Derby County winger Tom Lawrence arguably put in his best performance of the season as the Rams secured a playoff spot with a crucial 3-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
The Rams began the final day in sixth spot, one point above Middlesbrough and a further point clear of Bristol City. All three clubs knew they would realistically have to win their final game of the season.
Derby hosted West Brom who had already secured fourth spot. The Baggies named a strong side, but Frank Lampard’s side clearly had more motivation to go for victory.
Martyn Waghorn gave Derby the lead in the first half, yet the hosts were pegged back immediately after the restart. With tensions growing, Mason Bennett became the Derby hero by coming off the bench to restore Derby’s lead before a Harry Wilson penalty secured the three points.
How Derby County’s Tom Lawrence tormented West Bromwich Albion:
Bennett will no doubt grab the headlines for his goal, yet it was Lawrence who was Derby’s standout player.
The Wales international has had an inconsistent campaign. Some supporters have grown frustrated of what can be often be perceived as selfish play. There is, however, no doubting his raw ability.
Lawrence posted four shots against West Brom and created four chances for his teammates. His pass-accuracy rate was an impressive 93.8%, with the winger consistently making the right decision.
But his crowning contribution was his mazy run which bamboozled four Baggies players, resulting in centre-back Kyle Bartley bringing him down and awarding Derby a penalty which all-but sealed their top-six spot.
Sky Sports suggests Lawrence could miss the playoff semi-finals against Leeds United for potentially deceiving the match officials. However, replays suggest he was clearly caught before going to ground.
Derby will need an in-form Lawrence against Leeds in the playoffs. Marcelo Bielsa’s side twice beat Derby this season by an aggregate 6-1 score-line. If the Rams wish to progress then they must have their best players firing and learn from past mistakes.