Lawrence stars as Derby beat Luton Town at Pride Park


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Fresh off the back of international duty with Wales, Tom Lawrence returned to the Derby County starting lineup for the first time this year as the Rams defeated Luton Town 2-0 courtesy of goals in either half from Lee Gregory and Graeme Shinnie.

The 27-year-old set the tone early on, having a bright start to the game as he found Gregory in space in the opening two minutes. Under pressure and off-balance, the Welshman picked out his teammate in hope of mounting an attack, but the Stoke City loanee was unable to break down the Hatters’ backline.

Often one to delve into the trickery textbook, Lawrence tried to muster his way past Matty Pearson in spectacular fashion five minutes after his first involvement, however, the Keighley-born defender was having none of it as he dispossessed the Welshman with ease.

Moments later, the hosts took the lead. Sprightly youngster Louie Sibley sent crossed the ball into the box which was met by Martyn Waghorn. The ball trickled towards goal, on a plate for Gregory to tap home from close range, as the striker grabbed his fourth goal of the season and his third for the Rams.

Usually an out and out winger, Lawrence occupied a deeper role to face Nathan Jones’ side, taking the position of left-wing-back. He had played a similar role for his country in their recent fixtures, perhaps something that played a part in his inclusion over first-team regular Lee Buchanan.

The Manchester United academy graduate won a free-kick in the 14th minute as James Bree knocked him off the pitch in a sprint to meet the ball. Four minutes later, he missed a chance from close range as he sent his effort wide of the far post. The former Leicester City man then rounded off his involvement for the half with a miskick as part of an attempted corner routine.

The work rate of Derby’s no.10 has fallen into criticism on countless occasions throughout his spell at the club, but it was not up for debate in the first-half of this encounter. The winger worked tirelessly in the opening 45 minutes, constantly applying pressure to those within his vicinity.

A sound first-half display was made better within minutes of the second-half beginning, winning a penalty following an array of tidy step-overs. Shinnie then stepped up to the spot, fired his effort past Simon Sluga and doubled the home side’s advantage in a cool fashion. 

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Although it was not his name added to the scoresheet, his involvement in the goal was crucial to the way the match panned out.

Following Shinnie’s penalty, Lawrence had somewhat of an energy burst. He looked unbeatable, though only for a couple of minutes. 

Firstly demonstrating his confidence on the ball, driving down the centre of the pitch before trying to find Gregory once again. The ball just escaped the 32-year-old’s grasp at this time of asking. Secondly, weaving his way into the box and flashing a shot at goal which had to be scuppered out for a corner.

Lawrence became somewhat of a passenger for the remainder of his time on the pitch, prior to his eventual substitution in the 83rd minute as he made way for Buchanan, but his impact was undeniable.

In a time where Derby are in desperate need of individuals to step up as they try their best to claw themselves away from the relegation battle, the once infamous ace put on a performance that set an example.

The victory was huge for the Rams. Rotherham United, Coventry City and Sheffield Wednesday were all defeated, meaning there is now an eight-point gap between Rooney’s men and the bottom three with just seven games remaining.

Despite the defeat, the visitors remain realistically unscathed. Comfortably mid-table before the encounter, their situation remains unchanged. Overall, Jones has done a fabulous job of securing a middle of the park finish for the Bedfordshire outfit and they now have an excellent foundation to build on for the next campaign.

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