The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Ian Baker

DERBY boss Steve McClaren claimed be­fore this game that his side did not have the same sense of fun as last term. But even though he might not have en­joyed this thriller, all 31,628 at Pride Park would have done.

The Rams twice came from be­hind to clinch victory to go top of the Cham­pi­onship on a day where pro­mo­tion ri­vals Bournemouth, Mid­dles­brough and Ip­swich were all de­feated.

Dar­ren Bent’s 77th-minute penalty was ul­ti­mately enough af­ter two rare goals for Jake Bux­ton had can­celled out Wed­nes­day leads gained through Lewis McGugan and Will Keane.

“It was a great game,” said McClaren. “That game had ev­ery­thing – maybe for the neu­tral but not for my­self. It was im­por­tant to win.

“We said at half-time this could be a very big three points if we come back and we had to do it twice. It was a mas­sive three points for us.

“It is what we do, we have to get the points and reach our tar­gets.

“The im­pact from the bench was im­por­tant as well. You have to be pa­tient, you can’t get frus­trated with this team.

“We want to keep play­ing be­cause our foot­ball gets us re­wards. And even­tu­ally we wore Wed­nes­day down with our con­stant tempo of foot­ball.

“It was fan­tas­tic char­ac­ter from the boys. It was backs against the wall and took a mam­moth ef­fort.”

Derby, with Ge­orge Thorne mak­ing his first start of the sea­son af­ter a lengthy knee in­jury, were re­lent­less in their attack.

But they went be­hind on 20 min­utes cour­tesy of a won­der free-kick from ex-Not­ting­ham For­est mid­fielder McGugan – brought up down the road in Long Eaton – who curled past a stranded Lee Grant.

Tom Ince should have lev­elled im­me­di­ately with his shot in front of a gap­ing goal clat­ter­ing against the post and then away by Tom Lees.

De­spite Derby’s dom­i­nance there was a cer­tain amount of nerves in the East Mid­lands. This seemed a big day for the promo- tion hope­fuls and the pres­sure was on.

But Bux­ton en­sured they need not have wor­ried as he pro­duced a tremen­dous back header from Thorne’s 47th-minute cor­ner to level mat­ters.

The Rams’ weak­ness of late has been de­fen­sive er­rors. And an­other one oc­curred on 55 min­utes as Jeff Hen­drick lost the ball to Keane who ran on and shot straight un­der­neath Grant.

A bad goal to con­cede? Def­i­nitely, but that only drew Derby on and with the crowd on their side they seemed more than in this game es­pe­cially as McClaren threw on Manch­ester United loa­nee Jesse Lin­gard and Craig Bryson.

And it was a Bryson cor­ner on 68 min­utes that led to a sec­ond equaliser with Bux­ton’s header drift­ing in.

With mo­men­tum firmly on their side there was only one win­ner now. And it came 13 min­utes from time. Man-of-the-match Will Hughes’ de­light­ful through ball found Ince who was felled by Keiren West­wood.

Bent ini­tially put the ball into the side-netting but ref­eree Dar­ren Bond brought play back to dis­miss West­wood. As­ton Villa loa­nee Bent kept his cool de­spite a de­lay for Chris Kirk­land to come on to slot in his sev­enth goal in his past seven games to seal a ma­jor win for the Rams.

“It was ex­cit­ing,” ad­mit­ted Wed­nes­day head coach Stu­art Gray. “Am I dis­ap­pointed? Yes. We’ve been ex­cel­lent de­fen­sively yet we’ve con­ceded all three goals from set pieces, two cor­ners and a penalty.

“But Derby are a very good side and will get pro­moted in my opin­ion.

“We thought the send­ing off for the penalty was harsh.”

PIC­TURES: Pin­na­cle

FOUL PLAY: Tom Ince of Derby is brought down by Keiren West­wood for the de­ci­sive penalty

DEADLY DAR­REN: Dar­ren Bent cel­e­brates scor­ing the win­ner

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