Derby fail to rise to occasion of Rooney’s dugout debut


London (AFP) – England’s record goalscorer Wayne Rooney had a disappointing start in his new role as player-coach of Derby as they were held 1-1 at home by QPR in their Championship clash on Saturday.

The 34-year-old Manchester United great took his place in the dugout for the first time alongside Dutch manager Phillip Cocu, although he is not permitted to play until January.

Martyn Waghorn’s delightful goal for Derby was cancelled out by Ebere Eze converting a penalty for his seventh goal of the season.

The draw — which ended a run of five successive home wins — leaves the Rams 14 points behind second-placed West Brom and six points off the play-off places.

Leeds top the table after a double by Mateusz Klich inspired them to a fine 4-0 home win over Middlesbrough for their fifth successive victory.

Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds, bidding to return to the Premier League for the first time since being relegated in 2004, have a one-point lead over West Brom.

West Brom can go back to the top if they beat Preston away on Monday.

Cocu said he thinks Rooney’s presence is going to make life difficult for Derby as opponents will want to up their game.

“Especially from the moment he (Rooney) is on the pitch… a manager can use it for his team,” said Cocu.

“Of course, they will lift their game to show how they can play against him so that’s something we have to be ready for.”

Cocu’s thoughts were echoed by his QPR counterpart Mark Warburton.

“We used that, some of the press comments said we were almost cannon fodder today,” he said. “But the players are professional athletes and they get angered by certain comments.

“I read one statement that basically said Derby couldn’t have a better game today so that was great for us.”

– ‘Long way forward’ –

Leeds had no such problems at home as Polish international Klich scored in both halves, with Patrick Bamford and Helder Costa also finding the net, to overwhelm a depleted Boro side.

Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate did not use that as an excuse.

“Leeds are a really, really good team — the best in the Championship, without a doubt,” said former Leeds defender Woodgate.

Leeds sit five points clear of third-placed Fulham, but are wary of repeating the late-season slump which saw them miss out on promotion last term.

“It is important (to be top now) but there is a long way forward,” said Bielsa.

“Of course, we have to give some value to the current position because in a league like this, the future is built match by match.”

Barnsley enjoyed an impressive 3-1 victory over in-form Hull to end a run of 18 games without a win dating back to the first day of the league campaign.

They remain bottom but only five points off safety after Luton were hammered 7-0 at Brentford.

“It was a very important game,” said Barnsley’s new head coach Gerhard Struber. “We have a clear plan for what we want and we have a very good conviction and self-confidence.”

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