Phillip Cocu was pleased to see his Derby County side keep their nerve when it mattered as they navigated their way into the Second Round of the Carabao Cup with a penalty shoot-out victory over EFL newcomers Barrow AFC on Saturday afternoon.
The First Round tie went straight to penalties after a goalless 90 minutes at Pride Park Stadium in the Rams’ first competitive fixture of the 2020/21 season.
Derby enjoyed most of the possession throughout the game, as well as registering 17 shots and 11 corners, but they were unable to make the breakthrough against David Dunn’s side.
Goalkeeper Kelle Roos made three fine stops in the shoot-out, which allowed substitute Morgan Whittaker to slot home the winning spot-kick to hand the Rams a 3-2 victory on penalties.
Cocu admitted after the cup clash that Derby are still seeking to add to their attacking options in the coming weeks to add a cutting edge in the final third.
Forwards Martyn Waghorn and Tom Lawrence remain out of action due to injury, while Chris Martin has moved on since the end of last season at the end of his contract to join Bristol City.
As a result, Cocu admits he is keen to have more options to call upon going forward before the transfer window concludes in October.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy today; it was a massive game for Barrow to play us here at Pride Park,” Cocu told RamsTV after the game.
“They put up a good fight and played a really good game. They stayed narrow in their defence and did not give us a lot of opportunities or spaces to play in, so it was a tough game for us.
“It also shows that we know that the attacking part of the team we still have to strengthen to give us more options in the team with creativity and power upfront. We are still working on that.”
He added: “With the injuries to Tom Lawrence, being out for some time, Wayne Rooney and Martyn Waghorn it means we have really limited options. We know we need to strengthen the team, but we also know the climate we are working in now.
“We need some more patience and we are aware we need something to happen to strengthen the team.”
Cocu was happy to see striker Whittaker, who is 19, take on the responsibility to step up and slot home the winning penalty in the shoot-out.
The Derby boss also praised the impact of Roos in goal, as the Dutchman’s hat-trick of saves proved to be vital.
Cocu said: “There was some pressure on, and Morgan dealt with it well.
“We also saw some good saves from Kelle too. It confirms as well how important a part a goalkeeper plays in the team.”
Defender Andre Wisdom came off the bench in an unfamiliar attacking role late on against last season’s National League champions.
It was Wisdom’s first competitive appearance since the end of June, after he was injured in an unprovoked assault and robbery in the hours following Derby’s 2-1 victory over Reading.
Reacting to the 27-year-old’s return to action, Cocu said: “We are pleased that Andre is back. He has been training and playing some games in pre-season, and then came on for a few minutes today.
“It is important for him to focus on training and the game of football and move forwards. I am pleased for him.”
Midfielder Duane Holmes was forced off in the second half of the game against Barrow due to injury.
Cocu says the United of States international will have his fitness assessed in the coming days and is hopeful the 25-year-old will not be out of action for too long.
He said: “Duane felt his muscle when he went to sprint, so we will assess him tomorrow.
“Hopefully it is not bad because we can’t have another injury at the moment and he has just come back from one, so we will be happy to see him fit for a few months at least.”
Derby’s 2020/21 Sky Bet Championship season will get underway with a home fixture against Reading at Pride Park Stadium next Saturday (3pm kick-off).