Freeman aiming to kick on after 'shock' of getting nod for his senior Rams debut
KIERON Freeman admitted he was shocked to discover he was to be handed his full Derby County debut against Middlesbrough.
The 20-year-old defender was handed his first senior start for the Rams in yesterday's 3-1 victory at Pride Park Stadium.
The former Nottingham Forest youngster was drafted in at left-back after the experienced Gareth Roberts was ruled out by a calf injury.
"I didn't know that I was starting until about an hour before the game, when the gaffer put the team sheet up, so it was a shock to me," said Freeman.
"I didn't even know Robbo was injured but I've been waiting for my chance and I really enjoyed it.
"It was nice to get a win, first and foremost, and nice to get 90 minutes under my belt.
"It's been a while since I played a full match at first-team level.
"So playing 90 minutes was a bit alien to me! But I came through it and, hopefully, I can kick on from here and carry on playing.
"I relished the chance and now I want to play as much as I can."
Since making the short move down the A52, Freeman has been a regular member of the Rams' newly-formed Under-21 team.
His form for the Under-21s led to him making five brief substitute appearances for Nigel Clough's senior side before the Middlesbrough game.
"The gaffer gets to see me every day in training and the under-21 games are nice, because it's a chance to show what you've got," said Freeman. "Having said that, it's completely different to a first-team match."
Freeman is primarily a right-sided player but he has played at left-back in his Forest days and during a loan spell with Mansfield Town.
"I'm naturally right-footed but I've played at left-back before," he added.
"Over the years I've been playing there, it gets easier but it's not the same as playing on your natural side."
Goals from Michael Jacobs, Jeff Hendrick and Conor Sammon put the Rams in control against a Boro side who began the day third in the Championship table, before Lukas Jutkiewicz netted a late consolation for the visitors.
"Middlesbrough are up there challenging for promotion this season and they've got good players," said Freeman. "We went into the game as underdogs but we showed that we're not.
"We scored some quality goals and some of our play and the way we passed the ball was frightening. They couldn't get near us at all.
"It would have been nice to get a clean sheet but I thought it was a foul on Bray (John Brayford) in the build-up."
Nineteen-year-old defender Michael Hoganson came off the bench to make his Derby first-team debut in the closing stages – and the average age of the starting line-up was a touch over 23-years-old.
While Ben Davies, at 31, was the oldest member of the team, five starters were 21 or under – Freeman, Jacobs, Hendrick Mark O'Brien and Will Hughes.