Bradley Johnson is emerging as a leader at Derby County after sinking Norwich City

Derby County manager Steve McClaren hailed his match-winner Bradley Johnson. Picture by Paul Chester

Derby County manager Steve McClaren hailed his match-winner Bradley Johnson. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Bradley Johnson has a major part to play in Derby County's Championship promotion bid.

The midfielder sunk his old club with a deflected second-half shot to press his claims for a regular spot under returning Rams' chief Steve McClaren.

'He is becoming more vocal, more of a leader. I thought his celebration was exemplary, in terms of professionalism. No histrionics, no nothing. Perfect,' he said. 'It was a one-goal game and usually they are set-pieces or something. I nearly strangled Will Hughes when he lost the ball – at the moment we were three versus two on the counter - but it rebounded nicely for Bradley who followed it up.

'That kind of summed up his performances, they have been growing, he has been getting better and he is a big focal point of our team, not just in terms of performance, but how he drives our team on. I have got to say the staff here have been fantastic. I had to take a lot of guidance early on because they know the players better than me and they said they had put Bradley there for Cardiff and Reading and he had done well.

' We have just carried it on and he has grown from that, but it is a team effort.'

McClaren's side claimed a fourth win on the spin in the Championship to underline their promotion credentials.

'Could we beat a top-six team in that manner? We have just done it,' he said. 'It is a big win for us, a big step forward. It was a tight game, one with two good teams slugging it out. We had to dig in at times and it was a great overall performance. When we needed to defend, we defended; when we needed to recover the shape, we did, and that is against a good team. In the first-half we kind of cancelled each other out, but we knew that it would open up in the second-half.

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'The first goal is always important, and we managed to get it. I can't really remember many clear chances for Norwich.

'We had the defining moments of the match.'