STEVE McClaren has revealed how he almost substituted Derby County’s goal hero Patrick Bamford, who admitted he had not had the best game before his stunning goal sank Sheffield Wednesday.
Bamford, on loan from Chelsea, had been quiet before his quality strike in the 78th minute gave the Rams a 1-0 victory at Hillsborough to boost their promotion hopes.
It was the 20-year-old’s fifth goal in seven games for Derby.
“Patrick is a match winner – and that goal was absolutely sensational. Sheer quality to win a scrappy game,” said head coach McClaren, who was not overly happy with Bamford’s performance.
“We almost took him off before that but you have to keep your goalscorers on the field,” he said.
“Patrick is pretty laid back. He can frustrate you and sometimes he flits in and out of games, but he’s a match winner. He scores important goals, that is the key thing.”
And Bamford felt he owed his Derby team-mates a goal to make up for an otherwise less than impressive performance against Sheffield Wednesday.
Bamford’s stunning 78th-minute strike sent the Rams up to third in the Championship table.
It was one piece of pure quality in what had largely been a battle of attrition up to that point.
“I said to the boys afterwards that I kind of owed them that, because I hadn’t really been present for most of the game,” said Bamford. “I felt I could have done better.
“I didn’t really come into the game that much in the first half.
“Whether that was the way we were playing or just the way the game went, I don’t know.
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“The ball spent a lot of time in the air and there was a bit of fighting between the teams.
“At half-time, the gaffer told me to buck my ideas up. He said I hadn’t been strong enough and hadn’t got myself involved in the game enough.
“In the second half, I felt I improved a little bit - and after the goal, I was a lot better.
“I think it was just one of those games and I’m glad I got the goal, because it meant we came away with something and I came away with something, even though I didn’t play that well.”
McClaren also revealed that he feared the worst when he saw Bamford line-up a shot from distance.
“You watch him in training and he practices free kicks,” he said.
“We have got a big net, he keeps missing the big net and hitting a lot of cars in the car park!
“So when he lined up to shoot I thought ‘here we go again’, but this time he kept the ball down - what a goal.
“He has got that type of goal in his locker.”
Bamford is with Derby until the end of the season.
He started at Nottingham Forest before Chelsea splashed out £1.5m on him in January 2012 and he signed a five-year deal.
“He has a bright future and we are just delighted we have got him,” said McClaren.
The Grantham-born player has represented England at under 18, 19 and 21 levels, and also scored 17 during a spell with MK Dons in the first half of the campaign.
The former Nottingham Forest front man had already netted a couple of crackers since arriving at Derby but reckons his latest one is the pick of the bunch.
“I think that’s the best goal I’ve scored in my whole career,” he said.
“When I first got the ball, I tried to take the guy on. I don’t know what happened but it didn’t work out.
“I turned back and played it to Andre (Wisdom). He’s gone down the line and the two guys followed him, which left me in a bit of space.
“Andre recognised that, drew them in and then laid it off to me.
“That was the first chance in the game I’d had to have a shot on goal - and I knew as soon as I got the ball, that was what I was going to do.”
Bamford was quick to praise the Rams’ back line for their efforts against the Owls.
Goalkeeper Lee Grant, facing his former club, produced a solid display and was ably supported by Jake Buxton, Richard Keogh, Wisdom and Craig Forsyth.
“I think the whole team owes a lot to the back four and Granty,” said Bamford.
“It starts with Granty. He’s a great goalkeeper and makes everyone feel relaxed around him.
“Bucko and Keezy, their heading was excellent. They knew what they had to do and their concentration was fantastic.
“Wizzo and Fozzy complete the back four and did very well themselves. They made their tackles and stopped the crosses coming in.”
The England Under-21 international added: “The boys felt we were going to win and it was just a matter of time that we would create a chance.
“It had been back and forth end-to-end stuff but a lot of the time, the ball was in the air.
“I can’t remember them having too many chances. Granty made a few great saves and pulled a few out of the air from set pieces.
“But in the end, we knew a chance was going to come along.”