CHRIS Martin’s late free kick denied Cherries a first away clean sheet in the Championship since August as high-flying Derby edged a 1-0 win at Pride Park.

The front man curled a glorious 20-yard effort around the wall and into the top-right corner in the 85th minute.

That came after Tommy Elphick had been harshly booked for a sliding challenge on Will Hughes, with the visiting skipper appearing to win the ball.

Cherries midfielder Eunan O’Kane failed to recover from a pelvis problem sustained in the 1-1 draw against Burnley last weekend, so Andrew Surman was brought into the starting line-up by boss Eddie Howe.

For Derby, injury ruled out Jamie Ward (hamstring) and Craig Bryson (thigh) with Jeff Hendrick and Johnny Russell coming into midfield and attack respectively.

The hosts were the brighter team from the off and carved out the first chance on six minutes, when John Eustace’s instinctive volley from outside the box was diverted wide by the knee of Chelsea loanee Patrick Bamford.

This stung the visitors into life and moments later Matt Ritchie, who had barely touched the ball in the opening exchanges, worked himself space on the left side of the box, only to see his low effort smack off the right post with keeper Lee Grant beaten.

Midway through the first half Tokelo Rantie had a chance that was arguably even better, but after being teed up by strike partner Lewis Grabban on the edge of the area, the South African slammed off-target.

Derby captain Richard Keogh nearly sent home a spectacular own goal when he lobbed Grant, but the ball bobbled fractionally wide of the left upright.

Grabban was in typically lively mood and after swiftly turning on the left flank, he surged into the penalty area unchallenged and forced a smart low stop from Grant.

Referee Mark Heywood rightly waved away Rams penalty appeals when Craig Forsyth went down under a challenge from Harry Arter, and shortly before the interval Grabban and Bamford both blasted high and wide.

There was still time for Marc Pugh to dance down the left and sit up a cross for Elphick, but the Cherries skipper glanced his header across goal.

Rams manager Steve McClaren signalled his intentions at the start of the second half with a double substitution, as Conor Sammon and Simon Dawkins entered the fray at the expense of Bamford and Eustace.

Seemingly rejuvenated, the hosts increased the pressure and Hendrick’s near-post corner was nodded over by Martin.

Hendrick and Dawkins then dovetailed neatly to set up Sammon inside the box, but a combination of Steve Cook and Lee Camp managed to shepherd the ball to safety.

The Cherries goal was starting to lead a charmed life and in the 68th minute, Sammon missed a connection with Martin’s cross and then Russell’s shot was cleared off the line by Cook.

With 10 minutes to play, an Ian Harte free kick from the right nearly dropped into the far corner in a rare second-period opportunity for the visitors.

And the hosts grabbed the winning goal in the closing stages, setting up a frenetic final few minutes at Pride Park.

Seconds after Harte curled a 25-yard free kick over the bar, referee Heywood blew the final whistle.


Cherries (4-4-2): Camp; Francis, Elphick, Cook, Harte; Ritchie (Fraser, 70), Arter, Surman, Pugh (MacDonald, 75); Rantie (Kermorgant, 58), Grabban.

Unused subs: Allsop (g/k), Smith, Coulibaly, Pitman.

Booked: Elphick, Francis.

Derby (4-1-2-3): Grant; Wisdom, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth; Eustace (Dawkins, H-T); Hendrick, Hughes; Russell, Bamford (Sammon, H-T), Martin.

Unused subs: Legzdins (g/k), O’Brien, Bailey, Thorne, Whitbread.

Booked: Buxton.

Referee: Mark Heywood (Cheshire).

Attendance: 27,306.