Conor Sammon is given backing by Derby County manager Nigel Clough after his penalty miss
NIGEL Clough has backed Derby County's under-fire striker Conor Sammon.
The £1.2m summer signing from Wigan Athletic has gone 10 games without a goal.
He had a golden opportunity to bag his eighth goal of the season against Crystal Palace on Friday night but his 87th-minute penalty was saved by Julian Speroni.
Derby slipped to a 1-0 home defeat and Sammon is finding it tough to win over some of the fans.
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But Clough says the player should not shoulder the blame and believes he will shake off the disappointment of the late penalty.
"Conor is our second in line to take penalties when Jamie Ward isn't on the pitch," said Clough.
"Although he isn't having the best of times, he stood up and wanted to take the penalty.
"He was so unlucky and the blame doesn't fall on his shoulders.
"We had more than enough chances and the penalty pretty much sums his luck up but he will keep working."
Clough says he was unable to criticise his players following the Palace game.
"The last two home performances, against Bolton and Palace, have been as good as we've played all season but we've come away with one point from a possible six," added the manager.
"The quality of our play was excellent and how we've come off the pitch against Palace with not even a point is disappointing.
"The lads were on their knees in the changing room, shattered and wondering what they had done wrong.
"We told them that they had done nothing wrong at all. There will not be any criticism coming from us.
"We created chances, hit the target, hit the bar and missed a penalty.
"It was one of those nights and it's more evident now than it has ever been that we need a break in both penalty areas.
"We're not getting a break at the moment."
The defeat, coupled with other results at the weekend, saw Derby slip into the bottom half of the Championship with 11 fixtures left to play.
Palace have their sights on promotion. They sit fourth but manager Ian Holloway was relieved to leave Pride Park with the three points.
"I knew it would be a tough game as Derby have been unlucky this season," said Holloway.
"Derby have a young side who are so enthusiastic and energetic and they deserved better than they got."