McClaren starts to feel the love as Derby fightback stuns Albion
Steve McClaren’s surprise return to Derby County polarised opinion, but 6,000 travelling supporters asked him for a wave here.
McClaren has now added an FA Cup upset to the growing feelgood factor at Derby, with second-half goals from Darren Bent and Tom Ince producing a dramatic turnaround at the Haw- thorns.
Ince’s brilliant free-kick secured a deserved victory for the Championship promotion chasers, punishing West Brom for their profligacy, to ensure that McClaren now has 10 wins and only two defeats from 15 games.
It was only three months ago that his reappointment split supporters down the middle, with many still furious over his flirtation with Newcastle before his eventual dismissal in May 2015. But this stirring afternoon will have further vindicated chairman Mel Morris’s gamble to bring back the former England manager, after the departure of Nigel Pearson.
“This was a terrific performance and to come here you’ve got to perform and fight,” McClaren said. “The result was a bonus and we were heroic in the final 20 minutes. Tom is capable of doing that and he showed his Premier League quality today. He’s got to keep it going because he’s got great ability.”
McClaren cannot have seen this coming after a first half in which Derby were subjected to constant pressure, with Matt Phillips giving West Brom a 35th-minute lead with a composed finish.
Yet out of nowhere Derby were level six minutes into the second half, with Bent arrowing a fierce shot past Boaz Myhill from outside the area.
And Ince turned the momentum of the game dramatically in the 54th minute, bending in a sublime free-kick which left Myhill rooted to his line as it drifted into the bottom corner.
This was now an absorbing cup tie, with Craig Dawson heading a corner against the post and Myhill saving brilliantly from Ince.
Tony Pulis introduced Hal RobsonKanu for the final 22 minutes but Derby were still threatening, Myhill producing another crucial save to deny Bent on the turn.
Albion substitute Nacer Chadli tested Scott Carson twice as time ebbed away yet Derby held firm to leave Pulis stunned.
“We battered them at times, we have got 60 crosses in and 30 shots,” he said. “All the stats showed we have had a right go, but in cup football you need the breaks.”
Top quality: Match-winner Tom Ince salutes the fans after Derby’s stunning victory