NIGEL Clough acknowledged that a 3-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday would be part of a “big learning curve” for his young Derby County side.
The Rams did well against their Championship rivals for the first half of the FA Cup fourth round tie at Pride Park, but after Colin Kazim-Richards opened the scoring, they looked deflated, and conceded two goals in five second-half minutes to Scott Dann and Jordan Rhodes as they slipped out of the competition.
And Clough admitted that the first goal was key.
He said: “We’re very disappointed to go out of the cup, especially losing 3-0, because we had aspirations of having a run in this year’s competition.
“There wasn’t too much between the two sides until the opening goal, which was a sucker punch for us just on half time and it certainly gave Blackburn a lift.
“Their quality shone through in the second half and they also made very few mistakes at the back, so when they got two quickfire goals just after the hour it killed off our hopes of getting back into the tie.
“It wasn’t our day, and we’re disappointed we weren’t able to progress in the cup, especially at Pride Park in front of our supporters.
“We were aware of their quality and when you look at the experience and class they have, it was always going to be tough for us - but we have no doubt the lads will bounce back from today because they’re good characters who are determined to do well for the Club.”
Several Derby County players may have been called up to various national teams last week, but Rovers boast established international players throughout their side, including Turkey striker Kazim-Richards, Scotland tyros Rhodes and Grant Hanley, Norway’s Morten Gamst Pedersen and ex-England midfielder Danny Murphy.
And with talented youngsters such as Scott Dann and former Barcelona youth-teamer Ruben Rochina also having good games, Clough admitted his side found it tough.
He said: “It’s tough for the young lads on a day like today, but they shouldn’t be too despondent because they’ve all had a great first half of the season.
“They were up against international players and sometimes they will learn more from a defeat than they would from a victory, especially in both penalty areas.
“Although they might not feel great at the moment, it’s a big learning curve for them when they experience disappointments like today.”
It was the worst home defeat of the season for the Rams, but they will have an immediate chance to put things right when they take on Huddersfield Town at Pride Park next Saturday.
Clough said: “All our efforts now are focussed towards the remaining games of the season now and maintaining what has been a reasonable campaign so far.
“The Huddersfield game can’t come around quick enough and we’re all looking forward to it already.”