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Derby County boss Steve McClaren called it right against Carlisle United says Steve Nicholson

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: August 16, 2014


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HATS off to Derby County head coach Steve McClaren for his team selection against Carlisle United in the Capital One Cup.

He made only two changes to the side that had opened the Championship campaign with a victory over Rotherham just two days earlier.

Television's decision to screen the cup tie meant Derby and Carlisle were asked to play a little over 48 hours after their league fixtures. That is a big demand on the players so early in a season.

Given that, it would have been understandable had McClaren made a raft of changes but his one thought was progress to the next round.

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Jake Buxton was not risked having shaken off a hip problem to face Rotherham, and Jamie Ward stepped in for Johnny Russell as McClaren freshened one of the two wide attacking positions.

But that was the full extent of the changes and the Rams produced a professional display to see off League Two opponents and book a place in the second round.

Other Championship clubs took a different approach despite having an extra day's rest, and they paid the price.

Blackburn Rovers made 10 changes to the team that had drawn the opening league game against Cardiff City on the Friday evening, the day before Derby tackled Rotherham.

Rovers were dumped out of the competition by Scunthorpe United, who won 1-0 at Ewood Park.

Wigan Athletic, Wolves and Ipswich Town also bit the dust, and all three sent out very different XIs to the ones that had lined up at the weekend.

Ten changes were made by Wigan who lost 2-1 against Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium.

Take nothing away from the Brewers because it was an excellent win for which their reward is a home tie against Queen's Park Rangers of the Premier League. Burton boss Gary Rowett continues to do an excellent job.

Both Wolves and Ipswich made eight changes.

Wolves lost 3-2 to Northampton Town at Molineux while Ipswich fell 1-0 at Crawley, managed by ex-Rams player and manager John Gregory.

Ipswich have now lost to lower-division opposition in nine of the last 12 years.

Some clubs had this weekend's league games in mind, no doubt, and felt three games in seven or eight days in August was a demand that warranted utilising the squad.

Championship aims and ambitions, of course, will take preference whether teams are eyeing promotion, play-offs or staying in the division.

All perfectly understandable, but momentum is a key word in football and is important at any stage of a season, especially early on.

Winning games breeds confidence, as we saw with Derby last season when at times they looked unstoppable. The run of seven straight victories in November and December is a perfect example, a sequence that cemented them in the top six.

A fast start this season was imperative and Derby have won both games, and recorded successive clean sheets.

Other Championship clubs made changes and marched on in the Capital One Cup this week.

Cardiff made eight and saw off Coventry City 2-1 although Derby's opponents tomorrow, Sheffield Wednesday, made only three and eased past Notts County 3-0.

Wednesday, like Derby, have made a positive start and their confidence, like Derby's, should be high.

The last thing a team needs early in the season is a hiccup, a dent to its confidence, and Derby have had more than their fair share in the League Cup down the years.

Scunthorpe, Shrewsbury Town, Crewe, Rotherham, Lincoln City and Huddersfield Town have all embarrassed Derby in the competition.

But there was never likely to be a setback at Carlisle from the moment minutes after the Rotherham game when McClaren said: "We don't really want to make changes. We want to take the cup seriously."

Now Derby are eyeing a hat trick of wins. Should they emerge as victors at Hillsborough today they will bridge a 66-year gap.

The last time the club won its first three games of a season was in 1948.

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