Derby County secured their third successive away League victory of a new season for the first time since the 1912/13 campaign, as Jake Buxton’s first-half header, a hat-trick from Craig Bryson and substitute Mason Bennett’s late strike helped the side to a 5-1 win against Millwall at The Den.
The last time the Rams registered three successive away League victories was in January 2007, during the side’s promotion campaign to the Premier League, but Buxton’s towering header after nine minutes got the ball rolling for the side to repeat that feat.
Bryson then doubled the score-line when he slammed home the side’s second during added time in the first-half, before going one better in the second period as he sent a rising drive into the top corner.
Prior to the Scotland midfielder’s second goal, Shane Lowry was brandished a straight red card for a high tackle on Will Hughes, although Leicester City loanee Martyn Waghorn grabbed a late consolation for the Lions when he swept home strike partner Scott McDonald’s cushioned chest down in the 75th minute.
26-year-old Bryson then completed his hat-trick in the 81st minute when he drove a low shot into the bottom corner, and became the first Derby player to score three goals in one League game since Paul Simpson in the 1995/96 season.
Substitute Bennett even had time to net his first ever League goal as a professional footballer, when he fired home from 12-yards out to add an extra coat of gloss on an impressive away victory for the Rams.
Derby had to defend astutely in the opening exchanges, as they stood up to some early pressure from the hosts, with Adam Smith in particular proving steady, in what was the Tottenham Hotspur loanee’s maiden League start for the club.
The Rams began proceedings with an interchangeable 4-1-2-1-2 formation, with John Eustace occupying a defensive midfield role in front of the back four, and Jamie Ward given the license to roam freely behind the forward line of Chris Martin and Johnny Russell.
And it was Northern Ireland international Ward’s ingenuity that crafted the Rams’ first sight of goal, as the 27-year-old’s devilish delivery from the right found Richard Keogh at the far post, but the defender’s header back across goal was diverted over by Mark Beevers.
However, from the resulting corner, after the initial delivery had been cleared, Ward cut back on his right foot and floated a ball into the box. Centre-back Buxton displayed a real burning desire to reach the cross, as he nodded into the net from close-range to hand Derby the lead after nine minutes.
Two more opportunities followed for the Rams in what was a fluent opening 25 minutes, as Bryson was denied by a combination of goalkeeper David Forde and Beevers when he latched onto Russell’s cut-back, before Smith’s cross from the right found the darting run of the former Dundee United forward, only for ex-Ram Paul Connolly to stifle the attack at the near post.
Left-back Craig Forsyth then flashed an effort across the face of goal, before Scott McDonald showed quick feet in the Rams’ penalty area prior to curling a shot over the joint of the post and crossbar, in what was the Lions’ first and only real effort of the opening half.
The Rams went into this afternoon’s fixture defending the only 100% away record in the SkyBet Championship, and during added time in the first-half, Bryson did his very best to ensure that statistic would remain intact.
The midfielder, who returned from international duty with Scotland earlier this week, controlled the Millwall defence’s attempted clearance from Ward’s free-kick, and arrowed a 20-yard effort into the net, with ‘keeper Forde the unfortunate spectator.
The energy of Bryson and Hughes in the middle of the pitch had caused the hosts real problems in the opening 45 minutes, and Lowry took matters into his own hands within 10 minutes of the restart when he was sent off for dangerous high foot into the England Under-21 international.
A flurry of bookings from referee Keith Stroud followed, before Bryson displayed an air of tranquillity as he ghosted forward and thundered a terrific 25-yard drive into the top corner after 57 minutes.
The Rams’ third goal of the afternoon angered an already edgy home crowd, with a small section responding by throwing objects at right-back Smith, whilst one supporter ran onto the field of play, pushing manager Nigel Clough in the process.
Despite the antics, Derby continued to control the game, and almost added a fourth when Martin wrapped his foot around Hughes’ pull-back, but his shot fizzed narrowly wide of goal.
However moments later, from a similar position in the area, Bryson displayed real composure to seal his hat-trick, when he fired a low drive into the bottom corner with nine minutes remaining.
Substitute Bennett was then presented with an opportunity to seal his first ever goal in the League, and the 17-year-old duly accepted as he drilled a low effort beyond Forde to crown a memorable afternoon for both himself and the Rams.
Derby County: Grant (GK), Smith (Freeman 61’), Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth, Eustace, Bryson, Hughes, Ward (Coutts 58’), Martin (Bennett 87’), Russell.
Subs: Deeney (GK), Sammon, Jacobs, Davies.
Millwall: Forde (GK), Connolly, Shittu, Beevers, Lowry, Chaplow (Trotter 66’), Bailey, Derry (Henry 46’), Woolford, Keogh (Waghorn 46’), McDonald.
Subs: Bywater (GK), Osborne, Robinson, Martin.