Derby head coach Paul Warne is taking nothing for granted despite another shift in his team’s favour in the race for automatic promotion.

A 3-0 home win over Leyton Orient coupled with Bolton’s draw with Portsmouth means the Rams have a four-point lead in second place, although the Lancashire club have a game in hand.

It was vital Derby took maximum points and in front of another 30,000-plus crowd they went ahead in the 10th minute when Kane Wilson pounced at the back post from a Nathaniel Mendez-Laing corner.

Another set-piece led to the second in the 18th minute, with Sonny Bradley volleying in a Louie Sibley corner from close range.

Orient were more of a threat in the second half but the best chances fell to Derby, with Mendez-Laing failing to convert in the 61st minute after racing clear.

Sibley also went close on two occasions before Bradley sealed a convincing victory with a back-post header from another corner.

Warne said: “The lads have done well, scored from three set-pieces and we probably could have scored from open play but it’s just about winning, so I’m happy.

“It’s been a good day but all it does is give us another opportunity. With two games left it’s in our hands again but we’ve got to try and back it up with two more wins to give us a real chance to go up.

“Obviously now it gives us a much better chance, but that’s all it is so we haven’t achieved anything, but it did feel like a good day. The lads performed well. I don’t think Joe (Wildsmith) had a shot (to save).

“Some days it’s difficult to score goals. Today I watched Leeds play, they couldn’t score, last night I watched Leicester and they couldn’t score. When you are at the top of the table it’s difficult to get over the line.”

Leyton Orient head coach Richie Wellens said: “They ran all over us. They are a good team with loads of experience and they just overpowered us.

“The players have been unbelievable this year but they are probably on their last legs and we are asking too much of them with what we’ve got available. We just ran out of steam a little bit.

“The big one was the set plays. We started the game okay but after the set plays in a quick space of time it becomes very difficult.

“I think it’s something we need to improve on next year. We’ve done well but I think with set plays in this division if you can score a lot more than you concede you can get an extra 12 points.”

Derby boss Paul Warne felt a goalless draw against mid-table Wycombe represented a good point despite its implication in the race for promotion in League One.

The Rams missed the chance to put distance between themselves and Bolton in the hunt for automatic promotion to the Championship.

Derby could not make early pressure pay and were forced to withstand a barrage of chances from the Chairboys in a stalemate that left the Rams two points clear of Bolton having played one game more.

“It’s frustrating,” Warne said. “We’ve got three games left and the players want it so badly that it could impact their performance.

“First half we looked good as we created chances and we passed the ball really well, but we missed two absolute sitters and we need to take one of them.

“The longer the game goes, the harder it is and we were lucky to not lose so this might be a really good point for us.

“It’s that time of the season when teams are fighting for promotion and relegation so the pressure mounts.

“These people aren’t robots, but we need to be a bit more patient, breathe and play the way we’ve played.

“I thought we forced things and there were times I saw individuals rather than a team, not through selfishness, but by someone trying to grab the game to make that moment happen but we didn’t have it.”

Derby almost took the lead within two minutes as Wycombe defender Ryan Tafazolli’s header nearly went past Franco Ravizzoli in goal.

Four minutes later, Derby missed a gilt-edged chance of their own making as Corey Blackett-Taylor shot wide in front of an open net having been set up by Conor Washington.

Washington was then denied by a block from Jack Grimmer before the resulting set-piece from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was tipped over the bar.

From there, Wycombe grew into the game but failed to properly test Joe Wildsmith in the Rams net as Beryly Lubala and Kieran Sadlier were two of several home players to send attempts wide.

Conor Hourihane and James Collins went close for Derby with seconds remaining.

Wycombe boss Matt Bloomfield said: “We were a bit shaky for the first 15 minutes or so, but we woke up and played very well for the next 75 minutes.

“We played against a team, and rightly so, who are playing for a place in the Championship.

“They’ve got loads of experience but I thought we were excellent as we got a clean sheet and on another night, we could have won it.

“I believe we could be higher than where we are and tonight we’ve gone toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the league.”

Derby head coach Paul Warne has urged his players to enjoy the pressure after they strengthened their automatic promotion chances with a 1-0 win over Blackpool.

The Rams came out on top in a tense, close-fought game that was settled by Ebou Adams’ superb first-half strike.

Clear chances were few and far between until the ball fell to Adams on the edge of the box in the 40th minute and the midfielder smashed home an unstoppable shot to celebrate his first Derby goal.

Derby should have added a second in the 55th minute when Nathaniel Mendez-Laing put Conor Washington through but Blackpool goalkeeper Daniel Grimshaw made an excellent save.

It resulted in a nervy finish for Derby, who needed keeper Joe Wildsmith to beat out a Sonny Carey free-kick in the 71st minute.

Blackpool continued to find openings and Kyle Joseph had two goalbound shots blocked by Curtis Nelson and Eiran Cashin in the closing minutes.

The win sets Derby up for Tuesday night’s visit to leaders Portsmouth and Warne said: “I told the lads before the game that pressure is a privilege.

“To play in these games and to have something to go for is amazing because you can have loads of seasons where it just fizzles out.

“I don’t think there’s any easy opposition in this league, it is tough and what I did like today was our game management.

“I joked with the lads after that what we normally do with five minutes left is just give the ball away all the time so I really liked our game management at the end.

“I was impressed with our discipline out of possession. Footballers always want the ball all the time so I think the fact the lads took all the information on from the coaches this week, the out of possession stuff impressed me the most.”

For Blackpool head coach Neil Critchley, it was a familiar story.

He said: “I thought we played with bravery, passed the ball well, caused them problems, got into the final third often, got into good situations and failed.

“It’s been the story of our season in certain games away from home. They produced a moment of quality, we don’t, they defend the goal better than us and that’s why they win 1-0 and that’s why they are where they are and why we are where we are.

“We’ve got six games to go and there will be plenty of twists and turns but I’m sick of saying the same things. We’ve created more than enough good moments and didn’t do enough in front of the goal and that’s all too common for us this season.”

Derby head coach Paul Warne applauded goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith for his part in a crucial 1-0 victory over League One promotion rivals Bolton.

Wildsmith made several outstanding saves before Kane Wilson’s header settled a tense contest at a packed Pride Park.

Bolton will look back on several moments, notably when Jon Dadi Bodvarsson’s 17th-minute header was brilliantly saved by Wildsmith.

Bodvarsson was again denied by Wilsdmith early in the second half and George Thomason saw his curling shot in the 64th minute turned behind.

Wildsmith’s reactions were rewarded when Wilson scored with Derby’s first effort on target in the 78th minute, clinching a victory that took County four points clear of Bolton with seven games to play.

Warne said: “Joe pulled us out, we congratulated him after the game which is unheard of, managers congratulating goalkeepers, but he pulled off two unbelievable saves.

“One in the first half from a header, as soon as the cross came in I just thought it was going to hit the net so that’s a great save and one in the second half as well, so Joe has been part of a decent team performance.

“We just had enough to win. There wasn’t anything in it really. Joe made two great saves and it always felt like it was going to come down to one set piece. In really tight games a set piece goal can win you it and today it did.

“If I was in the other dressing room I’d be disappointed that I wasn’t leaving with a point because I thought the game probably was a draw, but to win and keep a clean sheet is crucial.”

Bolton manager Ian Evatt is not giving up hope of earning automatic promotion.

“It’s not over, there’s a lot of football to be played, we have to stay calm and keep the faith,” he said.

“Nobody in the stadium could agree that Derby deserved to win the game. We were completely dominant. I think it was the first time in our final third second half with the corner and we’ve conceded a poor goal.

“I’m proud of the way the players played, obviously the result matters and it makes it more difficult for us, but there’s loads of football to be played and a long way to go.

“We had the better chances, their keeper is probably man of the match which speaks volumes. Football isn’t fair sometimes, but the most important thing for us is to keep believing.”

Derby head coach Paul Warne admitted his team might have got lucky after they beat 10-man Reading 2-1 at Pride Park.

Dwight Gayle scored for the third game running, although there was an offside question mark hanging over his strike which put the Rams ahead.

Gayle pounced in the 53rd minute when he fired home from Joe Ward’s free-kick, only for Sam Smith to head in Andy Yiadom’s cross to equalise three minutes later.

But Yiadom was shown a second yellow in the 59th minute for a foul on Conor Hourihane, who restored Derby’s lead from the penalty spot.

Warne said: “I thought first half we were really good, we played well and generally we controlled the game.

“We started the second half OK and got a goal that does look a bit dubious if I’m honest. I’m not going to say it was six yards onside, it looked on the edge of being close, so we rode our luck there, although I don’t think we’ve had much luck at Pride Park this year.

“But to concede straight after, we missed a couple of opportunities in the middle of the park to tackle and don’t stop the cross.

“Our intention was to take Sonny (Bradley) off early, he didn’t feel well before the game and was sick when he came off, so I’ll forgive him for not winning his header.

“It was nice we won a penalty with a ball in behind. The captain took it, I won’t lie I was a little bit nervous. When I took him off he said ‘did you have any doubts’ and I said ‘I’ve got to be honest I had a little bit of doubt!'”

Reading manager Ruben Selles said: “I look at the replay and I make my own opinion. When I say we will fight against everything and everyone, we need to play harder, we are going to do it as this team has been doing, fighting against absolutely everything that has been thrown against us.

“Today is another example of how competitive we can be and more than that I don’t know what to say.

“I think the decisions are clear, I don’t even need to say, the pictures talk by themselves. I think Derby is a really good team. We were competitive but I think the decisions were not on our side.”

Paul Warne brushed off his Derby side moving back into the top two of Sky Bet League One after a convincing 3-0 win at Bristol Rovers.

The Rams boss explained that if his team keep winning, following the club’s sixth victory in their last nine games, then they need not worry about what any of their promotion rivals are doing.

Dwight Gayle opened the scoring in the 55th minute, bundling in after Tom Barkhuizen’s shot had hit the crossbar and bounced on the goal-line.

Barkhuizen guided in a first-time effort from a Nathaniel Mendez-Laing pass to double their lead before substitute Martyn Waghorn made sure of the result when he poked in from close range in the 89th minute.

“We just keep saying to the lads ‘don’t look at the league table, just keep playing your best football for 10 games and see where we’re at’,” said Warne.

“Everything matters – I’ve said that from day one. I was talking to the lads today that it’s 250 days since we started this campaign and the pre-season, and everything matters, every tackle you make, every tackle you miss.”

Warne’s side have now won back-to-back league games 3-0 and his side may be finding form at the right time. The former Rotherham boss is eager for his side to find yet more consistency.

“You’ve just got to be bang on the money if you’re going to be successful and today this performance is already over,” he added.

“I want the lads to enjoy it for about half an hour, but then we’ve got to do it again Tuesday and then again Saturday. You’ve got to be relentless.

“My only slight criticism is that at times today we let them off the hook where we could have really finished them off. But I’m really pleased with the goals and the clean sheet.”

Bristol Rovers counterpart Matt Taylor recognised the quality of the opposition, hailing Derby as the best team in the division before the match.

Afterwards, the Rovers boss was particularly unhappy with how his side dealt with dead-ball situations.

“Set-pieces were frustrating as we’ve got a couple of first contacts on the long throw and the corner [that led to the opening goal] and got there first, but if we get there second then it’s more of a scramble. We have to be better.

“The next two [goals] come when we’re in possession of the ball and the third is when we’re really chasing the game. But that was a little bit of a reflection of us today. Our ball use wasn’t good enough today.

“In terms of the individual aspects they ‘manned’ the game today – they taught us a lesson in how to manage the game and how to manipulate certain situations.”

Derby boss Paul Warne hailed Dwight Gayle’s ability to make “a massive difference” after his first goal for a year helped promotion-chasing County beat Port Vale 3-0 at Pride Park.

The 34-year-old striker, who joined Derby last month as a free agent after leaving Stoke, opened his Rams account to make it 2-0 on the stroke of half-time – just as Vale were starting to cause the home side some problems.

Derby had made a lively start and went ahead in the fourth minute through Louie Sibley, whose shot took a big deflection to beat Connor Ripley.

The Vale goalkeeper denied Derby a second in the 11th minute with a double save from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Max Bird and the visitors had a good period before Gayle pounced in the 44th minute.

Ebou Adams provided the cross and Gayle planted a header from 12 yards into the bottom right corner, and Derby sealed victory in the 58th minute through Sibley’s powerful finish.

Warne recognised the importance of Gayle’s first goal since he scored for Stoke on March 4th last year.

He said: “It was nice Dwight got his first goal, I think he’s scored in every league now.

“I’ve said all along you are only ever as good in any game as your goalkeeper and your centre-forward, and if your centre-forward can get a yard in the box and get a goal at a crucial time it makes a massive difference.

“It will give him a right boost, it will do him no end of good. We know he’s rusty but we also know that he can definitely play at this level and he’s another threat for us.

“Some of his touches today were good again and he’s taken a little bit more rust off. It’s obviously great that Dwight scores because all strikers want to score.

“It was nice to get the second goal just before half-time, it made the lads happier in the dressing room but I wasn’t really happy, I was disappointed.

“We had put ourselves under pressure and seemed to panic with three players going for the same ball but I thought in the second half we were comfortable.”

Derby’s win kept them second in League One, seven points behind leaders Portsmouth, while Vale remain deep in trouble at the other end of the table after suffering an eighth defeat in 11 league matches since their last win.

Vale manager Darren Moore said: “We gave ourselves a mountain to climb conceding an early goal. The manner of the goal wasn’t very good but I just thought in the game after we had that early setback we never really condensed the pitch.

“I think the difficult thing was the two goals, one in the first five minutes and then the other just before half-time, that was probably the most disappointing one because 2-0 is a damaging blow.

“There is a little bit of naivety with us, our mindset can be better, needs to be better, will be better because we get some time to work with them on the training ground this week.”

Derby boss Paul Warne admitted his team did not look like a promotion side after they were beaten 2-1 at home by strugglers Charlton.

For the second time in four days, Derby lost after going in front and Warne knows they have to improve to have a chance of going up.

Derby had a lot of possession in the first half and went ahead in the 39th minute when Eiran Cashin headed in a corner.

But it was different in the second and a rush of blood from goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith allowed Charlton to draw level.

Wildsmith brought down Daniel Kanu and Alfie May sent him the wrong way with the resulting penalty.

Another mistake gave Charlton their first win since November when Ebou Adams let Kanu in and although Wildsmith blocked his shot, Karoy Anderson scored his first senior goal with the rebound.

“Very frustrated, I thought the first 20 minutes our play was really good without creating clearcut openings and I was really pleased with how we played first half,” Warne said.

“Second half we didn’t start as well and there’s a massive turning point. Joe’s held his hands up, but it’s a mistake.

“That was disappointing from our point of view and then another mistake in the middle of the pitch and they punished that.

“It isn’t a performance of a team that’s going to get promoted and that isn’t the level of performance that we expect.

“We have shot ourselves in the foot no end of times this season at home, more so than away, and tonight we got punished for our mistakes, and we have to be better if we are going to be successful.

“We didn’t have enough, that’s the honest truth. It’s really disappointing because in a position like that with so few games left, you need to see games out and manage them better.

“We didn’t have enough great performances in the second half to justify the three points.”

Charlton manager Nathan Jones admitted his side’s half-time team-talk was the catalyst for t

“It was a game of two halves,” the Welsh boss said. “The first half, we were nowhere near the levels we demand. We were tentative, we weren’t aggressive enough and we allowed Derby to do certain things we didn’t want them to do.

“We had a few words at half-time and in the second half I thought we were outstanding. We over-ran them, we were aggressive and I’m really proud of the second-half performance.

“And that’s what they’ve got to learn, they haven’t won for a long time, so we are having to cross milestones in terms of things, but that second-half performance was everything I wanted from my team.

“Now we are showing form that can take us forward.”

Derby head coach Paul Warne blamed the “fear” factor for his team’s failure to defend the lead against Shrewsbury.

Max Bird fired Derby ahead only for Aaron Pierre to equalise three minutes from the end of normal time.

It was a disappointing end to what had been a frustrating afternoon for Derby, with Shrewsbury doing a good job of restricting them to few clear chances.

Warne said: “I thought first half was my fault, I picked the wrong shape for the game. We didn’t really get out and we looked a bit edgy.

“I changed the system and we looked a lot more like it second half and created some decent opportunities.

“We got the lead and then it’s all about getting the second goal, but we didn’t play with enough personality to create enough chances to get a second.

“My regret is we didn’t play with enough personality and freedom when we were leading and it looked like we played with a little bit of fear and you’re never going to get success off that.

“I’m hugely disappointed that we worked all week to get the win and we’ve lost it on a throw-in. It does feel like it’s two points lost (especially) when it’s that late on.”

Derby made the most of one of their rare openings in the 54th minute with Bird firing a low shot under Marko Marosi following a corner.

Marosi turned behind a Conor Hourihane free-kick before Shrewsbury stunned Pride Park when Mal Benning got behind Derby on the left and found Pierre, who beat Joe Wildsmith with a low drive.

Wildsmith saved from Carl Winchester but Derby almost won it in stoppage time as Curtis Nelson headed against the bar and Tom Barkhuizen was denied by Marosi.

Shrewsbury head coach Paul Hurst said: “I’m pleased with a point, I think we’d have taken that before the game, although we came here not just to take a point or hang on.

“The feel I had was I don’t think they caused us too many problems but when we fell behind you’re concerned about how the rest of the game would pan out, but it seemed to spark us into wanting to play more.

“That’s a frustration but pleasing as well – as in, was that a great response from us or from them taking a backward step because they got themselves in front?

“We started to pass the ball more and had a spell where we were good. I still think there’s got to be more belief from the players at times, although overall I think we deserved that point.”

Derby boss Paul Warne was left counting his lucky stars after his side’s 0-0 draw at Lincoln.

The promotion-chasing Rams dropped points for only the third time since the end of October at Sincil Bank.

But it could have been worse if it was not for inspired goalkeeper Josh Vickers, who produced a string of fine saves to frustrate the win-shy hosts, whose winless league run stretched to eight games.

Warne said: “It could have been a lot worse, it could have been a bit better. That’s my view of it. We just didn’t do enough to take a chance.

“We have an attitude to take a risk. We want to win every game, we feel we have a responsibility to get promoted to try and win as many games as we can; away from home or at home, that’s the way we play.

“Luckily, our goalie got us out of trouble. Sometimes you need that.

“I still thought we would have scored, a guilt-edge chance. But we didn’t. We huffed and puffed. We just didn’t have enough to win a game.

“It’s always the way if, for whatever reason, your two, three or four forwards, whatever you play with, can’t create a chance then you want more and more options.

“If I was really greedy I’d have 10 centre forwards with six on the bench and I’d keep flipping them.

“We can’t always rely on Tom [Barkhuizen], Collo [James Collins] and Nat [Mendez-Laing] to create something all the time, it’s impossible.

“You can’t go through the whole season being the best player. Although in fairness most of the time they are.”

Despite an elusive win going begging, Lincoln boss Michael Skubala was pleased with his side’s performance.

He was particularly impressed by young strikers Freddie Draper (19) and Luton loanee Joe Taylor (21), the latter being denied a goal in the second half by a clearance off the line.

Skubala said: “I’m really pleased. I thought they worked really hard.

“We created some big chances. I thought the game had everything from the lads and we were brilliant, without getting the win.

“I thought we looked a real threat. We had a 19 and 20-year-old up front and we saw how exciting their partnership can be.

“Freddie and Joe have a lot to learn but the signs were good.

“I was impressed with everybody. I thought they were all really good.

“I was disappointed for them because they deserved to win with the chances they created.

“Joe will be fine, he’ll be fine. He’ll score goals for us. If he starts scoring goals for us then he’s got a bright future.

“He’s got to score. They’re still young, still new to League One and that can’t be underestimated.

“Derby are a big team on a great run so I’m really pleased.”

Derby boss Paul Warne believes his side’s away form could be the catalyst for promotion after a 3-1 victory at Fleetwood.

The Rams fired themselves to within two points of second-placed Bolton with a fine fifth straight victory on the road.

Player-of-the-match Nathaniel Mendez-Laing opened the scoring before prolific marksman James Collins hit his 16th goal of the season on the stroke of the break.

Jayden Stockley pulled one back in the second half, but Tom Barkhuizen ensured Derby’s impressive away run went on.

Warne said: “We did enough to win and come the end of the season it doesn’t matter how you win, it’s just important that you win.

“We’ve done well away from home in different football matches. At Oxford and Wigan, they were different matches to today.

“It’s a boost for us. They’re good lads and they want to get near the summit.

“There aren’t many weekends when you know you’re going to have a positive trajectory with a win because of the FA Cup.

“To take ourselves into third is great. I think we’ve got another gear.

“In fairness, at 2-1 I can’t say my blood pressure wasn’t through the roof because it was. Every time they went forward you’re always thinking the worst so to get the third goal was a relief.

“Over the course of the season you can outplay teams at Pride Park, but away from home these games are difficult. It’s winter football.

“We could have been better, but I’ll take three points over a better performance and a draw.

“We need to be better and have more control in games. I thought we overcomplicated it a bit in the second half.

“Our own errors allowed them back into the game and that’s disappointing.

“We allowed the opposition in and then had to weather the storm.”

New boss Charlie Adam is yet to taste victory since taking over the reigns at Fleetwood two games ago.

The Cod Army remained rooted to the foot of League One after a third straight league defeat.

But former Scotland international Adam believes his squad, who have not won in their last 11 games in all competitions, have what it takes to stay up.

He said: “I couldn’t be anymore proud of these lads.

“Again, we’re disappointed with the goals that we lost. But we’ll take positives from the performance, the endeavour, the shape and the organisation. They took everything in.

“They came up against a quality side in Derby, they punished us. But I couldn’t be prouder of these players.

“This group of players are taking on what we’re trying to give them as a staff. If they keep giving me that then we’ll be pushing up the league there’s no doubt about that.

“My two midfielders were magnificent. I said that to them in the dressing room, they’re playing against a Premier League player in Conor Hourihane and I thought they were magnificent against him.

“If they get that level of intensity and quality during games then we’re a good side and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season with them.

“We could have nicked a point. We had chances. But it comes back to moments in games. We conceded a set piece in the second minute of added time in the first half and then we’re 2-0 down.

“If you don’t take your chances with the quality that Derby have you can get punished. But I want to take the positives and we’ll build on that for next week.”

Derby head coach Paul Warne hailed his team’s 3-2 comeback win at League One promotion rivals Oxford as “magical”.

The U’s led 2-0 after 13 minutes when Cameron Brannagan converted a penalty then hammered in a 25-yard free-kick.

But the Rams fought back brilliantly.

Craig Forsyth gave them a lifeline by turning in a flick-on corner at the far post in stoppage time at the end of the first half.

And two goals in the last nine minutes from substitute Liam Thompson then Eiran Cashin sent Derby’s 1,700 fans into raptures as the Rams stretched their unbeaten run to nine games.

Warne said: “To win in the way we did was pretty magical. To win 3-2 like that was quite exciting!

“I thought we actually played very well in the first half too. Obviously we didn’t start the game well, conceding from a penalty and a free-kick in the first 13 minutes.

“But I thought we still had control of the game in the first half. The goal just before half-time proved a big swing. It changed the team talk, I won’t lie.

“I said to the team at half-time that we didn’t need to rush things, we had ages left to get back into it.

“I’m just really proud of the group. The game-changers came on for us and had a massive effect. We tried to press with a real energy and to win at another team in the play-off places is special.

“The fact that Tommo came on and scored with a brilliant header gave me a lot of pleasure too.

“It showed real character from us. If you want to be successful you have to win in different ways and we found another way to win tonight.

“We were thinking, coming here, about not losing because you don’t want a play-off rival to go six points clear of you – but we also came to win with an aggressive team and line-up.

“It was probably the most hard-earned three points we have had all season. But it was also a thoroughly deserved three points – I don’t think anyone in the ground would deny that.

“And I appreciate our fans sticking with us and really getting behind us even when we were two goals down. It was an exciting night and one we won’t forget.”

Oxford head coach Des Buckingham felt the timing of Forsyth’s goal had a big impact on the game.

He said: “I was very excited by how we started the game, and very frustrated by how we finished the game.

“We started extremely well. But it’s about starting and ending well, and putting it together for 90 minutes.

“We can’t switch off, as a collective, just before half-time like that. There were two minutes of added-on time and it was in the 48th minute, which was also frustrating.

“That goal came from a set-piece and the third goal came from a free-kick. That’s five goals against us in three games that have come from set-pieces. We’re not the biggest side, we know that, but we need to be cuter too.

“Derby are a good side – a big, physical side. But them bringing on five fresh experienced players made a difference. We had to make an enforced change with an injury to Tyler Goodrham, which we weren’t expecting to make.

“And we ended up trying not to lose the game rather than trying to win it.”

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 wants his Derby team to be “braver” despite closing in on the top two with a 3-1 win over Lincoln.

Derby’s head coach brought on Kane Wilson for the second half and he scored and set up the third goal which sealed a sixth win in seven games.

Conor Hourihane gave Derby a 26th-minute lead with a drive from just inside the area after Lincoln failed to clear a Joe Ward cross.

But Ward gave away a penalty in stoppage time when he tripped Paudie O’Connor and Danny Mandroiu confidently put away the spot kick.

Wilson replaced Ward and he restored Derby’s lead in the 65th minute with a looping header from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing’s cross.

Wilson then delivered a precise pass in the 77th minute that sent James Collins through to score with a low shot inside Lukas Jensen’s far post.

Derby are now one point behind second placed Peterborough but Warne said: “We didn’t do enough with the ball first half, we didn’t play with enough personality, we weren’t brave  enough.

“I would like us to play with a bit more personality. I just feel we have another gear and I just think we have to keep trying to get better.

“I was disappointed with how we started the game and I appreciate the opposition make it difficult but it still didn’t feel like we had the purpose I think we need to have in our play to go up as champions potentially.

“I want to get in the top two, I want the lads to want to get in the top two and they give me everything at times but tonight I didn’t think we were brave enough. You have to be positive with your decisions and I thought we were just a bit too safe.”

Lincoln head coach Michael Skubala said: “Disappointed by the outcome. We did well to get in at half-time at one all and I thought we started the second half brightly.

“But you can’t come away to places like this and concede on a set-piece. You work so hard, then concede on a set piece and then it’s always going to be a difficult place to try and push.

“I felt like at times we had moments where we could have been better with the final pass and in transition when we won it back we needed to be a bit tidier. We carried a little bit of a threat tonight but we still need to do better.

“It’s a tough place to come, they have experienced players and we’ve got to grow up in moments as a team but disappointed at the outcome.”

Paul Warne blamed poor decision making for the late penalty which denied his Derby team victory against Wycombe.

The Derby head coach saw Tom Barkhuizen’s late goal cancelled out in the sixth minute of stoppage time by a Luke Leahy penalty.

Wycombe had set out to frustrate Derby from the start and their tactics worked for much of the game which was refereed by Rebecca Welch, who next Saturday will become the first woman to take charge of a Premier League game.

She was busy in the opening 30 minutes, booking five players, as the game degenerated into a scrappy contest with few moments of quality.

The first real chance did not arrive until the 64th minute when Eiran Cashin met a Max Bird corner with a powerful header that brought a superb save on the line from Max Stryjek.

Derby thought they had secured a sixth straight League One victory when Barkhuizen scored from close range after Stryjek could only parry a low shot from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing.

But Wycombe hit back with what proved to be the last act of the game when David Wheeler went down under Joe Ward’s challenge and Leahy held his nerve to beat Joe Wildsmith.

Warne said: “That was tough to take. Our first-half performance we didn’t deserve any more than we got. I was disappointed with how we played, we had no ball speed, we didn’t have any assertiveness in the game.

“We had a bit more purpose second half and possibly did enough to win it. We weren’t at our best today and if you can win when you’re not at your best then great but there was a catastrophe of errors in the last 30 seconds which cost us two points.

“With five minutes to go we are still trying to cross the ball and get a second goal when you can just keep it, just win throw-ins and let the clock burn out. I just thought that for an experienced team we made some poor decisions late on.”

Wycombe manager Matt Bloomfield summed up his feelings at avoiding what would have been a fifth straight defeat when he said: “Just elation I think.

“The effort the boys put into the performance today, the application and the quality we showed at times to come away from home in a big stadium against a hugely historic club, I’m so proud of the boys for the discipline they put in.

“We changed shape and the boys have worked diligently all week so it would have been a travesty if we hadn’t got anything from the game for the discipline they showed.

“These lads are a group of special people and they showed tremendous character.”

Page 1 of 2
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.