Five things we learned from Derby County's 0-0 draw with Stoke City
Derby County were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Stoke City on Wednesday night to go three games unbeaten.
Our Rams writer Mark Duffy was at the game (read his report here) and he's taken a look back at a few things we may have learned from the encounter.
1 - Derby need goals if they're to remain play-off contenders
The Rams have scored three times in their last six games and although those goals all came in the three matches they've just gone unbeaten, that strike rate is going to need to improve.
Granted, keeping them out at the other end will be a key factor too and a first clean sheet in eight against Stoke was a welcome occurrence, but the likes of Jack Marriott and Martyn Waghorn, to name but two, aren't enjoying the success in front of goal that they were earlier in the season and that needs rectifying. Hoping David Nugent can solve the problem probably shouldn't be relied on.
2 - Bright, young talent is still very much in Frank Lampard's plans
Jayden Mitchell-Lawson came on with ten minutes to go against Stoke and did very well. It won't have been easy for him making his debut at a time where his brief will have been to go out there and help Derby win the game, but he nearly did so, a good bit of skill nearly putting him in on goal but instead drawing the late foul which led to Harry Wilson hitting the crossbar.
Mitchell-Lawson, Max Bird and, most notably, Jayden Bogle have all been allowed the chance to make their names this season, as well as one or two others who have been unused subs, and that can only offer encouragement to other young players at the club who are currently doing very well in the U23 and U18 sides. They could yet play a part in a promotion bid.
3 - Stoke are a strange team
Here we have a side littered with experienced players, many of them with loads of Premier League and international experience, and yet City lie in 17th place in what's been a turgid season.
Gary Rowett couldn't get the best out of them and although Nathan Jones will deserve time to sort things out, it seems he's still struggling to get these seasoned performers to accept they're in the Championship and not the top flight. Joe Allen was anonymous, Charlie Adam looks past it and although Ryan Shawcross and Jack Butland were steady enough on this occasion, that's been far from the case throughout the season and the answer could well be a widespread freshening up to make them contenders next season.
4 - Gary Rowett isn't that popular
It didn't take long for both sets of fans to be laying into Gary Rowett, a man who left Derby to take charge of Stoke but who failed to impress on a number of levels there. The animosity towards Rowett for leaving Derby and the dislike of his record and style whilst there wasn't forgotten by either band of supporters who clapped each other and sang together about Rowett before soon enough getting back to telling each other how, ahem, 'rubbish' their respective cities are, and so on.
5 - The 16-day break between games for Derby could work very much in their favour
Momentum is important of course but having a long break like the one Derby are about to have must be looked at as an advantage by Lampard and his players. They need to see it as something of a mini pre-season, with a nine-game campaign to come at the end of it, then of course any extra games that will hopefully be presented by the play-offs.
It'll give them time to re-charge and re-focus, as well as get key players such as Mason Mount back to full fitness. He's been badly missed. They'll then be able to go into the remainder of the season fresh for the challenge ahead. Derby haven't looked genuine promotion contenders for few months now, but there is ample opportunity for that to change.