New coach calls for cool heads after reign begins with defeat
NEW head coach Roxy Fearon says his Derby players need to improve their discipline if they are to break their National League Three Midlands duck.
Fearon and assistant Scott Johnson took charge of their first game following the departure of Paul McCartin at Syston on Saturday.
And they saw Derby – still looking for their first win of the season – beaten 40-12 at Barkby Road.
It was a familiar tale for the visitors, who stayed in contention for more than half the game but eventually paid the price for having three men sin-binned.
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"It's sad because the boys played well for 50 minutes but then lost their heads," said Fearon.
"We were 12-5 down, had just missed a chance to score and it was game on – but then we just seemed to implode.
"We can't afford to be playing with 13 or 14 men for 20 or 30 minutes of every game. We're just not good enough to do that.
"We keep shooting ourselves in the foot and the lads have got to learn.
"The challenge for us is to find the people who can do that, or encourage players to change.
"Games are decided by small margins and it's about remembering what to do in tight situations, rather than giving away penalties and allowing the opposition to score cheap points."
The problems were evident for Derby early on as they conceded a string of penalties and found themselves 9-0 down after 14 minutes.
The rest of the first half was competitive, with Syston doing most of the attacking but good defence preventing further scores.
The visitors had chances of their own and were held up just short of the line on several occasions.
Mikey Robertson of Derby and Syston's Tom Lemon became the first players to be sent to the sin bin four minutes before the break.
Derby started the second half well and after a spell of pressure, Ross Atherton sprinted clear before finding Matt Down, who stepped inside the last defender to touch down.
Syston kicked another penalty after 50 minutes and moments later, Todd Bullions was shown a yellow card.
The hosts took advantage and scored a converted try and, after Owen West was sin-binned with 20 minutes remaining, they repeated the feat to lead 26-5.
Derby hit back and Josh Tizard forced his way over from close range.
Down converted to reduce the deficit to 14 points but Syston pulled away again with two more converted tries, including a fine solo effort from Ian Smith, who finished with 25 points.
While Smith was Syston's star man, Fearon picked out Ben Coombes and Atherton as Derby's top performers.
"I thought Coombesy did well at loosehead prop and, in the backs, Ross Atherton had a very steady game and showed potential," he added.
"The front row as a whole were good in the first half.
"In fact, we defended well as a team in the first half but penalties killed us."