Derby County fell to their first defeat since the season’s restart on Wednesday evening, with the Rams losing 2-0 to West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.
The Rams had been unbeaten since the season’s restart heading into Wednesday’s encounter, after extending their unbeaten run at the weekend thanks to a Chris Martin’s late equaliser against Nottingham Forest.
But Phillip Cocu’s side were on the wrong end of the result on Wednesday night, as West Brom boosted their hopes of winning automatic promotion to the Premier League.
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Grady Diangana’s low effort snuck in off the post on 11 minutes, and Dara O’Shea headed in from Matheus Pereira’s corner on 76 minutes to secure all three points for Slaven Bilic’s side.
O’Shea was also involved in a controversial flashpoint in the latter stages, with Louie Sibley’s leg getting caught in-between O’Shea’s, before the young Derby man was sent off for pulling his leg out.
A frustrating night for Derby, then, and here, we take a look at three things we learnt about the Rams after their 2-0 defeat to West Brom…
More attacking impetus needed
Chris Martin led the line for Derby last night, with Jack Marriott injured and Martyn Waghorn suspended after being sent off against Forest at the weekend.
When Martin was taken off in the latter stages of the contest, Jordan Brown and Jahmal Hector-Ingram came on to lead the line, which highlights a lack of depth up top.
Of course, bringing in the youngsters in the dying embers for even a slight bit of first-team experience is warming to see, but in the long run, this lack of depth could hinder Derby.
Cocu addressed his lack of options in attack after the game, and you would expect the Dutchman to bring in another striker or two this summer, especially with Martin out of contract.
Play-off hopes dented
Last night’s result sees Derby drop to ninth in the Championship table, three points off the play-offs.
Of course, their top-six hopes aren’t over just yet, but they are obviously in a worse position to what they were before kick-off last night.
Derby’s next three games are absolutely crucial. They face Brentford this weekend, before travelling to sixth-placed Cardiff City next Tuesday, and they then host table-toppers Leeds United the following Saturday.
They have got to win at least two of them games at the very least, you feel, if they are to salvage a late top-six finish.
Reasons to be positive
One reason to be positive despite last night’s frustrating defeat is the amount of youth players out on the field for Derby.
At one point, they had eight academy graduates on the pitch. Louie Sibley, Jayden Bogle and Max Bird started the game, whilst the likes of Jordan Brown, Jahmal Hector-Ingram and Lee Buchanan were brought on later on.
At such an important stage of the season for Derby, the fact that Cocu showed faith in eight of their young talents against such a good team like West Brom can only bode well for the future.
Derby have so many talented youngsters coming through the ranks, and the next generation should thrive under Cocu.