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Derby County stepped up their preparations for the 2023/24 Sky Bet League One season with a 2-0 pre-season friendly victory at Matlock Town on Saturday.

After returning to pre-season training towards the end of June, the trip to the Northern Premier League outfit was the Rams’ first run-out ahead of the upcoming campaign.

Striker James Collins opened the scoring late in the half as Derby’s players dusted off the cobwebs in their opening practice match with the start of the new season just under a month away before recent Under-21s signing Ben Radcliffe netted late on.

Key Moments

Summer signings Joe Ward, Josh Vickers, Callum Elder and Curtis Nelson made their first Rams appearances after linking up with the club last month, while Friday’s signings Conor Washington and Sonny Bradley didn’t feature after only signing less than 24 hours ago. Louie Sibley and Jason Knight missed out with minor knocks.

Winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was also not involved as he is on international duty with Guatemala in the Gold Cup. Under-21s players Darren Robinson, Callum Moore, Riley Moloney, Max Bardell and Radcliffe, who joined from Burton Albion this summmer, and Under-18s pair Dajaune Brown and Daniel Cox got match minutes.

Head Coach Paul Warne fielded two almost entirely different line-ups in each half in order to spread the match minutes right across his squad and he spoke beforehand that doing so was the priority over the result and overall performance.

Donning their fresh and recent revealed home kit for the 2023/24 season, Derby enjoyed plenty of possession early on and had chances to take the lead with midfielder Conor Hourihane having a shot deflected wide and wing-back Ward seeing a free-kick from the edge of the box pushed over by former Ram Saul Deeney in the home goal.

Derby goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith kept out Nat Crofts’ strike at his near post after 15 minutes while substitute shot-stopper Josh Vickers denied Matlock's Jonno Margetts shortly after coming off the bench on the half-hour mark after a swift counter-attack.

Ward was lively down the right throughout the opening 45 minutes in his first Rams appearance and the summer arrival from Peterborough United used his quality to create the opening goal of the game on 39 minutes. He delivered a fine cross into the six-yard box and Collins timed his run perfectly to direct the ball into the back of the net.

Derby made a large number of substitutions at the break in order to give as many players as possible the chance to get minutes under their belts, while Matlock also shuffed their pack and all those changes had an impact on the flow of the game in the second half.

Striker Brown almost made an instant impact early in the second period as he showed some neat footwork to create space to shoot on the edge of the box, but he flashed his effort just wide.

Chances remained limited but the Rams continued to keep the ball well as the side became accustomed to match situations once again after not only a long post-season break but also a gruelling start to pre-season on the training pitches.

Derby netted their second with a few minutes remaining to round off a good afternoon's work as Radcliffe got in behind the Matlock defence after playing a one-two with Max Bird and he kept his cool to roll the ball low into the back of the net.

The Teams

Matlock Town: Denney (GK) (Trialist 46), McNicholas, West, Augustien (Trialist 26), Sharman, Evans, Clark, Wright, Margetts, Demidh, Crofts (Trialist 46).

Substitutes Not Used: Wakefield, Wells, Trialists.

Derby County: Wildsmith (GK) (Vickers 30, GK) (Loach 60, GK), Rooney (Moore 46), Forsyth (Cashin 46), Cox (Nelson 46), Ward (Bardell 46), Elder (Moloney 46), Robinson (Bird 46), Hourihane (C) (Smith 46), Thompson (Robinson 60), Barkhuizen (Radcliffe 31), Collins (Brown 46).



What’s Next?

Derby’s players will head out to a Training Camp in Spain on Sunday for a week to continue their work ahead of the new season and will round off their stay abroad with a friendly fixture against Salford City next Saturday (12pm local time kick-off).