HEAD coach Steve McClaren revealed how a gamble 15 minutes from time paid off to give Derby County victory over Watford, writes STEVE NICHOLSON.
Saturday’s Championship clash at Vicarage Road was locked at 2-2 and Derby were under the cosh.
They had one more substitution to make. Would they put on a defender to protect the point they had or would they put on an attacker and go for the victory?
McClaren sent on striker Conor Sammon for Jamie Ward and the Republic of Ireland international’s goal two minutes from the end gave the Rams a 3-2 win.
But McClaren was quick to praise his coaching staff for the choice of substitute.
“At 2-2, we were getting killed by Watford, really,” McClaren said.
“It looked like we were going to lose the game.
“We couldn’t get a foothold, we kept giving the ball away and we weren’t playing well.
“Watford were taking risks and we had to make a decision. Do we put a defender on in Kieron Freeman to try to stop the flow? Or do we change the system and try to go forward?
“Myself, Paul Simpson and Eric Steele had a bit of a conflab and to be fair it was Simmo who said, ‘let’s go for it, let’s try and get a winner’.
“So we did that and luckily the change paid off. So credit to the staff.
“Conor held the ball up well, along with Chris Martin, and that gave us a great platform to build off late on in the game.”
Sammon’s first league goal of the season gave Derby a fifth away win of the campaign and they have the second-best away record in the division behind Burnley.
Jamie Ward had scored twice either side of a Fernando Forestieri goal to give the Rams a 2-1 lead at the break before Lewis McGugan equalised for Watford for a second time midway through the second half.
“We said before the match that it was going to be a good game of football between two sides that like to play,” McClaren said.
“There was a lot of good talent on the pitch and it contributed to a great game. Some of the football that was played was tremendous.
“We came out on top but it could have been the other way around, easily. Both sides had good spells but we just got the edge and, I think, deserved the win in the end.
“I said with about 10 minutes ago when it was 2-2 and we were under pressure, this team has got something. I like the way the team plays, I like its attitude and physicality, and it can score goals.
“It lacks certain things, but I can’t fault the team for effort.”
Derby inflicted on Watford their first home league defeat of the season.
In doing so, the Rams extended their unbeaten run to three matches since McClaren was appointed and recorded back-to-back league wins for the first time this season.
“There’s a long way to go, but it’s a good start,” he said. >