Frank Lampard said it was “an incredible feeling” to make a winning start in football management as his Derby side dramatically snatched victory at Reading.
Tom Lawrence’s exquisite header in the dying seconds of injury time saw them come from behind in the second half.
The Rams boss conceded that Reading “didn’t deserve to lose” but praised his side’s character in coming from a goal down to take all three points.
“It’s great for us, that’s the sort of thing I’m back in the game for,” said Lampard. “It’s not going to happen every week, I’m fully aware of that.
“Make no mistake, we didn’t deserve to win the game, and there are lots of big things for us to improve on, but let’s not take away that feeling.
“You could see from the celebrations at the end how much that means to us all.”
Jon Dadi Bodvarsson had headed Reading into a second-half lead from Mo Barrow’s cross, but Mason Mount drew Derby level when his left-shot was too much for Vito Mannone to keep out.
Mannone thought he had made amends late on to secure Reading a point when he palmed away a Harry Wilson half-volley from close range.
But the former Arsenal and Sunderland keeper could do nothing to prevent Wales winger Lawrence grabbing all three points for Derby with almost the final touch.
Mason Bennett’s searching cross from the right was met on the run by Lawrence, who found the top-left corner with precision.
Derby’s travelling support of almost 2,000 were sent into raptures and Lampard had three points to put on his managerial CV from his first competitive fixture.
Energetic start to new Championship season
On a balmy summer’s evening in Berkshire, the energy-sapping heat of the day did little to quell the tempo of the opening action of the English Football League season.
Reading, who avoided relegation to League One with a goalless draw at promoted Cardiff on the final day of last season, belied their poor pre-season form with a bright start that should have seen them lead at the break.
Twice Derby defender Richard Keogh needlessly gave away possession to the hosts in the opening 20 minutes, but on both occasions Bodvarsson failed to beat Scott Carson.
Liam Kelly showed more conviction towards the break when he forced the former England international to palm a shot behind at his near post.
Rams grow into Lampard’s game plan
Much of Derby’s play in the first half was characterised by ponderous and at times over-elaborate possession as at one stage the Rams, who lost in the play-off semi-finals to eventual winners Fulham in May, saw 74% of the ball.
There was little to show for it in terms of chances, with Mannone enjoying a quiet first 45 minutes in the Reading goal.
But, if Derby were disappointing in the first half, their approach to going behind was full of endeavour.
After former England Under-19 captain Mount drew them level, the Rams kept going during a scrappy end to the game and Lawrence’s header was met with great delight by Lampard and his assistant Jody Morris in the visiting dugout.
‘It’s a real tough one to take’
Reading manager Paul Clement told BBC Sport: “Clearly if you lose the game with the last touch, it’s a real tough one to take. I thought we did enough to win the game.
“The goal was a fantastic cross and header, but I think the error there is down to fatigue, the high temperature and the fresh legs of their right-winger against our left-back, who is struggling at that point.
“We did enough early in the game and we were on top in the first half. We forced them to change their style in the second half and the spaces opened up as players tired.
“It’s a harsh result and it’s a big lesson for us already so early in the season.”
‘Lampard arrival has lifted Derby’
Analysis: Former Derby midfielder and BBC Radio Derby summariser Craig Ramage
For Frank Lampard that was a bit more “smash and grab” for a first game as a manager.
There was little between the two sides really and Derby brought their own problems on themselves in the first half.
Frank brought them in and settled them down at half-time, changed the game plan, got them to move the ball forward quicker and it was a different Derby side in the closing stages.
Derby’s players showed great character after going behind and I think they got stronger and stronger as the game went on. The youth in the side that Lampard has brought in came to the fore – Mason Mount, Tom Lawrence and Harry Wilson grew into the game.
The momentum that’s come with Frank’s arrival has given the city of Derby a lift, everybody’s been buzzing since he walked through the door. They’ve managed to nick a win in the first game and hopefully that bodes well.
There are defining moments for a team during a season and I think Derby, and Frank as a manager, will get a lot out of this first result and the way it came in such dramatic circumstances.
- 8MeylerBooked at 37minsSubstituted forBacunaat 85'minutes
- 38KellyBooked at 38mins
- 10SwiftSubstituted forBaldockat 67'minutes
- 23BödvarssonSubstituted forMeiteat 75'minutesBooked at 88mins
- 2WisdomBooked at 22mins
- 25LoweBooked at 46mins
- 4BrysonBooked at 43mins
- 36LedleySubstituted forJohnsonat 69'minutesBooked at 88mins
- 28NugentSubstituted forBennettat 73'minutes
- 10LawrenceSubstituted forPearceat 90+6'minutes
- Robert Jones
- Shots on Target
Match ends, Reading 1, Derby County 2.
Second Half ends, Reading 1, Derby County 2.
Substitution, Derby County. Alex Pearce replaces Tom Lawrence because of an injury.
Goal! Reading 1, Derby County 2. Tom Lawrence (Derby County) header from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Mason Bennett with a cross.
Attempt missed. Craig Bryson (Derby County) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Tom Lawrence following a set piece situation.
Bradley Johnson (Derby County) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Yakou Meite (Reading).
Attempt missed. Andy Yiadom (Reading) right footed shot from outside the box is too high.
Foul by Bradley Johnson (Derby County).
Yakou Meite (Reading) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Yakou Meite (Reading) is shown the yellow card.
Bradley Johnson (Derby County) is shown the yellow card.
Bradley Johnson (Derby County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Yakou Meite (Reading).
Attempt missed. Tom Lawrence (Derby County) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Mason Bennett with a cross.
Substitution, Reading. Leandro Bacuna replaces David Meyler.
Foul by Mason Mount (Derby County).
Sone Aluko (Reading) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Harry Wilson (Derby County) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Mason Mount with a cross.
Attempt missed. Bradley Johnson (Derby County) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Tom Lawrence.
Harry Wilson (Derby County) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by David Meyler (Reading).
Attempt missed. Tom Lawrence (Derby County) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Andre Wisdom.
Corner, Derby County. Conceded by Omar Richards.
Mason Bennett (Derby County) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Paul McShane (Reading).
Substitution, Reading. Yakou Meite replaces Jón Dadi Bödvarsson.
Substitution, Derby County. Mason Bennett replaces David Nugent.
Tom Lawrence (Derby County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Andy Yiadom (Reading).
Hand ball by Tom Lawrence (Derby County).
Substitution, Derby County. Bradley Johnson replaces Joe Ledley because of an injury.
Foul by Tom Lawrence (Derby County).
Jón Dadi Bödvarsson (Reading) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Derby County. Conceded by David Meyler.
Substitution, Reading. Sam Baldock replaces John Swift.
Foul by Harry Wilson (Derby County).
Omar Richards (Reading) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Goal! Reading 1, Derby County 1. Mason Mount (Derby County) left footed shot from outside the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Craig Bryson.
Tom Lawrence (Derby County) wins a free kick on the right wing.