Derby County's Richard Keogh wants Alex Pearce partnership despite star man's return

Derby's Richard Keogh and Alex Pearce (L) celebrate at the end of the match

Jason Shackell had been a key member of the starting XI until September but his injury has allowed Alex Pearce to step up.

Derby County defender Richard Keogh has told the club’s official website that he is enjoying the ‘seamless’ partnership with Alex Pearce in The Rams backline.

Only an injury to first-choice centre-back Jason Shackell allowed former Reading defender Pearce his first consistent spell in the side since arriving at the start of last season, and the 28-year-old has taken his opportunity in style by helping Derby record five consecutive clean sheets at the iPro Stadium.

Derby's Alex Pearce in action with Leeds' Luke Ayling

Steve McClaren’s side have picked up impressive victories against Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and Norwich City in that run, and captain Pearce believes their understanding is growing by the game although their run at the heart of the defence is set to be to be tested by Shackell’s return to fitness.

“It’s been great playing alongside Alex,” Republic of Ireland international Keogh told the club’s official website. “We get on really well on and off the pitch and things have been going well, both as a team and defensively.

Derby's Richard Keogh and Alex Pearce (L) celebrate at the end of the match

“Playing together has been seamless really and I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve played with Alex for 12 games now after Jason Shackell got injured in September; he’s back now and that’s great for the competition for places.

“As for our partnership, it’s going well and hopefully we can keep going.”

Derby have risen to ninth place in the table since McClaren returned to take over from Nigel Pearson in October, with the growing relationship between Pearce and Keogh playing a major part in their ascent up to the table.

However, McClaren now faces the unenviable task of deciding whether to reintroduce Shackell, who has been absent for all of the 55-year-old’s second stint in charge, or go by the ‘if it ain’t broke’ approach.

Derby's Jason Shackell looks dejected

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