DERBY County fans were thrilled when their team finally found their way to beat Burton Albion 1-0 in a friendly match held at the Pirelli Stadium.
Jeff Hendrick scored the only goal against the League Two opponents.
They also saw a couple of efforts hit the woodwork in the second half and had other chances.
The margin of victory could have been wider although Burton were always in the game but could not find a finish to some of their good work.
Ten players completed the 90 minutes in what was the Rams’ penultimate friendly fixture before the real business starts on August 9.
One of the questions ahead of the new season is who will fill the “George Thorne” role in midfield?
New signing Thorne is out for up to nine months as he recovers from surgery to repair cruciate ligament damage.
John Eustace and Will Hughes are vying for the position within the current squad, although the club are considering whether or not to dip into the loan market.
Johnny Russell was up front with Chris Martin and behind them a three of Hendrick, Jamie Ward and Craig Bryson.
It took the form of a 4-1-3-2 although it was very fluid with much movement though no real cohesion.
Derby did not pass the ball well enough to give the shape chance to work.
Derby were without Simon Dawkins, who has a hip flexor problem, as has Paul Coutts. Centre-backs Zak Whitbread (back) and Mark O’Brien (ankle) are also sidelined.
Before kick-off, there was a minute’s applause to remember Burton’s first-ever captain, Bert Hadfield, who has died.
Lucas Akins tested Rams goalkeeper Lee Grant with a low shot from distance while Derby’s play early on was patchy.
Martin and Russell looked to link up, and there were good signs of them doing so, but Hendrick was stationed too far to the right to be as effective as normal.
Pre-season is about building match fitness and trying different things, be it personnel or formation, but it would be a surprise if the Rams use such a shape when they face Rotherham United in 11 days’ time.
George Taft sent a free header wide for Burton and Akins hit another drive straight at Grant, while Derby failed to test McLaughlin in the opening half hour, although Ward had a half chance after good work by Cyrus Christie.
The right-back, always eager to bomb forward, picked out Ward who dragged his shot across goal.
Derby, disjointed up to this point, reverted to the 4-3-3 system that served them so well last season.
Russell moved to the right, Ward the left, leaving Hendrick and Bryson in a midfield trio with Eustace.
Hendrick and Bryson finally found themselves in the action rather than on the periphery, and Derby created an opportunity when Russell headed wide from Ward’s centre.
Russell was angry at not being awarded a penalty when he was barged in the back by Taft. The Scot then won a free kick after a clumsy challenge by Shane Cansdell-Sheriff.
Still fuming, Russell curled his free kick from 25 yards against the angle of bar and post and the ball rebounded to Hendrick who headed into an empty net.
Hughes replaced Eustace at the break and slotted into the holding role.
There was greater urgency about the Rams’ second half.
Hughes threaded a neat pass into Bryson’s run who found Hendrick and his deflected effort looped over McLaughlin and came back off a post.
Russell’s volley crashed against the bar with McLaughlin beaten but Burton kept asking questions of Derby. Substitute Dominic Knowles saw his shot held by Grant and the Rams survived some nervy moments at the back.
Derby’s play often improves when Hughes is on the ball, as we saw against Burton. He used the ball well, something you expect of him, and also ventured forward to test McLaughlin with a firm strike.
Hendrick, far more comfortable with his role than earlier, sent a shot flashing over in the closing minutes as did Russell, who was a threat all game.
BURTON ALBION: McLaughlin; Edwards, Cansdell-Sheriff, Mousinho (Kee 63), Taft, Sharps (Slade, 73), Weir (Doyle, 82), Beavon (Knowles, 56), Akins (Harness, 73), McGurk (MacDonald, 63), Palmer. Other subs: Lyness (gk).
DERBY COUNTY: Grant; Christie, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth; Hendrick, Eustace (Hughes, 46), Bryson; Ward, Martin, Russell.Other subs: Roos (gk), L Naylor, Bennett, Freeman, Hanson, Sammon, Rawson, Calero, Bunjaku.
Referee: S Bratt (Walsall)