Wayne Rooney has tipped Malcolm Ebiowei for big things after he fired relegated Derby to a 2-0 win away to Blackpool at Bloomfield Road in the Sky Bet Championship.
The 18-year-old opened his account 15 minutes from time against the Tangerines, before Eiran Cashin sealed the three points and a first away win for the Rams in 2022, after Gary Madine had missed a first-half penalty for the hosts.
While their relegation had already been sealed, it was a fine reward for more than 4,000 Derby supporters who made the trip to the north-west.
And even if Rooney agreed with Blackpool boss Neil Critchley that the result did not necessarily reflect the game, he was delighted to see Ebiowei get off the mark.
He said: “Ebiowei has deserved a goal, so I’m delighted for him because his performances have deserved that.
“It is a positive for us getting him off the mark. It is a shame there is only one game left, but I am sure in his career there will be a lot more. Cashin has also deserved a goal for his performances.
“I’m delighted with the win, but performance-wise we can play better than that. It’s a funny game, football, there have been much better performances away from home and we have come away with nothing.
“We didn’t play as well as we can do but we dug in at times when we had to. Obviously Kelle made a big save from the penalty, we get the first goal and from there we look like the team that was going to get a second and third goal, so yes, I’m really pleased with the three points.”
Despite being spurred on by a vocal travelling support, it was the hosts who started the brighter of the two sides.
First, Callum Connolly was off-target with a strike in the fifth minute before the impressive Charlie Kirk was denied by returning Rams goalkeeper Kelle Roos.
Blackpool should have taken the lead when Festy Ebosele was penalised for taking down James Husband in the box, but Roos saved Madine’s spot-kick before Kirk flashed another good chance wide.
It was a similar story in the second half, with Kirk at the heart of it, but instead Derby finished the stronger and took the lead with Ebiowei stabbing home from close range when Chris Maxwell failed to hold a Louie Sibley strike.
He then turned provider with eight minutes of normal time to spare, floating a delightful delivery to an unmarked Cashin for a second goal to leave Critchley wondering how his side came away with nothing.
He said: “When you’ve got a crowd like we did, you want to give them a day to remember with some goals and a win. Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to do that, but it doesn’t change my opinion of the season as a whole – we’ve had a very good season.
“It maybe epitomised our season; we were the better team, on top, but didn’t take our chances and the two goals we conceded were really poor.
“Gary’s normally very good at penalties but that can happen, his record’s very good. But we’ve created other chances and the keeper’s pulled off plenty of saves.
“They’ve not really been near our goal apart from a couple of shots from outside the box. It was comfortable but we gifted them both goals.
“It’s disappointing, but over the course of 45 games, we can be pleased with our efforts this season.”