Tom Lawrence has had his ups and downs during his first season at Derby County. The former Manchester United trainee was one of the big money signings made by Gary Rowett during the summer. He was bought from Leicester City for an initial fee of £5 million, which made him one of the joint-fourth most expensive signing in the club’s history.
It may not seem like a lot of money in the modern game, but it was a significant outlay for the Rams and supporters have had high expectations as a result. At the time of his arrival, Lawrence was considered as one of the best players in the Championship after a superb season on loan at Ipswich Town.
A contribution of nine goals and nine assists in a team that finished in the bottom half of the table was an impressive return. The Welsh international scored a number of excellent individual goals and Derby were hoping that he could inject some flair into their attack.
Despite stepping up to play in a team that is challenging for promotion, Lawrence’s own influence in the final third has decreased. He has got just four goals and six assists for Derby this season, which will be lower than supporters expected after his arrival. However, Gary Rowett has remained patient and continued to start him in the majority of games.
The match-winning performance from Lawrence against Preston North End on Monday was an encouraging sign that there is more to come from him. The faith shown in him from the manager could be repaid many times over during the coming weeks if he can continue to influence games in that manner.
Derby created very little at Deepdale and were under the cosh for long periods of the game, but all that mattered was getting the right result. They managed to do that thanks to Lawrence. Minutes into the second-half, he stepped up to take a free-kick just outside the Preston box and curled it into the far post.
Although the goalkeeper will be disappointed by his effort to save it, the strike was a good one from the Derby midfielder and it was the decisive moment of the match.
The manner of the match meant that Lawrence had few opportunities to shine, as Preston dominated possession.
However, he worked hard and contributed to the team’s defensive effort. It would have been easy for the attacking midfielder to lose concentration, but he didn’t and continued to play his part until he was substituted late on. This is shown by his total of two successful tackles and three clearances.
This was far from the complete performance by Lawrence and there are areas that he must improve. His pass success rate of 62% was lower than his season average, while his final ball was poor on a couple of occasions.
However, this was a major victory that consolidated Derby’s position in the play-offs and the midfielder was the man responsible for the winning goal. That must give him a lot of confidence that had perhaps been lacking previously.
The next challenge for the 24-year-old is to be more influential in matches and provide the attacking flair that Derby wanted him to bring to the team. The Rams have seven matches left to play this season and are currently in the top-six.
If they manage to stay in the play-off positions, Lawrence has the talent to be a difference maker in those matches. It is time for him to step up.