Tom Lawrence’s impressive brace – two goals in three minutes – was pivotal as Derby kicked off the new campaign with a 2-1 away win under new boss Phillip Cocu at the John Smith Stadium.
Lawrence, who was in some discomfort and almost ready to call for a substitution after an encouraging 10-minute spell early on, managed to shake off an ankle injury scare and prove Derby’s matchwinner in emphatic fashion.
Kicking off what promises to be an exciting 2019/20 campaign with an important away win under new management in Phillip Cocu, the Rams are undoubtedly eager to atone for their playoff final heartbreak from May.
The Monday night fixture, televised on Sky, came hours after an Telegraph exclusive report claimed Premier League legend Wayne Rooney is close to joining Derby on a player-coach 18-month contract deal in January. Rooney, 33, is currently contracted to MLS side DC United and reportedly attracted interest with Premier League’s Burnley too. However, he is believed to want to emulate John Terry’s Aston Villa success in the second tier before retiring into a coaching role.
Lawrence opened the scoring after 22 minutes, profiting after a dreadful mix-up between Tommy Elphick and goalkeeper Kamil Grabara saw the Welsh international dink his effort into an open net from outside the box.
Then three minutes later, the 25-year-old doubled the visitors’ lead in style. Finishing a well-worked team move with aplomb, he left unsuspecting defenders in his wake, shifting the ball from right to left before letting fly on the edge of the box.
Huddersfield, to their credit, responded positively and pulled a goal back on the half-hour mark after loanee Everton midfielder Kieran Dowell hauled down Juninho Bacuna in the box and Karlan Grant converted the resulting spot-kick.
They continued to create chances and enjoy encouraging spells of possession but without the killer touch needed to recover their two-goal deficit. Substitute striker Elias Kachunga squandered their best chance to salvage a point on their return to England’s second tier.
After the departures of successful loanees at Derby over the summer months, 2019/20 has to be the season where Tom Lawrence seizes his opportunity centre-stage.
His most productive campaign as a professional dates back to 16/17, where he netted nine goals and created 11 more on-loan at Ipswich Town. In two full years at Derby, he’s scored 15 with 13 assists – not enough for a player of his quality and potential. Now is high time he knuckles down and consistently produces matchwinning displays like this, which he’s more than capable of.
Cocu refused to deny speculation surrounding more incomings at Pride Park but equally couldn’t confirm any names as of yet, post-match. He said: “At the moment I cannot say anything, we are working on completing the team – it’s not complete yet. We have a few more days and hopefully soon, I can tell you something more.”