Relieved McClaren toasts Southport

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Published: Saturday 3rd January 2015 by The News Editor

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Steve McClaren raised a glass to Southport after he admitted he was “absolutely relieved” to see his Championship high-flyers beat the Conference strugglers 1-0 with a stoppage time penalty.

Southport manager Gary Brabin had presented McClaren with a bottle of Amarone Italian red wine before the third round tie but the Derby head coach had little to celebrate until Chris Martin spared his blushes with the visitors 90 seconds away from a money-spinning replay.

Derby had dominated for long periods but a combination of wasteful finishing and superb goalkeeping from on-loan Blackburn goalkeeper David Raya Martin had kept the underdogs in with a chance of causing an upset.

Leon Best fired over from eight yards after Craig Bryson struck a post and Ryan Shotton headed wide from close range after Raya Martin had made a flying save from Paul Coutts.

The keeper continued to stand in Derby’s path in the second half, saving from Jake Buxton, Bryson and Simon Dawkins but he was finally beaten in the 92nd minute when Johnny Russell was caught by skipper Luke Foster and Martin powered home the penalty.

That saved Derby from embarrassment against the club 89 places below them in the football pyramid and McClaren said: “Absolute relief, we got the result but there’s not a lot to say about our performance, just a lot to say about Southport’s.

“They came here and frustrated us, did their job, defended heroically, played when they could and their keeper was magnificent. Gary and his staff can be very proud of their performance today, I thought it was excellent.

“We are just thankful we are not the headline on Sunday morning, which we were very close to being. In the end it was sheer relief that we got the result. I couldn’t see us scoring from open play and I thought it was going to take something like a penalty to win this game.

“I’m going to enjoy a nice glass of Amarone with Gary because he presented it to me before the game, trying to soften me up! From half-time on I was looking forward to that glass of wine – but Gary can be very proud of his players.”

Brabin admitted his players were “devastated” but said: “I’ve told them I’m proud of them and that they’ve raised the bar and made a lot of friends. It’s a cruel way to lose the game but there was never any doubt in our minds that it was a penalty.

“I’m gutted to see the lads so down but I genuinely didn’t think we were going to win the FA Cup. We just wanted to come here and show everyone what this team is capable of and leave with pride, which is certainly the case.

“I think they were excellent and we’ve frustrated a side who I think will be in the Premier League next season.”

Brabin saluted the performance of Raya Martin, who was playing the last game of his loan spell, adding: “I would love to sign him. He’s come here and opened a lot of people’s eyes.

“A lot of people are talking about him and he’s a top keeper. He’s the best I’ve seen and I’ve worked with a lot of clubs. He showed he’s top drawer and we believe he’s got a big future ahead of him.”

Published: Saturday 3rd January 2015 by The News Editor

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