Derby County beat Leeds United to give Steve McClaren perfect start

Steve McClaren did not make it to the edge of his technical area until the 71st minute and only then to try and prevent his first match as the Derby manager ending with his side throwing away a 2-0 lead. He beckoned the increasingly edgy home fans to increase the volume and shortly after they did just that as Will Hughes scored the goal that sealed the hosts' first win here this season. It was dramatic, rip-roaring stuff and for McClaren, a debut to remember.

The 52-year-old appeared the calmest man at Pride Park as emotions erupted around him, but inside he will have felt a great sense of satisfaction as Hughes, this game's outstanding player, collected Craig Bryson's pass on 78 minutes, shimmied into the area and having jinked past Jason Pearce, who had got one back for Leeds just before half-time after the hosts had scored twice in a blistering opening spell, curled the ball into the far corner of the net. McClaren's third spell at Derby was to begin with three points and his team now sit 10th, within range of the play-off places.

Given that it was McClaren who, having been named as Nigel Clough's successor last Monday, gave the half-time team-talk that precipitated Derby's recovery from 4-1 down to draw 4-4 with Ipswich 24 hours later, it is perhaps the case that his tenure as manager of the club he played for in the mid-1980s and coached at a decade later, is going to be action-packed. Certainly the early signs are encouraging, with Derby at times here playing with outstanding verve and vigour.

"For everyone at Derby what a traumatic, emotional week it's been," said the former England manager. "It started with losing to [Nottingham] Forest, then losing the manager. But the character they've shown from Tuesday half-time onwards … the players deserve tremendous praise. It's a good start and in these last two games we've seen all our frailties and strengths."

Of that there is no doubt as a team who had lost three of their past five matches prior to Saturday – including the 1-0 defeat to rivals Forest last week that led to Clough's dismissal – continue to combine eye-catching attacking play with head-shaking defensive work.

The hosts were outstanding in the opening quarter of this contest, putting the visitors under pressure whenever they had possession and progressing themselves with zip and accuracy. That was encapsulated in the two goals Derby scored within three minutes of each other. First, Chris Martin played a quick one-two with Bryson and, having glided through a less-than-robust Leeds defence, drove the ball past Paddy Kenny. The striker turned provider on 23 minutes, back-heeling Hughes's pass into the path of Johnny Russell, allowing the winger to drill the ball into the far corner.

Leeds were being overwhelmed, but did not buckle and, having been allowed by Derby to gobble up possession and territory, they scored in the 45th minute when Pearce capitalised on some poor goalkeeping from Lee Grant to head in from close range.

Brian McDermott's mencontinued to dominate after the break but, as their manager admitted, "huffed and puffed without producing enough". Nevertheless, their control was worrying enough for McClaren, who had watched the first-half from the stands, to call for more from his players and fans. Martin and Russell both went close again before Hughes finally eased all nerves. Remarkably, Derby have now won each of their last 10 games against Leeds.

"The energy this team's got means they are capable of winning games," said McClaren, having insisted he is happy with the desire of the chief executive, Sam Rush, to appoint a technical director. "But clearly there's still a lot of work to do."

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