Derby County manager Wayne Rooney told RamsTV how substitute Lee Gregory helped change the dynamic of the game in the 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest.
The Rams started brightly against Forest and were the better team in the early stages.
Goalkeeper David Marshall, however, allowed James Garner’s weak volley to squirm passed him just after the half hour mark as Forest took a 1-0 lead into half time.
The Reds largely controlled the second half, but a tactical switch saw Derby offer more threat and Colin Kazim-Richards fired in a stunning late equaliser.
Speaking to RamsTV after the game, Rooney praised Kazim-Richards for his contribution but instead felt it was Gregory’s energy after his introduction which prompted Derby’s fightback.
“I thought Lee Gregory was great for us when he came on. He showed great energy and enthusiasm. He was a handful and I think he really lifted the rest of the team when he came on with his energy. I was delighted with him. A draw in the end, I’m happy to come away with a point,” Rooney explained.
Gregory joined Derby from Stoke City on loan on deadline day.
The 32-year-old striker is determined, strong and a threat in and around the box.
Gregory scored his first Derby goal in the 2-1 win over Middlesbrough, and he has since proven to be an excellent strike partner alongside Kazim-Richards.
Gregory’s presence gives Rooney the option to swich to a 4-4-2 system with two forwards, giving defenders Matt Clarke and Andre Wisdom a target for direct passes from the back.
While it may not be pretty, a more direct approach can work wonders in the Championship and allows the Rams to mix it up when a more fluid passing style isn’t working.
The draw moves Derby momentarily up to 17th, and next up is a trip to Mick McCarthy’s Cardiff City in a likely physical encounter which Gregory will surely start in.