Nigel Clough: Tranmere made it tough but patience is rewarded in Cup win
NIGEL Clough felt his Derby County team was rewarded for their patience as they booked a place in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
League One leaders Tranmere Rovers made it tough for the Rams for much of the first half of Saturday's third round tie at Pride Park until Ben Davies put them one up shortly before the break.
Derby scored four more goals in the second half through Conor Sammon, John Brayford, Jeff Hendrick and 16-year-old Mason Bennett to complete a 5-0 victory.
"I didn't think it was a 5-0, I just thought we took our chances," said Clough.
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"It wasn't an easy game by any means.
"We had to be patient. Tranmere were never going to come here and lie down.
"We had to keep probing, keep passing and moving.
"At half-time, we said to the players to keep doing the same things but to do them a bit better. We did second half.
"The timing of the goals was important – one just before half-time and one just after.
"They settled everybody down, although we never felt it killed the game off at 2-0 and even at 3-0 we were thinking about Scunthorpe earlier this season!
"We went about the tie in the right manner. We had to do that in order to get the result, and that shows the honesty of the lads. There was no underestimating Tranmere at all.
"The standard of the performance again was pleasing. That is what we are looking for, that consistency, and I think it has been there primarily for the past five months."
The game was Derby's fifth in 16 days and Clough praised the efforts of his players.
"After playing so well in the Middlesbrough game on New Year's Day we wanted to follow that up with another performance and we made it clear to the players just how important this game was for us," said Clough.
"The effort from them all was superb. Once again, the players gave us everything.
"I thought we were a bit leggy and tired in the first half. The same set of lads has played all five games in a busy spell and that played a part.
"Tranmere came out in the second half and put us under a bit of pressure but Adam Legzdins hasn't really had a save to make. But that threat is always there so it was nice to get the second and then the third goal.
"We managed to get a clean sheet as well, which is great for Adam and the back four."
Derby switched between 4-5-1 and 4-4-2 during the game.
They started with a midfield three of Will Hughes, Jeff Hendrick and Paul Coutts, had Michael Jacobs on the left and Ben Davies on the right, with Conor Sammon up front.
The switch came after less than 10 minutes and they switched back in the second half.
Clough explained: "Tranmere might have seen us against Middlesbrough and might have set up in a certain way, so we just kept them guessing.
"Arguably, we created more chances with the three in midfield.
"Paul Coutts is key to the way we can switch. He is equally comfortable in the middle or out on the right-hand side.
"He looked a little bit tired in the first half after the effort he put in against Charlton and Middlesbrough, two outstanding performances from him personally.
"To save his legs we moved him inside where he does not have to make those long runs up and down the right.
"Doing that just suits us, sometimes."