Steve McClaren believes his experimentation with a 3-5-2 formation during Derby’s FA Cup Fourth Round win over Chesterfield will stand the Rams in good stead for the final few months of the season.
Darren Bent and Will Hughes scored the goals that secured Derby’s progress to the last 16, but the head coach hopes tinkering with his formation will pay dividends as his side seek promotion to the Premier League.
McClaren handed a debut to new centre back Raul Albentosa, but the Spanish defender was replaced by Johnny Russell at half-time as the head coach switched back to 4-3-3 in an attempt to counter the Spireites’ adventurous approach.
Derby 2-0 Chesterfield
The FA Cup
Fourth Round Proper
Saturday 24 January
Winning club will receive £90,000
McClaren said: “I think we learnt a hell of a lot from that game.
“We tried a lot of things, we had a look at things and we took a lot of risks with the team to look at another system. We wanted to get two players up front because we may need that further down the line.
“We knew the game would be open and we wouldn’t have as much control as we normally do. We were fortunate to go 1-0 up. Their system dominated ours [and] at half-time we had to change. It was purely tactical. Raul was unlucky because he didn’t put a foot wrong.
“We did a lot of things today. It [was] frustrating. We had chances, they [had chances] and in the end we’ve come through and we move on.”
Although Chesterfield were only able to fashion half chances, and didn’t overly trouble Derby keeper Kelle Roos, they enjoyed enough possession to worry their local rivals.
The League One side gave a good account of themselves in the opening quarter of an hour in particular, though neither them or their hosts were able to create any early chances.
Derby had to wait until added time in Round Three before Chris Martin’s spot-kick saw off the brave challenge of non-League Southport. But, despite not having it all their own way, they broke the deadlock much earlier this time round.
On 20 minutes, Jake Buxton flicked on Omar Mascarell’s corner and Bent was on-hand to nod over the line from close range for his first Derby goal since his loan move from Villa Park. It was Bent’s sixth goal in his last seven FA Cup appearances.
Watch the goals from the all-Derbyshire clash at the iPro Stadium
The goal settled McClaren’s charges amid a fervent atmosphere at the iPro Stadium. The 28,000-strong crowd were enjoying the first competitive meeting between the Derbyshire rivals since 1986.
But the Spireites still had their chances. James O’Shea bent a shot wide before forcing Roos to save with another effort a few moments later, and Sam Clucas dinked a cute flick over the bar when found by Jimmy Ryan.
McClaren changed things at half-time and the switch to 4-3-3 was almost rewarded within minutes of the restart. Bent was put through by Chris Martin but the striker was foiled by Chesterfield keeper Tommy Lee when one-on-one. This chance sparked a frantic 10 minutes.
Buxton was forced to make a sliding tackle to prevent O’Shea a clean strike at goal. Russell was denied by a combination of Lee and Tendayi Darikwa at the near post, before Bent wasted another good chance when trying to lob home Derby’s second.
And Ryan then slashed an angled shot over the bar when well placed at the back post.
Russell’s cameo was cut short through injury, and he limped off to be replaced by former Spireites striker Jamie Ward.
But it was another Rams substitute that came close to putting the tie to bed as Dawkins, on for Martin, headed Hughes’s cross against the crossbar, with the aid of a touch from Lee.
However, just after Chesterfield boss Paul Cook sent on Dan Gardner and Ollie Banks to search for an equaliser, Hughes jinked his way into the visitors’ box and dinked the ball over the on-rushing Lee to seal Derby’s place in the Fifth Round draw.
The draw for the Fifth Round will take place during BBC’s The One Show on Monday evening.
Derby County (3-5-2): 21 Kelle Roos; 6 Richard Keogh (C), 5 Jake Buxton, 36 Raul Albentosa; 2 Cyrus Christie, 33 Omar Mascarell, 19 Will Hughes, 8 Jeff Hendrick, 3 Craig Forsyth; 39 Darren Bent, 9 Chris Martin.
Substitutes: 11 Johnny Russell for Albentosa 46, 10 Jamie Ward for Russell 65, 7 Simon Dawkins for Martin 75.
Substitutes not used: 35 Jonathan Mitchell, 4 Craig Bryson, 32 Ryan Shotton, 37 Stephen Warnock.
Goals: Bent 20, Hughes 82
Bookings: Hughes 58, Christie 80, Hendrick 90
Chesterfield (4-4-2): 1 Tommy Lee; 2 Tendayi Darikwa, 4 Sam Hird, 16 Charlie Raglan, 3 Daniel Jones; 10 James O’Shea, 5 Sam Morsy (C), 8 Jimmy Ryan, 12 Sam Clucas; 17 Eoin Doyle, 9 Armand Gnanduillet.
Substitutes: 7 Dan Gardner for O’Shea 75, 24 Ollie Banks for Ryan 75, 26 Mani Dieseruvwe for Gnanduillet 90.
Substitutes not used: 31 Myles Wright, 15 Ritchie Humphreys, 23 Ian Evatt, 25 Drew Talbot.
Referee: David Webb