Derby manager Paul Warne watched his players reward him for giving them Christmas Day off as they picked up a 1-0 victory at League One strugglers Wigan.

Curtis Nelson headed home the only goal in the 19th minute, but only the brilliance of Wigan goalkeeper Sam Tickle kept the scoreline respectable.

And Warne – whose side have now won seven of their last eight matches – was a happy man after subjecting one of his former clubs to a third defeat on the spin.

“It was the most pleasing performance of the season, because it was away from home against good opposition and probably the best we’ve played collectively,” he said.

“Even at the end I was making substitutions just to help the lads out, not for any other reason.

“Wigan have taken a couple of good scalps here, so we knew we would have to do a lot out of possession.

“It takes a real understanding of the game, and they’ve been well coached this week to understand how we wanted it to look.

“But then they changed their shape which made it more difficult.

“I just liked the energy and the drive of the team. There were tackles and heads when it was needed. There was also a bit of creativity and some really good performances.

“I gave them Christmas Day off and I wanted them to show me it was the right decision. They paid back my trust in them.”

Warne’s only gripe would have been that the game was not put to bed during the utterly one-sided first half.

“Sometimes you perform at a level then it can all go wrong, so I was anxious,” he added.

“When one down, you throw the kitchen sink and that’s what makes football.”

Wigan boss Shaun Maloney took full responsibility for the disappointing first half that paved the way for the Rams’ victory.

Due to injuries, illness and unavailability, Maloney’s starting XI featured seven academy graduates – with an average age between them of just over 21.

Maloney made a double change at the break, sending on the more experienced Callum McManaman and Jonny Smith, which led to a second half that was far more even, but the damage had been done.

“It kind of felt like two performances in one game, one in each half,” he assessed.

“But I can’t be too critical of the players in that first half, I have to take that one.

“I think I was over-reliant on too many young players in that first half.

“Those young players have been brilliant for me and this football club since I’ve been here, and they’ll definitely come again, that’s for sure.

“Derby are a really good side, good squad, very experienced, a match for anyone at this level.

“Normally when you’re bringing young players in, you’re wanting to drip them in, when the team is in good form.

“In the second half – apart from the first five minutes, when they had a couple of chances – I felt it was much better.

“It felt like we went toe to toe with Derby, and there wasn’t much between the two teams in the second half.”

Paul Warne was glad Tyrese Fornah ignored him and set up Derby’s winning goal in a 2-1 League One victory over Bristol Rovers.

The midfielder delivered the pass that Nathaniel Mendez-Laing put away in the last minute to take Derby into the top six.

It ended Rovers’ six-game unbeaten run in all competitions but for long periods the visitors looked like frustrating Derby.

In a scrappy first half, the away side came closest to scoring when a Grant Ward shot was touched onto the post by Joe Wildsmith.

Mendez-Laing produced a moment of quality Derby needed in the 66th minute when he went past Josh Grant on the right and whipped in a low cross which Jack Hunt could only turn into his own net.

Derby missed chances to score a second and Rovers looked to have earned a point in the 87th minute when former Rams striker Chris Martin headed in an Antony Evans free-kick.

But Fornah had other ideas and three minutes later, picked out Mendez-Laing who fired a low shot from the centre of the box past Matthew Cox.

Warne said: “He’s (Fornah) been on international duty. It was good to have him back and he looked as if he had a bit of a spring in his step.

“He came on today and was a real force. The first goal, if you watch it back you’ll see him running into the box like an absolute whippet and if Jack Hunt hadn’t connected, he probably would have scored.

“For the second goal – in fairness to him – I’m glad he didn’t listen to me because I wanted him to give it to Nat (Mendez-Laing) straight away and he didn’t.

“I’m thinking ‘what’s he doing’ and then he gives it back to Nat and I’m thinking ‘that’s what he’s doing, I get it’! He was excellent and played a big part in our win.

“We changed the shape at half-time. Created enough chances to win but if you’ve only got one goal, you’re always susceptible to an equaliser so then to get a late winner is great.”

Rovers interim manager Andy Mangan said: “It’s tough. First half, I thought everything went to plan, we frustrated them, hit them on the counter and had chances.

“I’m gutted for the lads because I think they deserved more, I thought everything we planned came to fruition. Mistakes happen in games but we’ve got to cut that out.

“But I thought we had some really good moments and I think that’s probably up there with the best performance since I’ve been in charge.

“Unfortunately, we’ve made a couple of mistakes but there were loads of moments we can take great confidence from.”

League One Derby left it late to avoid an upset at Crewe as last-gasp goals from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Conor Hourihane secured a 2-2 draw at Gresty Road.

Goals from Courtney Baker-Richardson and Elliott Nevitt in either half had swept the League Two front-runners into a two-goal lead and the Rams fell away after dominating the first period.

Crewe goalkeeper Harvey Davies saved Conor Washington’s header with his leg and Baker-Richardson cleared Sonny Bradley’s set-piece header off the line.

The Railwaymen were dangerous on the break and Joe Wildsmith blocked a Rio Adebisi effort after Ryan Nyambe lost possession on the edge of the box.

Tom Barkhuizen dragged an effort past a post and Washington curled over, but the visitors were caught out when Adebisi delivered a superb cross to the far post where Baker-Richardson finished in the 41st minute.

Wildsmith saved from Nevitt and Conor Thomas either side of the interval, but Mendez-Laing should have equalised when Korey Smith delivered a cross and the attacker headed over with the goal at his mercy.

Nevitt’s finishing, though, was spot on as he took Baker-Richardson’s pass and fired in off the far post in the 54th minute.

Paul Warne made a raft of changes and Kane Wilson’s lofted drive was saved by Davies at the near post and another Rams substitute, James Collins, saw a close-range finish chalked off for offside.

With time running out Mendez-Laing’s 89th-minute shot slipped through Davies’ hands to reduce the arrears and the attacker then set up Hourihane, who finished into the top corner in the third minute stoppage time.

Derby goalkeeper Josh Vickers has paid an emotional tribute to his wife after revealing she has died of cancer less than four months after they were married.

The 27-year-old former Lincoln and Rotherham keeper confirmed on social media that his wife Laura died on Tuesday.

Alongside a picture of the couple on their wedding day, Vickers, who started his career at Arsenal, wrote: “I have written and unwritten this so many times and still can’t find the right words to say and don’t know if I ever will.

“On Tuesday evening my wife lost her long battle against cancer…

“Laura is the strongest, bravest and most loving person I have ever met. Even though everything she was going through, she continued to smile, never letting anything get in the way of having a good time and making a lifetime of memories.

“We have cried, laughed and danced our way through some tough times.

“I will cherish every moment we spent together from the first time we met to the moment you peacefully passed. I know that you will be looking down on me and continuing to inspire me every day.

“Thank you to everyone that has supported myself and both families through this incredibly difficult time. Truly fortunate to have the most amazing family and friends!

“I Love You Always & Forever.”

Vickers’ Derby team-mates showed their support by holding up his shirt following their 2-0 League One victory over Carlisle on Saturday, while the Rams and his former clubs posted messages of condolence.

Martyn Waghorn scored for the second time in four days to give Derby a 1-0 win over Fleetwood that ended a run of three home defeats.

Derby swarmed all over Fleetwood from the start and got the goal their dominance deserved in the 23rd minute.

Conor Washington’s shot was deflected to Waghorn, who swivelled to send a low shot inside Jay Lynch’s left post.

Danny Mayor fired over as Fleetwood responded and Derby survived a scare in the 45th minute when Jayden Stockley headed against Joe Wildsmith’s right post.

It was a reminder that Derby needed a second and they went close several times at the start of the second half through Liam Thompson and substitute James Collins.

But Fleetwood almost equalised in the 72nd minute when Promise Omochere’s header was tipped against the bar by Wildsmith, who pushed away a Junior Quitirna shot six minutes later.

Quitirna flashed a ball across the six-yard box in stoppage time but Derby held on for their second win of the season.

Derby head coach Paul Warne described his side as a “nearly team” after they were beaten 2-1 at home by Oxford.

Mark Harris was the matchwinner for the second time in four days as Oxford deservedly took the points at Pride Park.

The visitors went ahead in the 32nd minute when Curtis Nelson gave the ball away and Cameron Brannagan played in Harris to fire into the top-right corner.

Derby were better after the break but needed a great save from Joe Wildsmith to deny Billy Bodin in the 64th minute although Oxford’s clever movement and precise passing was rewarded eight minutes later.

Another slick move ended with Bodin setting up Harris to beat Wildsmith with a low drive.

Derby gave themselves hope when Martyn Waghorn reduced the arrears in the 87th minute but it was not enough to prevent a third home defeat of the season.

Warne said: “We seem to be at the moment, and I include myself because I’m at the front of it, to be a nearly team.

“We nearly score off a set-piece, we nearly score off one across the box, we nearly pick out a man, we’re nearly a lot better but at the moment we’re not.

“It’s disappointing, it wasn’t us at our best, I thought we looked nervy first half which surprised me because three-quarters of the team were here last year.

“Oxford are a strong team and I think they’ll be up there come the end of the season but whether we showed them a bit too much respect and we keep giving teams a little lift at the moment.

“We were poor tonight and just had too many players off it and we need to get back to it very quickly.”

Oxford head coach Liam Manning said: “I think what you see is a group of players working hard for each other and fighting for the club.

“For me, some of the most impressive stuff tonight was how we defended set-pieces. We stood up to it, we showed bravery, we showed discipline and a real spirit which for me is really important.

“It was an important message at half-time not to try and hold on to 1-0 because when you come to a place like this with the strength they have in their squad if you try and see out a 1-0 for 45 minutes I think you’ll be in trouble.

“So I think the lads did a tremendous job of defending when we had to but showing quality in transition and showing quality to keep the ball. I think collectively we were excellent.”

Mark Harris’ double gave Oxford a 2-1 win at Derby.

Harris scored in each half before Martyn Waghorn replied late on for the home side.

Oxford had the first shot on target in the 17th minute with Marcus Browne forcing Joe Wildsmith into a diving save after good build-up play.

The visitors deservedly went ahead in the 32nd minute when Curtis Nelson gave the ball away and Cameron Brannagan played in Harris to fire into the top-right corner.

Derby put Oxford under pressure early in the second half but almost conceded again in the 64th minute when Browne set up Billy Bodin whose low shot brought a great save from Wildsmith.

Oxford’s pace and quick passing was rewarded in the 72nd minute when another slick move was converted by Harris low to Wildsmith’s left.

Derby responded in the 87th minute after Oxford failed to clear a long throw and Waghorn scored from 15 yards but it was not enough to save them from a second home League One defeat.

Derby boss Paul Warne was happier with the result than his side’s performance against Burton as they won 3-0 for their first Sky Bet League One victory of the season.

After two poor performances coming into the game, Warne felt that the Rams, who are expected to challenge for automatic promotion, are settling and looking to improve.

“I didn’t think we were great,” he admitted after watching James Collins, Conor Hourihane and substitute Conor Washington net for a first win at the home of the Brewers.

“We were good second half but not so good in the first half. We lost a little bit in the middle of the park, but I thought we created enough chances today to win. Weirdly we scored the early goal and then it was all Burton, it felt like.

“The conditions weren’t great, and it felt like one of those days with lots of corners and throw ins coming in that something was going to drop for them.

“We are still not exactly where we want to be but it is early in the season and it always takes a few weeks to really get it smooth.

“But once the pressure was off them with the early goal they expressed themselves a little bit and looked a really classy outfit. Hopefully they can carry this on into the games coming up.”

Burton boss Dino Maamria refused to be downhearted despite ending the first week of the season with two league defeats.

“What a bizarre game of football,” Maamria said. “We lose that 3-0 and yet we dominated. Ultimately they scored in key moments.”

The game was evenly poised at 1-0 but sloppy defending cost the Brewers dear as Derby countered to finish with a flattering scoreline.

“We gifted them two goals when we tried to put them under pressure but for the first 78 minutes, we were the dominant team,” Maamria added.

“Derby defended well but I felt that goals were coming for us but the second and third goals really killed us, giving the ball away when we were committing bodies forward.”

Albion had chances in the first half with Sam Hughes going close twice and Maamria feeling his side should have had two penalties with Derby getting the rub of the green with several refereeing decisions.

“If the early penalty shout on Rekeem Harper is given then it could have been a different game,” Maamria said.

“Despite the result that is the best performance so far and we played with total energy and commitment from kick-off.

“Goals make all the difference but sometimes you get the rub of the green and Derby definitely had that today and they probably can’t believe their luck.”

Derby recorded a first-ever victory at the Pirelli Stadium as they beat Burton 3-0 in Sky Bet League One.

James Collins, skipper Conor Hourihane and Conor Washington all netted as the Rams got their season up and running after last week’s 2-1 home defeat to Wigan.

Collins, a former Albion loan player, struck an early blow, heading home in the seventh minute to convert Hourihane’s free-kick from the right.

Burton almost found themselves two behind a couple of minutes later, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing denied at close quarters by a smart save from Jamal Blackman.

Burton went close in the first half through Sam Hughes, who was twice denied by Joe Wildsmith in the Derby goal, while the Rams stopper almost gifted Albion an equaliser by firing a clearance straight at striker Josh Gordon that rebounded over the bar.

Max Bird should have added a second but inexplicably failed to convert a low cross from Mendez-Laing with the goal at his mercy just before the hour mark.

Hourihane’s calm finish with 12 minutes remaining gave Derby the comfort of a two-goal advantage before substitute Washington added a third late on.

Derby County head coach Paul Warne admitted he was “embarrassed” by his team’s Carabao Cup exit at home to Blackpool.

Warne’s side were booed off at half-time after two goals from Jake Beesley gave Blackpool control they never relinquished.

Beesley pounced in the seventh minute when Derby’s defence failed to deal with a cross from the left and after Owen Dale missed a great chance for a second, a defensive howler gifted Blackpool another.

Callum Elder’s 32nd-minute back header beat goalkeeper Josh Vickers, leaving Beesley to fire into an empty net.

Derby improved after the break and although Conor Washington forced Richard O’Donnell into a save in the 55th minute, a comeback never looked likely.

Warne said: “They were better than us from one to 11, they embarrassed us at times in the first half, we were deplorable with our performance.

“I openly admit I was embarrassed, I’ve never managed a team that’s been booed off at half-time and rightly so. The second half was significantly better but way below what we expect.

“The first half was honestly painful to watch, it’s hard for me to say because they are my team but I can’t sugar-coat performances like that.”

Blackpool head coach Neil Critchley was delighted with his side’s performance at their Sky Bet League One rivals.

“I thought we were excellent first half in and out of possession and played some really good football,” he said.

“Second half I thought we defended very well, I’d just like to see us see the game out with a little bit more possession and keep the ball more than what we did, we turned the ball over too many times.

“But to score two goals and keep a clean sheet, it’s been a good start for us. We had good control, good spells of possession and we were always dangerous.”

Derby County crashed to a second home defeat in four days after Jake Beesley grabbed a brace to give Blackpool a 2-0 Carabao Cup win at Pride Park.

Blackpool outplayed Derby in the first half and although the home side were better in the second, there was no way back.

The visitors went ahead in the seventh minute when Derby’s defence failed to deal with a cross from the left by James Husband and Beesley turned to score from 10 yards.

They should have doubled their lead in the 20th minute after Sonny Carey ran clear on the left and picked out the unmarked Owen Dale, but his shot was too close to Josh Vickers.

But Derby gifted Blackpool a second goal in the 32nd minute through Callum Elder’s back header, which beat Vickers and Beesley fired into an empty net.

Blackpool were quicker all over the pitch and the half-time whistle was greeted with a chorus of boos from the home fans.

Derby improved and Conor Washington forced Richard O’Donnell into a save in the 55th minute, while at the other end, Vickers prevented Kyle Joseph making it 3-0 in the 83rd minute.

Although Derby had plenty of possession, Blackpool comfortably saw the game out.

Republic of Ireland midfielder Jason Knight has completed a move to Bristol City from Derby.

Knight has penned a four-year deal at Ashton Gate for an undisclosed fee, reported to be in the region of £2million.

The 22-year-old, who joined Derby as a 16-year-old, has 20 senior international appearances and was also linked with Sky Bet Championship newcomers Ipswich as well as Stoke.

“It’s been a long time coming behind-the-scenes trying to get it sorted, but I’m happy to be here and I’m looking forward to the season ahead,” Knight said on the Bristol City website.

“The club have shown a real eagerness to get me here, which is always nice as a footballer – to be wanted.

“I know (Bristol City manager) Nigel (Pearson) from his time at Derby and I’ve had a good number of chats with him. He sees me as a big part of the plans going forward.

“I’ll give everything every time I put on the shirt; for the fans, the club, and the boys I’m playing with – full of energy and full of emotion.”

Derby boss Paul Warne admitted he felt “heartbroken” after his team were pipped to the final League One play-off spot following a 1-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.

The Rams were overtaken by Peterborough on the final day of the regular season after captain Curtis Davies’ 41st-minute red card led to the only goal of the game – a penalty converted by Michael Smith, who helped Warne win promotion with Rotherham last term.

Davies’ dismissal could be his last act in a Derby shirt with the 38-year-old defender out of contract this summer, although Warne argued that the sending off was a mistake by referee Leigh Doughty.

The County boss said: “The penalty was disappointing because we had an opportunity to clear the ball and didn’t, but I don’t think it should have been a red card because we had a defender covering on the line and our keeper was on the right side of the ball.

“Curtis has had his head in his hands since the final whistle, but he’s been brilliant leading the troops on and off the pitch and has put his body on the line so many times and I feel for him.

“I really feel for the lads too because, for large parts of the game, with 11 men and 10, I thought we were the better team and the lads left everything out there.

“Then, at the end, you see Sheffield Wednesday v Peterborough on the scoreboard and, whilst I’m proud to be the lads’ manager, I’m heartbroken for them.

“We made positive changes from the bench because we had to be aggressive and we had a few good chances, but it wasn’t to be.”

Wednesday were already guaranteed to finish third in the table, having seen their automatic promotion bid scuppered by a six-game winless run from mid-March.

But the Owls go into the play-offs having won their last four contests and on an unbeaten run of 23 home games, with manager Darren Moore saying: “To finish on 96 points and break all sorts of club records is testament to the work everyone has put in.

“It could have been easy to rest a few players, but every game matters at Sheffield Wednesday and we want that winning culture.

“We don’t want to rest on our laurels and we wanted to go full tilt before dusting ourselves down for the play-offs. When Hillsborough is in full voice like it was today, you have to go a long way to find another club like it and the supporters drove us on in this match.

“For them to then stay behind after the game to show their appreciation to the team was a special moment.”

On Smith netting his 20th goal of the season, Moore added: “To get your striker scoring 20 goals is huge and shows what a wonderful signing he was.

“I also think if Josh (Windass) had stayed fit, he would have got 20 goals too.”

Tottenham will face a trip to Wrexham in the fifth round of the FA Cup if the Welsh side overcome Sheffield United in a fourth-round replay next week. 

Wrexham, the National League outfit co-owned by Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, were pegged back at the death in a pulsating 3-3 draw with Championship promotion hopefuls United on Sunday.

Hollywood star Reynolds was in attendance at the Racecourse Ground as John Egan's stoppage-time equaliser denied the hosts a famous win, teeing up next Tuesday's replay at Bramall Lane.

Should the fifth-tier outfit cause an upset against the Blades, they will host Spurs in a mouth-watering midweek tie, a fixture which would certainly be viewed as their biggest since Reynolds and McElhenney took charge in 2021.

Elsewhere, Manchester City will face Bristol City for a place in the quarter-finals after overcoming Premier League title rivals Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on Friday.

Manchester United's reward for their 3-1 victory over Reading is another home tie against the winners of Monday's meeting between Derby County and West Ham, while Brighton and Hove Albion will go to Stoke City after Kaoru Mitoma's last-gasp strike eliminated holders Liverpool.

The winners of Fulham's replay against Sunderland will host Leeds United, potentially teeing up a rematch of the 1973 final in which the second-tier Black Cats stunned then-holders Leeds with a 1-0 victory at Wembley Stadium.

The ties will be played during the week commencing February 27 and will be decided by extra time and penalties if drawn, with replays no longer taking place after the fourth round.

Jurgen Klopp says he remains "committed" to Liverpool amid rumours of Fenway Sports Group (FSG) potentially looking to sell the club.

The Reds beat Derby County on penalties after a goalless 90 minutes on Wednesday to reach the EFL Cup fourth round, but many of the questions after the match surrounded FSG's statement earlier in the week.

On Monday, The Athletic reported FSG was "inviting offers" to sell the club, but the Boston-based company later clarified they were willing to "consider new shareholders" while remaining "fully committed" to Liverpool.

When quizzed on whether a potential sale may affect his managerial position, Klopp told reporters: "For me it means nothing.

"Whatever happens, I really like how we work together with our owners, but if that would change, I'm committed to the club.

"As far as I know, they're looking for investors and I thought actually that makes sense.

"We work really close together with FSG. It was and is a great relationship until now and it will not change and whatever happens we will see and we will deal with it."

Asked whether the statement had any impact on his team's build-up to the game with Derby, Klopp replied: "No impact at all.

"It didn't distract the preparation at all. The players didn't ask me but if the players want to ask me, I can tell them everything."

When the press conference turned to events on the pitch, Klopp was effusive in his praise for backup goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher after his three shootout saves helped Liverpool see off League One Derby at Anfield.

Klopp made 11 changes from the weekend victory over Tottenham, and although Derby pushed his young side all the way to spot-kicks, Kelleher came up big to keep the holders' hopes of retaining the trophy alive.

Klopp was delighted for the 23-year-old after the match, saying: "We never hold him back, he is exceptional, absolutely exceptional.

"They were three really good penalties, they all go in the corner. He saved them anyway.

"He came back from holiday and was injured, it took a really long time to get him back to training and back to speed. But obviously he's ready now.

"He's a modern goalie, calm as you like, can play football and on top of that can catch balls and keep the ball out of the net in a really good manner. I'm over the moon for him."

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