Colin Kazim-Richards’ finish just before the hour mark proved to be crucial for Derby County as they claimed a narrow 1-0 victory over promotion contenders West Bromwich Albion yesterday afternoon and a precious three points.
A horrible mix-up between Cedric Kipre and Baggies shot-stopper Sam Johnstone played a huge part in the winner, with ex-Turkey international Kazim-Richards having the reasonably simple task of firing the ball into an empty net.
Though this result was a real setback for the West Midlands side in their quest to win promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking, Wayne Rooney’s men managed to make the most of the Pride Park atmosphere and claimed a precious three points in their quest for an unlikely survival.
Quiz: Can you name which club Derby County sold these 26 players to?
However, they will fight to the bitter end and have shown a real fighting spirit despite facing a mountain to climb, making survival slightly more of a possibility with every win.
But their spirit is something we have known about all season, not only fighting administration and points deductions but also their strict transfer embargo in the summer.
Instead, we’re picking out three things we learnt about Wayne Rooney’s men after yesterday’s impressive victory.
They have found their new number one
There was a considerable amount of confusion surrounding the signing of then-free agent Ryan Allsop in the summer, a man that had just been released by Wycombe Wanderers following their relegation back to the third tier.
With Kelle Roos and David Marshall already at the club as existing options prior to his arrival, many would have argued they had more pressing areas to address and that case could be made to this day, but Allsop was superb when called upon yesterday and deserves to keep his spot for the foreseeable future.
Roos has been linked with a move away from the East Midlands in recent months and with the need to stay afloat during the period of time between now and the takeover of the club being signed a sealed, the Dutchman may be one player administrators want to cash in on instead of captain Tom Lawrence.
Allsop has already shown he can step up and Scotland international Marshall is experienced enough to step up to the plate if needed, so yesterday’s performances just goes to show former first-choice shot-stopper Roos is one man they could probably cash in on.
They will rarely be beaten in the air
This may be a strange point to make considering Kyle Bartley had a header ruled out for offside, but Derby were reasonably dominant aerially considering they were coming up against a direct team and credit has to go to the likes of Richard Stearman and Curtis Davies.
The Rams were in the most trouble when Albion had the ball on the floor, reinforced through Jake Livermore and Callum Robinson’s chances, so that’s testament to them because they made crucial headers throughout the match.
It could be argued that Albion’s poor quality in the final third made things slightly easier for the hosts – but they could only deal with what’s in front of them and what they needed to deal with – they did without any blips.
This will be a lesson to other teams regarding their strength in the air, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see upcoming opponents Stoke City and Reading try to keep the ball on the ground in the attacking half.
Nicking wins going forward potentially should be the policy going forward
Although Rooney’s men have performed admirably and should receive plaudits for their bravery in the face of adversity, it’s clear their attack is a weak point.
The 3-2 victory over Bournemouth last month shouldn’t be deemed as a fluke, but their defensive prowess shines through much more than their attacking play and this shouldn’t be a source of embarrassment for them.
Instead, they need to utilise this to their advantage, soak up pressure and hit teams on the break, something the likes of Jason Knight, Tom Lawrence and Luke Plange are all capable of doing as athletic players.
Davies and Stearman were superb in central defence today – and it’s also clear Phil Jagielka will continue to be a real asset when available – so they have the ability to sit back at times knowing they have a good chance of retaining a clean sheet.
Some people would say they need to come out and play attacking football if they want to survive, but they need to be clever to maximise their points return and this is why they should be the counter-attacking team in certain games.