It may have been a bit nervy at times, but Derby County got the job done against Middlesbrough at Pride Park yesterday, with Wayne Rooney getting one over on Neil Warnock.
The Rams ran out 2-1 winners thanks to goals from Lee Gregory and an absolute stunner from Colin Kazim-Richards – his third goal in his last four outings.
Neeskens Kebano did get a goal back before halftime for Boro, but in the second half they were rarely troubled and as far as one-goal wins are concerned, Rooney and co. were relatively comfy.
What did we learn about County though after yet another win? Let’s take a look…
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Wayne Rooney has tactical flexibility
Since he took over as temporary manager initially in November, Rooney has been very stubborn in sticking with a 4-2-3-1 formation – perhaps because of a lack of options up-front.
For the first time though, Rooney decided to opt for a 4-4-2 against Boro, and it worked to great effect with both Gregory and Kazim-Richards putting in hard graft at the top end of the pitch.
With both strikers getting on the scoresheet – albeit in different circumstances – it proves that the novice manager knows how to get the best out of his players already.
Lee Gregory was an astute signing
Gregory was one of five loan players that arrived at Pride Park in the final few days of the transfer window, and yesterday’s victory was his first start for the club – the only new signing that was given that opportunity.
According to Steve Nicholson of the Derby Telegraph, the veteran striker’s link-up play and strong work ethic were the standout characteristics of his performance and his arrival may give Kazim-Richards the freedom to float about and score from long range like he did yesterday.
A shrewd move indeed from Rooney to bring Gregory into the fold.
Teden Mengi will find it tough to make a breakthrough
Out of all of Derby’s new loan signings, Mengi is perhaps the most exciting having come through the ranks at Manchester United, captaining their under-23 side this season at the age of just 18.
With Derby’s decent form though recently, it was always going to be tough for Mengi to break into the side straight away and he’s finding that out to be true right now.
The teenager got four minutes at the end of yesterday’s game as the Rams clung on to their victory but it’s difficult to see him usurping Andre Wisdom or Matt Clarke from their positions anytime soon – he may have to wait until injury or suspension hits to get a chance.