Sheffield Wednesday: Owls chief in Rams spying mission

Derby chief Steve McClaren. Picture: Richard Parkes
Derby chief Steve McClaren. Picture: Richard Parkes

As per usual, Owls boss Stuart Gray has meticulously done his homework on their next opponents.

Gray was at the AESSEAL New York Stadium in midweek on a spying mission ahead of Saturday’s showdown at Derby County. He witnessed a six-goal thriller as the Rams battled back from two goals down to draw 3-3 with Rotherham United.

Gray left before the final whistle, missing Darren Bent’s 83rd minute leveller, but the trip to Rotherham will have increased his confidence that they can pick up a positive result away at the automatic promotion hopefuls.

Although Derby stretched their unbeaten league run to six matches, the draw was not enough to lift them to the top of the Championship for the first time since December.

One possible chink in Derby’s armour which Gray will be hoping his goal-shy team can exploit is the Rams’ leaky backline. Steve McClaren’s side have shipped in eight goals in their last four outings, despite having recorded 15 league clean sheets this season.

Former England boss McClaren criticised their “shocking” defending and performance in the opening 60 minutes against Rotherham.

“That was not us for the first hour of the game, both individually and collectively, all over the park,” he said. ”I have never seen us concede goals in that manner. We didn’t dominate and couldn’t get a foothold in the game.

“We were at angry at half time. The defending was shocking and we were lucky to have gone in at 1-1.

“We had no control of the game and Rotherham deserve credit for the way they played.

“We didn’t match up to Rotherham’s intensity but the players showed plenty of character.

“That could turn out to be one of the most valuable points we get. Not just the point, not losing, but the manner in which we came back in the last half hour.”

Goals from Tom Ince (2) and Bent rescued a draw for Derby and McClaren hailed their second-half fightback. He threw on Simon Dawkins, Jesse Lingard and Craig Bryson on the hour mark and praised their contributions.

He said: “I should have changed things at half time, but that’s a mistake that I made because there was no life in us and it took the substitutes to get us going.

“The subs were tremendous in the final half hour. Fortunately, we’ve got a good bench with people who can change the game.

“I thought we were going to go on and win it when we equalised, but nevertheless, it was a great comeback.

“We have got a good squad and that is a great comeback, but the first hour, we can’t do that. At the business end you can’t take a day off.”

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