Derby survives in the Championship through the skin of their teeth as Sheffield Wednesday were relegated

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Wayne Rooney escaped the shame of relegation to League One in his first season as a manager, despite his Derby team winning only once in their last 15 games.

In the end, one point was enough for the Rams and it was visitors Sheffield Wednesday who had been sentenced to fall into League One for the third time since their retirement from the Premier League in 2000.

“Relieved, of course,” Rooney smiled after the frantic conclusion to a gloomy campaign. ‘Crazy game, that game is the story of the season. Up, down, good, bad. Most importantly, we stayed in the division. ‘

Wayne Rooney can’t hide his joy when Derby dramatically secured their championship status

The Derby bench erupts with Martyn Waghorn scoring two goals leading the survival

The Derby bench erupts with Martyn Waghorn scoring two goals leading the survival

Derby's Waghorn threw in the penalty and made it 3-3 on a dramatic final day

Derby’s Waghorn threw in the penalty and made it 3-3 on a dramatic final day

Adam Reach of Sheffield Wednesday can't believe it, as his team is sent to League One

Adam Reach of Sheffield Wednesday can’t believe it, as his team is sent to League One

With 18 minutes to play, Wednesday led 3-2 and both teams at Pride Park faced the trap before Rams substitute Kamil Jozwiak was persuaded by Chey Dunkley and referee Mike Dean awarded a penalty.

Martyn Waghorn put the ball on the spot as news poured into the stadium from South Wales. Marlon Pack had grabbed a late equalizing goal for Cardiff against Rotherham.

Derby would be on track to survive if Waghorn scored and Wednesday would be if he didn’t.

Delirious Sheffield Wednesday players celebrate after Sam Hutchinson's first half opener

Delirious Sheffield Wednesday players celebrate after Sam Hutchinson’s first half opener

Hutchinson jumped from close range to score in the third minute of injury time in the first half

Hutchinson jumped from close range to score in the third minute of injury time in the first half

MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER REVIEWS

Derby County (4-2-3-1): Rose 6; Byrne 6, Edmundson 6, Clarke 5, Forsyth 5 (Buchanan 73, 6); Roberts 6.5, Shinnie 6 (Jozwiak 73, 6.5), Knight 6 (Bird 61, 6), Lawrence 6; Kazim-Richards 6.5, Waghorn 7.5 (Davies 82)

Replacements not used: Marshall (GK); Jozwiak, Bird, Sibley, Cashin, Buchanan, Ebosele, Watson

Manager: Wayne Rooney 6

Scorers: Waghorn 49; Roberts 52; Waghorn pen 77

Booked: Kazim-Richards, Jozwiak, Waghorn, Ebosele

Sheffield Wednesday (3-4-2-1): Westwood 5; Hutchinson 6, Dunkley 5 (Harris 87) Borner 6; Palmer 6, Pelupessy 6 (Green 90 + 3), Bannan 6.5, To achieve 6; Paterson 6.5, Windass 5; Rhodes 7 (Note 79)

Replacements not used: Wildsmith (GK); Brennan, Urhoghide, Dele-Bashiru, Hunt, Shaw

Manager: Darren Moore 6

Scorers: Hutchinson 45 + 3; Paterson 62; Born 69

Booked: Bannan, Dunkley, Harris

Referee: Mike Dean 6.5

“There was a lot of pressure on that penalty,” said Rooney, and Waghorn made no mistake and swept it high in the net past goalkeeper Kieren Westwood.

It was his second of the game in a fantastic personal game after crashing into the goal’s frame in the first half, a blow that required a long period of treatment before he could continue.

Ultimately, this delay worked out in favor of Derby. There were six minutes to play plus six minutes of stoppage time at Pride Park when Rotherham’s match in Cardiff ended in a draw.

Derby knew one point was enough and on Wednesday threw it all forward knowing a winner would save them.

Curtis Davies was sent for his first performance in five months to man the Resistance.

“He’s not trained, he’s not fit,” Rooney said. I asked him if he could head the ball and he said yes. I thought he was doing well. The boys showed great character. ‘

The Derby players and staff celebrated wildly when Dean blew the final whistle, but Rooney took pity on Owls boss Darren Moore.

“I felt for Sheffield Wednesday, another huge club,” he said. ‘This was a cup final and I lost in the cup final and it’s no fun. I felt for Darren Moore and his staff. ‘

Moore was back after missing four games with post-Covid pneumonia and blood clots.

He received the all-clear on Wednesday and told his players on Thursday that he would be at the game, but they expected him to be in the stands rather than the sidelines.

Martyn Waghorn slips to his knees to celebrate after reaching Derby level just after the break

Martyn Waghorn slips to his knees to celebrate after reaching Derby level just after the break

Waghorn rose highest to send a header away from Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood

Waghorn rose highest to send a header away from Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood

Patrick Roberts celebrates with Jason Knight and Tom Lawrence after scoring Derby's second

Patrick Roberts celebrates with Jason Knight and Tom Lawrence after scoring Derby’s second

It was a stunning curly finish from Roberts from outside the box to put the home side in the lead

It was a stunning curly finish from Roberts from outside the box to put the home side in the lead

If he hoped to inspire the Owls, it seemed to work when they took the lead in first half injury time.

Sam Hutchinson crossed the line from close range after Derby goalkeeper Kelle Roos denied Jordan Rhodes with a reflex save.

“The halftime message was to keep calm,” said Rooney, who was preparing for the crunch duel with the help of Whoopi Goldberg, not for the first time.

Before his first Champions League final, in Moscow in 2008, he beat pre-game nerves by going to bed to watch Sister Act.

Graeme Shinnie is distraught as Sheffield Wednesday levels the game through Callum Paterson

Graeme Shinnie is distraught as Sheffield Wednesday levels the game through Callum Paterson

Rams manager Wayne Rooney on the sidelines during a thrilling last day meeting

Rams manager Wayne Rooney on the sidelines during a thrilling last day meeting

On Friday he went to bed and watched the sequel, Sister Act 2. “Watching a feel-good movie with a little music helps me relax,” Rooney said.

Derby came out and scored twice in three minutes at the start of the second half.

First Waghorn, with a header from a cross from Tom Lawrence. When Patrick Roberts, on loan from Manchester City, with his first for the club, a delightful goal curled past Westwood from 20 yards.

The players of Sheffield Wednesday celebrate with a 3-2 lead thanks to Julian Borner

The players of Sheffield Wednesday celebrate with a 3-2 lead thanks to Julian Borner

Borner was practically on the right track when he nodded home to put up front on Wednesday

Borner was practically on the right track when he nodded home to put up front on Wednesday

Derby manager Wayne Rooney encourages his team during the exciting final phase

Derby manager Wayne Rooney encourages his team during the exciting final phase

On Wednesday, they didn’t fight back to win all season, but they did get a positive response.

Callum Paterson made it 2-2 by driving a low shot past Rose when Craig Forsyth failed to clear a long ball from Adam Reach, and Julian Borner made it 3-2 on a scramble on a corner kick.

‘Two very sloppy goals,’ said Rooney, and this was the big test of guts for Derby and their young manager.

Kamil Jozwiak is brought down for the penalty that ultimately resulted in a draw for Derby

Kamil Jozwiak is brought down for the penalty that ultimately resulted in a draw for Derby

It’s been a miserable season with off-field uncertainties about proposed acquisitions and terrible shape since late February.

Questions have inevitably been asked about his desire and ability to perform at this level, but the last turn of the last day turned in his favor with Pack and Waghorn’s goals.

“I believe in myself,” Rooney said. ‘I have a lot of confidence in myself. I like challenges. It was challenging. It is still a challenge. I believe if you put the work in, you put in the effort, you will be rewarded. “We’ve done it the hard way, but we’re here.”

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