Derby County recorded their eighth straight victory over Leeds United at Pride Park this afternoon, as goals from Conor Sammon, Jake Buxton and Ben Davies handed Nigel Clough’s men a 3-1 win.
Sammon opened the scoring for the home side on 15 minutes when he latched on to man of the match Will Hughes’ clever pass, to fire past Paddy Kenny from close-range.
However on the stroke of half-time, Leeds responded through former Ram Paul Green’s deft strike from inside the six-yard box to level the score-line.
But the Rams restored their advantage in the 65th minute when Jake Buxton turned in Richard Keogh’s low shot.
Derby had to remain resolute and hold on to their narrow lead in the final 15 minutes as Neil Warnock’s men went in search of an equaliser.
Despite the late pressure, Derby held on and made the game completely safe in stoppage time when substitute Davies curled in a terrific third from the edge of the penalty area.
It was a tightly contested opening at Pride Park, with the first opportunity of the game arriving in the ninth minute when goalkeeper Paddy Kenny’s hurried clearance cannoned off the back of Tom Lees and drifted agonisingly wide of goal.
From the resulting Michael Jacobs corner, Theo Robinson sent a header off the shoulder of one the Leeds United defenders en route to goal, as the ball dropped narrowly over the crossbar.
The visitor’s only effort of the opening quarter came when Ross McCormack’s 25-yard free-kick sailed harmlessly over, as the Rams began to dictate proceedings.
And with barely 15 minutes gone on the clock, Sammon struck his fifth goal of the season to hand Nigel Clough’s side the lead. Will Hughes’ perfectly weighted pass found Sammon on the edge of the penalty area; the former Kilmarnock forward beat his defender and coolly rolled the ball past Kenny from eight yards out.
Then nine minutes later, Sammon and Robinson combined superbly with some neat interplay, before the latter was thwarted by Kenny from a tight angle.
It was all one way traffic at Pride Park, and the Rams came close to a second with an opportunity that was a carbon copy of Sammon’s opener. Once again, Hughes drove forward and played a defence splitting pass to release the Irish striker. However this time, Sammon got caught in two minds and Kenny raced out to pick the ball off of the forward’s toes.
Prior to the half-time whistle, Robinson saw a 30-yard drive comfortably held by Kenny whilst Hughes sent a dangerous cross into the side netting via a deflection.
However, with stoppage time fast approaching, Neil Warnock’s men drew level – with their first real opportunity of the half. Ryan Hall’s cross from the left was cleverly knocked into the path of former Ram Green by Lucciano Becchio, and the Republic of Ireland international reacted quickest to prod past Adam Legzdins
10 seconds after the restart, Leeds almost turned the game on its head when Green found McCormack in space on the edge of the box, but the striker’s drive was tame and easy for Legzdins.
It was a more confident opening from the visitors compared to the first 45 minutes, and Warnock’s men came close to a second when Hall beat two defenders and clipped a ball towards the far corner; however Jacobs was well positioned to somehow hook the ball off the line.
Hall’s effort was almost an eye opening moment for Derby, as wave after wave of attack soon followed for the home side.
Firstly, Paul Coutts’ determined run from inside his own half was met by Sammon’s snap-shot from 12-yards out that fizzed wide, before Hughes ghosted past three Leeds defenders as if they were not there and saw his fierce strike brilliantly saved by Kenny.
In the 65th minute, John Brayford was denied his second goal of the season as is goal-bound header from Jacobs’ right-wing corner was cleared off the line.
But there was no stopping the Rams from the following set-piece a minute later, as Buxton restored the home side’s advantage.
Jacobs’ corner was only half cleared by the Leeds defence and the ball dropped kindly for Keogh 12-yards out. The skipper adjusted his feet and fired the ball towards the bottom corner where Buxton was on hand to divert into the net from inside the six-yard box.
The Whites fought back as David Norris’ half-volley from the edge of the box was expertly palmed clear by Legzdins, prior to central defender Lees heading against the inside of the post with James O’Connor hacking the ball off the goal line as the Rams held on.
El Hadji Diouf sent a volley inches wide as the Rams held on to their narrow lead, but Clough’s men had one final chance of their own in stoppage time, and it proved crucial.
Substitute Davies picked the ball off Coutts from the edge of the penalty area and curled it into the bottom corner to spark euphoric celebrations at Pride Park.
Derby County: Legzdins (GK); Brayford, Keogh, Buxton (O’Brien 79), O’Connor; Coutts, Hendrick, Hughes (Freeman 90), Jacobs; Robinson (Davies 82), Sammon.
Subs Not Used: Fielding (GK), Tyson, Doyle, Bennett.
Leeds United: Kenny (GK); Peltier, Lees, Tate, Byram; Green, Tonge, Norris (White 80), Hall (Varney 68); Becchio, McCormack (Diouf 74).
Subs Not Used: Ashdown (GK), Pearce, Brown, Gray.
Attendance: 25,034 (3,453 Visiting Supporters).