HEAD coach Steve McClaren was full of praise for Derby County’s new-look centre-back pairing in the 1-1 draw against Huddersfield Town.
“I thought Jake Buxton and Michael Keane were magnificent, as was Lee Grant behind them,” said McClaren after the Championship clash at the John Smith’s Stadium yesterday.
Keane, on loan from Manchester United, made his first start in place of injured skipper Richard Keogh.
“It was a big test for us without Keogh because he has been vital,” McClaren said.
“Individually, we defended very well and as a unit we defended very well, and that is what got us the point really.
“Michael Keane looked as though he had played there all of his life. We needed that, and we need Granty’s saves.”
Derby had travelled to Yorkshire in search of an eighth straight league win for the first time since 1969.
The draw halted a winning sequence which had seen the Rams climb to fourth, but McClaren had few complaints about the performance.
“It was on a par and probably better than the victory over Charlton and at times in the game against Doncaster Rovers,” he said.
“We should have been three or four up in the first half when we were sublime and played some great football.
“I thought the boys were magnificent but we could not get that second goal and so we were only one up at half time.
“We expected pressure from Huddersfield second half because they had got out of jail but we still had opportunities – although we didn’t keep the ball as we should.
“The game was open second half and became a great game for the neutral.
“Huddersfield piled forward and took risks. If you don’t get the second goal you are always at risk.
“It was a fair result. We are disappointed in one respect but pleased that if the winning run had to come to an end, it did with a draw.
“We had to settle for a point but better that than losing.”
Derby hope midfielders Will Hughes and Jeff Hendrick will be available for the game against Barnsley at Oakwell on Sunday.
Hughes was replaced after 76 minutes of the Huddersfield match due to a groin problem.
Hendrick missed the game because of a bout of concussion.