RICHARD Keogh left the Wembley pitch in tears, consoled by his team mate and centre-back partner Jake Buxton.
Both felt they could have done more to prevent Bobby Zamora thumping a last minute winning goal to give Queen’s Park Rangers a 1-0 victory.
The win booked promotion for Rangers and left the Rams devastated, but head coach Steve McClaren refused to point the finger of blame at the centre-half pairing which has been outstanding at the heart of back four this season.
“You can’t fault any player and put blame on anybody,” said McClaren.
“There are always four or five mistakes with any goal.
“We gave two throw-ins away (in the lead-up to the goal), then missed a couple of duels, so we do not blame one person.
“They (Keogh and Buxton) have been magnificent this season, all the players have, but Keogh and Buxton have been the real rock.
“They will blame themselves, but we don’t blame anybody.”
The game looked destined to go to extra time before a rare Rangers’ raid saw Junior Hoilet get the better of Buxton and centre.
Keogh sent his attempted clearance straight to Zamora who lashed his shot high beyond Lee Grant.
Derby had been on top all second half.
“We felt with another 30 minutes to go our patience would get rewarded,” said McClaren.
“But you cannot account for a little slip at the end.
“Maybe concentration went thinking of extra time.
“Football can be a cruel game and it is hard to take right now.”
Zamora’s strike was Rangers’ only one on target and Grant had been untroubled all afternoon.
“Absolutely right,” said McClaren.
“We controlled the game, wore Rangers down, dominated even when it was 11 v 11 before Gary O’Neil was sent off.
“I thought it was just a matter of time if we kept our patience.”