Derby County secured their path into the Fourth Round of the FA Cup with an emphatic 5-0 victory over League One leaders Tranmere Rovers at Pride Park.
Ben Davies followed up Paul Coutts’ low strike to open the scoring, before Conor Sammon doubled the home side’s advantage when he drilled the ball beyond the reach of Fon Williams in the second half.
Right-back John Brayford put the Rams into an unassailable lead in the 63rd minute when he instinctively turned in Davies’ corner, whilst Hendrick added a fourth with a low drive from the edge of the penalty area.
But the Rams saved their best till last as Mason Bennett netted his first ever goal for the club, and became Derby’s youngest ever goal-scorer when he raced forward and smashed the ball into the bottom corner.
With the visitors riding high at the top of League One and three consecutive victories to their name, Ronnie Moore’s men arrived at Pride Park full of exuberance, and their enthusiasm in the opening four minutes was almost rewarded when Ash Taylor stooped to head Adam McGurk’s corner narrowly wide of goal.
A Ben Davies toe poke two minutes later came close to taking the sting out of Tranmere’s vibrant opening; however the 31-year-old’s strike proved too close to goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams, who comfortably gathered.
Moore’s side were well drilled and stubborn, and more often than not, when the Rams broke forward in attack, Tranmere had two banks of four meticulously aligned to pick off any loose pass or miss-control.
But as the game went on, Derby began to penetrate their bolshie opponents, as Brayford glanced Davies’ corner wide of goal, before Michael Jacobs fired an in-direct free-kick into the foot of the onrushing wall, both prior to the half-an-hour mark.
The two opportunities for Nigel Clough’s men looked to inflict more belief on the side, and their patient build up was finally rewarded in the 43rd minute.
Coutts’ swerving shot from the edge of the penalty area squirmed underneath Fon Williams, and with the ball trickling towards the bottom corner, Davies made completely sure as he slid in to get the decisive touch and force it over the goal line.
It was the perfect ending to the half for Clough’s men, and they went on to make it a perfect start to the second, as with just nine minutes gone following the interval, Sammon took control of a loose ball and fired it low towards the corner of the net, and via a devilish deflection, the ball rose over the sprawling Fon Williams.
Tranmere were missing top-scorer Jake Cassidy, who recently returned to parent club Wolverhampton Wanderers, although his replacement Cole Stockton fired a warning shot over in the 55th minute after a clever turn in the penalty area.
However, that was a close as the visitors came to halving the deficit; as the Rams went on to demonstrate their potency in front of goal in the 63rd minute, when an unmarked Brayford turned in Davies’ corner from inside the six-yard box.
Midfielder Hendrick compounded the visitor’s misery nine minutes later when he calmly steered the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty area; sealing second goal in the space of four days.
Clough withdrew the returning Gareth Roberts from proceedings in the 74th minute, and the 34-year-old went off to a standing ovation from both sets of supporters, having enjoyed a seven year playing spell at Tranmere Rovers.
Defender Zoumana Bakayogo almost netted a consolation goal moments later when he was left unmarked to volley harmlessly over from McGurk’s right-wing corner.
Substitute Bennett pasted even more gloss onto the victory and rounded off the scoring when he raced past some weary Tranmere legs and slammed the ball into the bottom corner from 20-yards, making him Derby County’s youngest ever goal-scorer, eclipsing Lee Holmes' goal against Coventry City in 2003.
Derby County: Legzdins; Brayford, Keogh, O'Brien, Roberts (Freeman 74); Coutts (Doyle 79), Hughes, Hendrick, Davies (Bennett 86); Jacobs, Sammon.
Subs Not Used: Fielding, O'Connor, Robinson, Tyson.
Tranmere Rovers: Fon Williams; Holmes, Taylor, Palmer, Robinson (Black 74), McGurk, Bakayogo, Stockton, Power, O'Halloran, Daniels.
Subs Not Used: Mooney, Kay, Kirby, Harrison, Thompson, Goodison.