DERBY COUNTY 2 RANGERS 0
PRE-SEASON is a means to an end, a time to build match fitness, bed players in and develop performances in a bid to be ready for the opening day of the new season.
So it was interesting to hear Derby County's head coach Steve McClaren reveal how he had been concerned in recent weeks as Saturday's Championship starter against Rotherham United draws closer.
McClaren watched his team defeat Rangers 2-0 at the iPro Stadium on Saturday in the Rams' final friendly.
He was pleased with the work-out. "We wanted a test, a competitive game, and Rangers provided that. It was two opponents slugging it out and eventually we got on top in the second half," said McClaren.
"I am pleased because I was a little worried, a little frustrated in the pre-season build-up because we hadn't really performed in games, but we did against Rangers."
McClaren has reason to feel happier after the Rangers game. Chris Martin scored both goals to take his tally pre-season to five in the public friendlies.
Martin was the key cog in Derby's wheel last season. He was the focal point of the attack and hit 25 goals.
The Rams need the striker to have another excellent season.
The one real dampner of pre-season was the body-blow of losing new signing George Thorne for up to nine months with a serious knee injury.
Who will fill the "Thorne" role has been the major talking point. Will it be John Eustace or Will Hughes?
Or will Derby dip into the loan market for the crucial controlling position in midfield?
Hughes is in pole position to take up the task against Rotherham after impressing in the defeat of Rangers.
He will, once the Championship starts, be tested more defensively than he was on Saturday but he is more than capable of bossing games when on the ball.
Yes, Derby will miss what he offers the team in a more advanced role but needs must and Hughes is too good a footballer not to be in the team.
Hughes' performance drew the following comment from team-mate Thorne on Twitter: "Sergio Busquets, so I hear", referring to Barcelona's controller, Busquets.
And there were more pluses.
Simon Dawkins produced a lively display and Craig Forsyth showed how much he has grown as a player.
Injuries to centre-backs Jake Buxton, Zak Whitbread and Mark O'Brien meant Forsyth was asked to switch from left-back to the heart of the defence. He did well although his surges from left-back were missed.
Of course, it is difficult to gauge the size of the test provided by Rangers, who failed to seriously stretch Lee Grant.
This is not the Rangers of their SPL days before the club fell on tough times and was demoted to the fourth tier of Scottish football.
They are climbing back season-by-season, backed by their magnificent support. There was an army of around 8,500 Rangers fans at the iPro and the level of noise generated was terrific.
The first half was competitive without being high on quality.
Dawkins had a great chance early on following a poor backpass from Darren McGregor but the Rams forward tired to take the ball around Rangers goalkeeper Cammy Bell only for Bilel Mohsni to get back in the nick of time.
Jeff Hendrick volleyed narrowly wide before Dawkins was denied by Bell and then saw his follow-up header cleared off the line by Mohsni.
At the other end, Rangers should have scored when ex-Rams striker Kenny Miller clipped over a centre to the unmarked Fraser Aird, who somehow planted his header wide.
Derby produced neat inter-play at times but too often moves broke down in crowded scenes around the edge of the Rangers box. They needed to stretch their opponents more. When they did in the second half, spaces appeared and Derby capitalised.
Dawkins' cross-shot struck the foot of a post and he was very much involved in the opening goal after 58 minutes.
Cyrus Christie found Dawkins, who showed great feet to skip towards the byline and pull the ball back invitingly for Martin to steer in his finish from eight yards.
Derby's approach means they need their full-backs to join in going forward.
Christie and Lee Naylor looked a little hesitant to do so at times but when they did venture forward, they posed problems.
Martin's second goal arrived after 74 minutes and owed much to the control and vision of Hughes.
The 19-year-old evaded would-be challengers and his weight of pass into Martin's run allowed the striker to slot the ball low past Bell. It is in such moments you see the quality Hughes possesses.
Both goals were well-constructed, the type scored by Derby on many occasions last season.
In control, things were made even more comfortable for the Rams when Mohsni was sent off 14 minutes from the end.
Not happy about a challenge by Martin, the defender threw himself at the Rams players and butted him in his midriff.
It was a bizarre reaction by the Tunisian international and referee Mark Heywood had no alternative but to show Mohsni a red card.
Rangers manager Ally McCoist described the player's actions as 'indefensible'. McCoist was being kind.
"We had a wee chat in the dressing room about it. He knows he was wrong and that he let both himself and his team-mates down. He has got to learn from it," said McCoist.
"It's a massive, massive season for us all and we can do without stupid suspensions and things like that."
Rangers will be chasing a third consecutive promotion which would see them return to the top flight.
Mohsni's dismissal capped an afternoon the defender will want to forget.
Martin received a yellow card in the incident and was replaced by Conor Sammon.
It all meant that Derby finished their pre-season programme with a third consecutive win and cleansheet, and their sixth shut-out in eight public friendlies.
Tougher tests lie ahead but it seems any worries McClaren had may just have eased.