.

The theme of the first half continued to be more Portsmouth energy and attack as the home team stayed on the front foot and looked for gaps.

The Derby players seemed to struggle to acquaint themselves with each other and were ponderous in comparison.

There were little glimpses of promise during the latter part of the half with Johnny Russell and Weimann causing problems for Portsmouth without creating any clear chances. The half dribbled to a close without further incident and a sense of us not really hitting our stride at all.

The second half started with a flicker of intent from Derby as Weimann again caused problems but soon after Jeff Hendrick lost possession too easily, and Pompey scored following an awful mistake from Lee Grant, who made a mess of header from McGurk.

The disappointing thing was that the lead was entirely deserved on the balance of play up to that point.

Two changes on the hour for the Rams trying to change things as Chris Martin and Tom Ince came on for Darren Bent and Simon Dawkins.

Bent, particularly, struggled to be an influence on the game but he doesn’t prosper as the lone striker; we saw that a number of times last season, so it was a puzzle to see him in that role again.

The final change for the Rams saw George Thorne join the game after 68 minutes, debutant Ssewankambo making way and skipper Baird dropping back to right back.

Within a minute Thorne had played the best pass of the night to get an attack moving and a further three minutes later the Rams were level as Jason Shackell rose highest at a corner to head home.

Thoughts of powering on to take the lead disappeared quickly as Conor Chaplin shot home and gave Pompey the lead again.

We huffed and puffed as the game drew to a close without ever coming close to scoring and in contrast to last season when we made it to the last eight we bow out of the Cup at the first hurdle.

Sure we made eight changes, but so did Portsmouth, so we should have done better.

Jeff Hendrick had a poor game, but like Darren Bent he was again playing in a position that he does not seem suited to. Johnny Russell’s work rate was as herculean as ever but we hardly created a chance all night which was a worry.

Alex Pearce looked a little slow , expect to see former skipper Richard Keogh back on Saturday and it is pretty safe to say that Scott Carson is a strong favourite to start in goal against Charlton.

George Thorne looked a class apart in his brief cameo and in him and Jason Shackell we have the makings of a strong spine to the team.

Surely it is disappointing to lose this game but to expect us to hit the ground running after a summer with such significant change was always hopeful rather realistic.

Interviewed after the game Paul Clement said he already knew his team for Saturday’s home game at the iPro – I think we can all have a pretty informed view of that 11 as well that will face up to Charlton where a home win would be very welcomed.