NIGEL Clough was disappointed with his Derby County side’s defending as they sank to a 2-1 defeat at Brighton.
The Rams back four creaked badly as they went a goal down inside two minutes at the AMEX on Saturday.
A further goal on 25 minutes — as Andrea Orlandi followed up Ashley Barnes’ early opener — left them with a mountain to climb — and Clough knows exactly where his men went wrong.
“It was just the manner of the two goals that was disappointing,” said the Rams boss.
“I think it was a foul leading up to the second one, with Richard Keogh getting kicked in the head on the far side, but the referee said he might have missed that one.
“Then Mark O’Brien has been caught out of position for the first goal.
“So soon into the game, there’s no excuse for it really, even at his tender age.
“We thought it might have been offside when he (Barnes) tapped it in inside the six-yard box, so we’ll have a good look at that.
“But then Kieron Freeman gets done for the header (and it’s 2-0).
“It’s two 20-year-olds (O’Brien and Freeman) and I thought our inexperience showed up a bit at times.”
Despite going 2-0 down, Derby were never out of it after Brighton missed several chances.
And when Jeff Hendrick popped up to score with 20 minutes left — his third goal in three games — the Rams could have sneaked an unlikely point.
“It was a strange game because we never felt we were out of it at 2-0,” said Clough.
“We thought if we could get one back, they might get a little bit nervous — and then you just need something to drop for you in the penalty area.
“It didn’t quite happen for us but it was a very spirited effort.
“It was one of those where it could have gone three, four or five-nil but it didn’t —
it finished 2-1 with them hanging on at the end.
“In the first 45 minutes, they had two shots and scored two goals, so they weren’t exactly peppering us with chances.
“But our final ball wasn’t quite up to scratch, whether it be from set plays or open play, so that was a disappointment.
“But once we got a goal back, that changed the game.”
Clough experimented by using John Brayford in central midfield at the AMEX - and felt it worked reasonably well.
“It was to give us something similar to Craig Bryson - to support Conor Sammon and get close to Liam Bridcutt, who makes them tick at times,” he said. “John’s played in there before at a lower level and he looked okay in there.
“But we didn’t have the nous and experience that Brighton had in their side and I think that was the difference.
“A combination of our final ball and Brighton defending well meant that we didn’t create too many chances.
“A bit of quality makes the difference and we don’t quite have those resources at the moment.”
Young star Will Hughes hobbled off before half-time after a heavy challenge from Dean Hammond - and was left in some distress.
“He got a knee in the back from an aerial challenge - that was another one the referee missed - and it’s very sore,” said Clough, who confirmed that no offers had yet been received for the talented 17-year-old.
“Nobody has come in for him so far,” said the Rams boss.
“We haven’t had any offers for anybody.
“He’s very intelligent and level-headed, so we don’t have to protect him from things too much.
“He wasn’t actually very good today, compared to how he has been.
“He’d be the first to admit he was a little bit off it but, for 17-and-a-half, he’s a more than a prospect now - he’s a very, very good player.”