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Goal in 18 seconds helps Derby keep Sheffield United off top spot

London (AFP) – Derby County beat Sheffield United 2-1 to deny the visitors’ top spot in English football’s second-tier Championship on Saturday.

Jack Marriott helped create the Rams’ first goal just seconds into the match before scoring Derby’s second himself with Chris Basham’s reply for the Blades insufficient to extend their four-game winning-streak in the league.

Middlesbrough had moved to the summit of the table with a 2-1 win away to United’s local rivals, Sheffield Wednesday on Friday.

But the Blades knew they would regain top spot if they avoided defeat against Derby. Instead they remained second, albeit on goal difference alone. 

Only the top two sides at the end of the regular season are guaranteed places in the lucrative Premier League, with the clubs finishing third to sixth contesting a series of play-off matches for the third and last promotion spot.

Derby’s win took them up into fifth place, with only four points separating the top seven teams.

Some fans were still taking their seats when Derby opened the scoring just 18 seconds into the match, without a United player touching the ball.

Craig Forsyth initiated a move involving six team-mates that culminated with Marriott laying the ball off to Craig Bryson, who beat Blades goalkeeper Dean Henderson from 15 yards. 

United, to their credit, recovered from this shock setback and equalised four minutes before half-time when Basham turned in John Fleck’s cross from close range.  

Derby, however, went 2-1 up in the 77th minute when Marriott steered in a cross from Forsyth.

West Bromwich Albion also missed out on regaining top spot in a 1-0 loss at Wigan where Josh Windass scored the decisive goal in the 74th minute.

Defeat was then made worse for the Baggies when Jake Livermore was sent off late on.

Elsewhere, Dean Smith’s first match as Aston Villa manager ended in a victory for the lifelong fan of the Birmingham club when the on-loan Tammy Abraham scored in a 1-0 win over Swansea.

Victory at Villa Park came on a day when home supporters remembered the Midlands side’s long-serving former chairman, Doug Ellis, who died earlier this month aged 94. 

Smith has joined Villa from Championship rivals Brentford but there was no first-up win for the London club’s new boss Thomas Frank.

Brentford had Chris Mepham sent off before Niclass Eliasson’s 90th-minute goal give visitors Bristol City a 1-0 win at Griffin Park.   

The early kick-off match saw Blackburn Rovers beat Leeds United 2-1 at Ewood Park.

Danny Graham opened the scoring for Rovers two minutes in before Mateusz Klich equalised only for Blackburn to grab all three points courtesy of Darragh Leninhan’s header from a corner.

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