BENT’S SPOT ON FOR McCLAREN
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.”
FOUL PLAY: Tom Ince of Derby is brought down by Keiren Westwood for the decisive penalty
DEADLY DARREN: Darren Bent celebrates scoring the winner