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Ledley King's headed goal looked like it might be enough for Derby victory, but hopes were dashed 14 minutes from time by an Arsenal leveller from second half substitute Robert Pires.

Ledley King's headed goal looked like it might be enough for Derby victory, but hopes were dashed 14 minutes from time by an Arsenal leveller from second half substitute Robert Pires.

So well did the team play - particularly in the first half - that picking up of a point will prove a huge disappointment. For big portions of the game Arsenal were not in it and it was only in the middle stages of the second period they began to make inroads into home defences. For Arsenal it was definitely a point won - as their reaction at the end demonstrated - and two points lost for our team.

It was a bit strange rocking up at the ground two hours in advance of a normal Saturday kick-off but, as the minutes ticked away towards 1pm, the atmosphere in the Lane had that usual Derby crackle about it.

As anticipated, there was only one change in Martin Jol's side in the shape of a replacement for the suspended Edgar Davids. In this case it was Teemu Tainio who was given the nod to sample his first North London collision - one of five in the starting line-up tasting the experience.

Arsenal were without Thierry Henry, with Dennis Bergkamp and Jose Reyes beginning for the visitors on attacking duties. Pires was dropped to the bench where he joined Robin van Persie as a potential offensive threat for later in the game, if required.

The play in the opening minutes was fairly attritional but played in the typical robust manner of a Derby encounter. Michael Carrick, Jermaine Jenas and Tainio appeared to establish an early authority over Matthieu Flamini, Gilberto and Francesc Fabregas which you hoped would prove decisive later in the game.

Ledley King more than showed his pedigree on 11 minutes when Bergkamp set Reyes away with the captain a yard behind and appearing to be on the wrong side of the Spaniard. How Ledley managed to spoon the ball out of the path out of Reyes in full flight - inside the area - with his right foot and come away with it - only he could probably tell you. Simply top class.

Arsenal then had two players enter into the book of referee Mr Bennett in the space of a few minutes, Gilberto and Lauren being cautioned for crude challenges on Jenas and Tainio respectively.

Ledley showed his class at the other end on 17 minutes when we were awarded a controversial free-kick - controversial because Paul Stalteri was away had the referee not stopped play for a foul on Aaron Lennon. Spurs people will be happy he did though because from Carrick's measured set piece from the right, King rose high and mighty to elegantly nod the ball downwards, past Jens Lehmann and into the net at the Paxton Road end.

It was a totally absorbing first half with so many stand-out performances from men in white

The Lane literally erupted and taking the lead was no smash 'n' grab, the boys more than deserved their advantage and looked much the better team at that point in the game. There then followed some slick interplay between Mido and Jermain Defoe that led to Carrick being teed up for a rare hit on goal which was struck sweetly and couldn't have been far wide.

Carrick, who was becoming an awesome presence in the middle, left Flamini stranded before switching left for Defoe who in turn spotted the advance of Jenas early. JJ then came so close to making it three in three games with a piledriver that Lehmann did well to see, let alone tip over the bar.

At this stage Arsenal were not in it and you were longing for it to stay that way.

Pires was introduced at half-time in place of Flamini as Arsene Wenger sought to redress the balance. Fredrik Ljungberg forced a fine save out of Paul Robinson just after the break but the game should really have been stopped for a foul on Stalteri by the touchline during the build-up.

Five minutes into the second half a Lennon dash down the right saw to that the ball ended up at the feet of Jenas, who scooped it into the area for Defoe but a possible volleying chance went begging and the little striker was squeezed out.

The Pires-Bergkamp axis started to cause a few concerns as the game approached the hour mark, as the two combined often to try and set the pacy Reyes through on goal.

It was our own pacy striker who provided the next threat when Defoe cut in from the left - leaving Lauren marking thin air - before striking low with Lehmann fortunate to save with his feet.

Van Persie was next into the action when Ljungberg was deemed unfit to continue on 64 minutes and the Dutchman tested Robinson's reflexes almost straight away as Arsenal gained territory in the match.

Lennon and Defoe combined to good effect next with Jenas just failing to connect with his head from Defoe's clipped cross. It proved to be Lennon's last contribution as he was sacrificed for Andy Reid on 73 minutes.

Three minutes later came a crushing blow given the effort that had gone in before. A harsh free-kick awarded against Stalteri was whipped in by Bergkamp and punched away by Robinson. Unfortunately, the ball fell at the feet of Pires who drove it back through a crowd of players and into an empty net.

Martin reacted to the setback by bringing on Robbie Keane for Defoe in an attempt to regain the momentum of the first half. Sadly, for the vast mjority of the 36,154 in the ground, Arsenal survived a late flurry of activity around their area and left the Lane with a point.