Hulse winner sees Rams safe
Derby secured their Championship status with Rob Hulse's winner against relegated Charlton.
Last Updated: 25/04/09 6:32pm
Rob Hulse was the hero as Derby secured their Championship status with a hard-fought 1-0 home victory over relegated Charlton.
Hulse headed home with 20 minutes to go to decide a scrappy encounter and spark celebrations at Pride Park.
It was apt he should score with the powerful header - which converted Barry Bannan's header back across goal - after being named Derby's player of the year before kick-off.
There were few chances in a dour first half, with Martin Albrechtsen heading Derby's only on-target effort, while Kris Commons twice shot wide from long range.
Nick Bailey, Charlton's top scorer with 12 goals this season, had two shots from distance for the visitors but both failed to trouble Rams goalkeeper Stephen Bywater.
Hulse then went close with two headers from set pieces early in the second period before heading the Rams in front after the Addicks failed to clear.
It was the former Sheffield United striker's 18th of the season, securing the Rams' ninth win at Pride Park this term and meaning they avoid a final-day battle against joining Charlton in League One next season.
Nigel Clough - who succeeded Paul Jewell as Derby boss on 6th January - had seen his side lose their last three games to still need a win to guarantee safety.
The hosts began the better, but it took 13 minutes before the first effort on goal was registered, with Albrechtsen heading Gary Teale's corner straight at Charlton goalkeeper Rob Elliot.
Teale's fellow Scotland international Commons shot wide from 25 yards and Jonjo Shelvey's delivery failed him as Charlton had a set-piece opportunity at the other end.
Commons then mis-hit a left-foot shot from long range as Derby again failed to test Elliot, before Bywater - previously a spectator - was called into action twice in quick succession by Bailey.
However both of the Charlton midfielder's efforts from 30 yards were held comfortably by the Rams stopper as the half ended goalless.
Hulse saw his second-half header from on loan Aston Villa midfielder Bannan's corner tipped over by Elliot before missing the target from Teale's corner kick shortly afterwards.
Albrechtsen headed wide from another Teale set piece before Mark Hudson headed over for Charlton from Shelvey's corner.
Zheng Zhi then twice shot wide from long distance before Hulse struck at the other end.
Charlton defender Kelly Youga failed to clear Teale's corner and the diminutive Bannan headed back across the area for Hulse to power in his effort into the top corner.
Shelvey twice had efforts off target and substitute Tresor Kandol missed from 12 yards, while Commons shot over at the other end.
Hulse then missed the opportunity to add a second from 12 yards after 86 minutes but the Rams held firm to claim the vital win.