Sometimes clubs pick up wins which are scrappy, scrambled and a little bit lucky. Then you get results like Derby County on Saturday which, quite frankly, are totally deserved.
You could argue that Derby had their chances or that Leeds United almost caved in at the start of the second half, but none of that should take anything away from the fact that the team were set up perfectly and carried out their instructions almost to the letter.
I talked last week about the lack of positivity in our performance against Sheffield Wednesday at Elland Road and I’ve got to hold my hands up and say that Derby away – a ground where we’re not used to getting anything – was a complete contrast.
The reason for that? An 18-year-old laddie by the name of Lewis Cook. He was absolutely superb and between him and Alex Mowatt, the midfield had the energy and the positivity which was lacking against Sheffield Wednesday.
For as long as I’ve been watching Cook, I’ve only ever had one complaint: that he rarely looks like getting amongst the goals. But that’s definitely starting to change. He’s being encouraged to get forward and to get into the box, looking for scraps and hunting for chances. Credit to Uwe Rosler for giving him that licence. It’s much safer – much easier – for a manager to make his midfielders hang back and leave the job of scoring goals to his strikers.
That’s something we can’t afford to do this season. Chris Wood is going to claim a decent number and Mirco Antenucci looks like an improved player, but this is a squad where goals have to come from midfield if we’re to have a go at the top six this season.
Tom Adeyemi found the net at Derby and his finish was purely down to ambition – the willingness to get forward, race into the box and see what came his way.
The tactics used on Saturday will suit our players more often than not. Wood’s a good centre-forward and pretty handy at holding the ball up and bringing it down, but he’s got to have runners going beyond his shoulder and looking to carry possession beyond him. Otherwise he’ll be isolated with no-one to feed.
That was a key factor at Pride Park. Whenever we broke, we were breaking in numbers and into space. That started to get to Derby because they realised that they were struggling to contain the likes of Cook. The pressure was on them, especially in front of a big home crowd, and it was only at the start of the second half that they began to look like promotion candidates.
Cook, for me, is the most talented kid we’ve seen from the academy in a while. He’s got so many strings to his bow. His attitude is superb, and by that I mean his mentality and his confidence when it comes to getting on the ball and doing something with it.
Over the last three or four months I think he’s got stronger too; maybe not taller but definitely stronger!
But the biggest thing – and you can’t really teach this – is the way he runs at players and goes past them. It takes courage to do that because you always run the risk of losing possession and getting caught on the counter, but that’s his game and that’s what he looks most natural doing.
This kid could be very special if he carries on the way he’s going.
The player I’d really like to see come back into form is Sam Byram. I don’t know what’s happened to him in the past three or four games but he hasn’t been himself.
I can’t help wondering if the speculation in the transfer window had a bit of an effect on him. Maybe now that the window is closed he’ll be able to refocus and come good again.
I’m still not sure what Sam’s best position is. Is he a right-back or a winger?
He’s certainly intelligent enough to play in either role, but the one thing we were lacking before the end of the transfer window was another out-and-out wide man to complement Stuart Dallas, so the arrival of Jordan Botaka was good news.
It put the seal on what has been a positive summer.