Nigel Clough admitted his feelings were of ‘utter despair’ after seeing his side bow out of the Capital One Cup at the first time of asking in dramatic fashion against Scunthorpe United.
The First Round tie ended all-square at 5-5 in a ten-goal thriller at Pride Park Stadium in the opening game of the 2012-13 season, despite Derby leading 3-0, 4-1 and 5-3 on the night and looking comfortable for long spells of the game.
But, the visitors hit back twice in injury time to force 30 minutes of extra time and stun Clough’s side, who looked set to avoid a fourth straight First Round exit.
The fight for a spot in the Second Round of the competition went right to the wire as spot-kicks were required to decide the outcome, with defender Tom Naylor missing the crucial spot-kick as the visitors ran out 7-6 winners on penalties.
Clough told Rams Player: “Our feelings are of utter despair at this moment after losing that one, despite not even starting our league programme yet.
“To play as well as we did for long spells of the game and not win, with the chances we had, it will haunt us for many years to come this one.
“You could say it was a bizarre game, but given we’re on the losing end of it I don’t think that’s the best description at this moment in time.
“Being honest, we could have scored ten or eleven times with the amount of chances we created, through good play it must be said and we should not lose sight of that despite the hurt we’re feeling at the moment.”
Clough felt one of Derby’s biggest problem in the second half was complacency, which is something both he and his coaching team urged to avoid pre-match and at half-time.
He said: “We spent the majority of half time telling the players at 3-0 up they should go out, enjoy the second half and see the job through properly.
“We didn’t want to give them any encouragement, but instead we gave a sloppy goal away straight after the break and that gave Scunthorpe a chance – and that proved to be the start of our downfall.
“We were comfortable long the majority of the game, but perhaps we were too comfortable at times. There’s an element of the game where you have to stop the opposition playing and in the second half, some players stopped doing that.
“I don’t think we can point the finger purely at the back four tonight for conceding five goals. I thought collectively we made errors throughout the team, from front to back, to stop Scunthorpe playing.
“We have to take some responsibility as well for taking young Will Hughes off late on; when in hindsight maybe we should have left him on to see the game through because he was outstanding – although we should not be relying on a 17-year-old midfielder."
When asked what the turning point of the tie was, he pointed to Theo Robinson’s second-half penalty miss which came a mere 30 seconds before Bobby Grant headed home for the visitors to make the scoreline 4-3.
He said: “That was the real turning point and that just goes to show how quickly football can turn – even though we should have been out of sight by then.”
In closing his post-match interview, Clough conceded his side can do nothing other than put the disappointment aside and focus their minds on Saturday’s opening league fixture of the campaign against Sheffield Wednesday.
He said: “It’s going to be very difficult to dust ourselves down and move on, but we’re going to try.
“I am sure they will be delighted we had 120 minutes and suffered a defeat as well, but we’ve got to re-focus and remember Sheffield Wednesday at home is all that matters now.”
Watch Nigel Clough’s full post-match interview on Rams Player.