Wayne Rooney was one of England’s finest goalscorers but his first achievement in management has been to successfully bolster Derby’s defence.
The Rams may be struggling in the lower reaches of the Championship but rookie manager Rooney seems to have galvanised them at last and they frustrated Brentford here.
It resulted in a fourth match unbeaten and a second consecutive clean sheet since the former England captain took over coaching duties on an interim basis.
Wayne Rooney’s Derby side earned a valuable point away at Brentford on Wednesday night
Vitaly Janelt of Brentford battles for possession with Derby’s Jason Knight during the game
Ivan Toney challenges the Derby goalkeeper to knock the ball to Brentford’s Bryan Mbeumo
Brentford (4-3-3): Raya; Dalsgaard, Jansson (c), Sorensen, Henry; Marcondes (Jensen 74), Janelt (Ghoddos 83), Dasilva; Mbeumo (Fosu 74), Toney, Canos (Forss 83).
Subs not used: Thompson, Pinnock, Daniels, Pressley, Stevens.
Booked: Dalsgaard, Dasilva
Derby County (4-2-3-1): Marshall; Wisdom, Davies (c) (McDonald 65), Clarke, Forsyth; Bielik, Shinnie; Holmes (Lawrence 45), Knight, Jozwiak (Whittaker 90+2); Kazim-Richards (Waghorn 85)
Subs not used: Stretton, Bird, Ibe, Roos, Buchanan.
Referee: David Webb
For the first time in a while, Derby are looking upwards as memories of underachievement under Phillip Cocu are washed away.
Should Rooney, 35, remain in the post, he’ll no doubt turn attention to his specialist subject of attacking power. Derby were toothless for the most part here though almost delivered a second-half sucker punch when Kamil Jozwiak struck the post.
But these are baby steps and building blocks as the Rams try and avoid the unthinkable – relegation to the third tier.
Promotion hopefuls Brentford lacked their usual sparkle but at least extended their own unbeaten run to 10 games. Trouble is, six of those have been draws and some will argue the summer departures of Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma have neutralised them too much.
In such a congested division, however, even a couple of positive results can translate into a rise of half-a-dozen places up the table. So Brentford still have good reason to be satisfied by their unbeaten run as they sit on the shoulder of the early pace-setters.
Rooney’s revolution truly got underway with a 1-0 victory across town at Millwall on Saturday, a result that lifted them off the foot of the table.
The former England captain is a quiet but strong presence on the sidelines. Standing right on the touchline, he paced up and down restlessly with hands sunk deep into his coat pockets for warmth.
But there was no shouting of instructions from Rooney, just quiet observation. At one point early on, he relayed something to his players via forward Colin Kazim-Richards, who amplified the instructions far louder than Rooney did.
The silence was perhaps designed not to induce panic in what was always likely to be a mission in remaining solid and steady at the back.
Derby offered absolutely nothing going forward in the first half, failing to register a shot of any kind, but nor were they dominated by a Brentford side who looked pedestrian and ponderous at times.
Rico Henry is pressured by Derby’s Duane Holmes during the early stages of the match
Rooney barks instructions at his players as he looks to guide them back up the table
Emiliano Marcondes looked menacing early on and whipped a dangerous cross into the box
In what was a drab spectacle, a rising shot by Brentford’s German midfielder Vitaly Janelt that cleared the crossbar in the second minute was the only event of note for some time.
On 26 minutes, Janelt, who scored his first goal for the club against Queens Park Rangers recently, sent a swerving effort fractionally wide of the left-hand post.
Rooney will have been pleased with the way Derby held their own until a home flurry at the end of the opening 45. Emiliano Marcondes fired goalwards from not too far out, but Matthew Clarke slid in to clear right in front of keeper David Marshall.
And in stoppage time, a Mads Sorensen long throw bounced awkwardly through the Derby area to Bryan Mbeumo, who hooked a shot across goal and wide.
Brentford re-emerged for the second-half with renewed vigour, probably sensing that one goal would be enough to win it.
Amid a succession of corners, Ivan Toney tried to force the ball home but Derby managed to block.
Derby’s Graeme Shinnie goes up into the air to challenge Brentford’s Marcondes for the ball
Veteran Derby defender Curtis Davies was forced off with an injury during the second half
Brentford really should have led just before the hour. Henrik Dalsgaard swung in a cross from the right that Marshall should have dealt with but found himself outjumped by Toney stood behind him.
Toney’s knock-down fell perfectly to Mbeumo with the goal gaping just a few yards out. Taking the shot first time on a swivel volley rather than taking a touch, Mbeumo somehow struck the crossbar.
Derby offered very little going forward – something Rooney will no doubt look to improve rapidly if he remains in post – but they almost delivered a second-half stinger.
Krystian Bielik nodded down a rare Derby corner to Jozwiak, who cracked a low shot against the post.
And after Bees keeper David Raya raced off his line to punch clear a lofted Derby free-kick, Tom Lawrence drilled a shot back in that fortunately for the Spaniard flew wide.