Matej Vydra’s 58th minute penalty secured Derby County a deserved first victory of the 2017/18 campaign on Tuesday night against Preston North End.
Much-improved from Saturday’s defeat to Wolves, Gary Rowett’s side dominated for large spells and created chances aplenty over the course of the 90 minutes.
It might have taken close to the hour to open the scoring, but a bizarre situation at the start presented Derby with an opportunity to break the deadlock after just two minutes when Chris Maxwell cleared the ball from near the corner flag straight to Andreas Weimann, but the wideman failed to hit the target with his quickly taken lofted effort.
From then on, Rowett’s side steadily began to move up the gears and on 19 minutes, David Nugent almost gave Derby the lead against his former club thanks to an intelligent pass from Weimann, however, Maxwell saw it all the way to produce a quick reaction save.
Though clear-cut chances were relatively limited, Derby had looked far more likely to break the deadlock and they simply picked up where they left off in the second 45 minutes.
Shortly after the interval, two close-range chances for Derby came in quick succession.
The first fell to Nugent, but an outstanding recovery challenge from Darnell Fisher prevented him from finishing off Weimann’s cut back and the second fell to Vydra who rose highest in the box moments later but he could only direct his headed effort into the path of Maxwell.
After a period of bombardment in the visitors’ penalty box, the hosts’ perseverance paid off as Curtis Davies was hauled down during a corner – leaving Geoff Eltringham no choice but to point to the spot.
Vydra, back in the starting line-up, stepped confidently to convert without hesitation to give his side a deserved lead, before the Rams held on to claim their first victory of the new season.
Derby County: Carson, Wisdom, Keogh (C), Davies, Olsson, Huddlestone, Johnson, Weimann, Vydra (Bryson, 68), Russell, Nugent (Martin, 76)
Substitutes not used: Mitchell, Martin, Baird, Pearce, Butterfield, Bennett
Preston North End: Maxwell Cunningham (C), Browne, Hugill, Johnson, Fisher, Spurr (Maguire, 70), Davies, Huntington, Barkhuizen (Horgan, 62), Robinson (Gallagher, 59)
Substitutes not used: Hudson, Vermijl, Boyle, Harrop
Attendance: 24,371 (939 away supporters)
You probably would have guessed it but, without a doubt, the key moment in this fixture fell to Vydra.
The Czech Republic international assumed responsibility of the spot kick after Davies had been hauled down – a crucial moment for the Rams who went into the game without a win from their first two games of the season.
It was close as he narrowly evaded Maxwell’s fingertips, but it couldn’t have been more deserved for the solid start that had been made to the second half.
It’s the goal that has, ultimately, given Derby’s season the lift off it needed too!
During a much-improved performance, there were a few players that managed to catch the eye against Preston – with two of them coming down the Rams’ left flank.
After coming in for the rested Craig Forsyth, Marcus Olsson looked lively both in terms of his attacking and defensive duties.
In front of him, Weimann also impressed with his incredibly high-work rate and his persistent attempts to advance the team forward. The Austrian can count himself unlucky not to have got on the scoresheet too, having gone close on a number of occasions.
However, the man of the moment for Derby was Vydra, who returned to the starting line-up. From the start of the fixture, his presence, creativity and influence on the pitch was obvious.
With a goal to his name from the spot, the Czech was a nuisance to Preston’s backline and with almost every attack that Derby had, Vydra had some part to play.
With their first win under their belt, Rowett’s side now travel to newly-promoted Bolton Wanderers for their second league away trip of the new campaign.
At present, Phil Parkinson’s rejuvenated Trotter’s team are yet to win a game in the Sky Bet Championship – taking two points from their first three fixtures.
Looking for their first win on the road, Derby will be hoping to put the foundations of a run together as they look to progress up the league table.