Derby’s incredible form continued as the Rams recorded their seventh consecutive win in the Sky Bet Championship with a hard fought 3-1 victory over struggling Doncaster, leaving the Rams just two points away from an automatic promotion place and three from the top spot.
Goals from Jamie Ward, Simon Dawkins and midfielder, Craig Bryson secured the result for the Rams and left them just two points off an automatic promotion place and three from the top of the league.
Ward’s early goal and another from on-loan forward, Dawkins, shortly after half time looked to set Derby on course to make it seven from seven, but the visitors weren’t dead and buried, piling on the pressure and creating a number of chances as the game wore on.
And their hard work paid off in the 64th minute when a lofted ball into the area saw Jake Buxton head into his own net under pressure from former Ram, Theo Robinson, to set nerves jangling around the iPro Stadium.
However, Derby kept their composure and fifteen minutes later, Will Hughes put Craig Bryson clean through on goal giving the Scottish international time and space to send a curling effort inside the far post to notch his tenth goal of the campaign and secure all three points for McClaren’s men.
The only negative outcome from the afternoon’s action was an injury to talismanic skipper, Richard Keogh who was forced to come off after 25 minutes to be replaced by Manchester United loanee, Michael Keane.
Derby made an excellent start to the game and went ahead early in the first half after some poor Doncaster defending allowed Chris Martin to win possession, and his neat through ball was latched onto by Jamie Ward who timed his run perfectly and slotted the ball past Doncaster ‘keeper, Ross Turnbull for his seventh of the season.
But Doncaster came in to the game more and more and had some great spells of possession, frustrating Derby by keeping the ball well with some good quick, short passing in midfield leading to good shots from Theo Robinson and Chris Brown which tested Lee Grant in Derby’s goal.
The Rams had the chance to double their lead in the 36th minute, when Chris Martin charged into the box, beating two defenders before being pulled to the deck by Luke McCullough giving Nigel Miller little option but to point for a spot kick.
However, Martin couldn’t convert the resulting penalty, bringing an excellent save out of Ross Turnbull who guessed correctly and dived low to his right hand side, turning the ball away.
After the restart, Derby were quick out of the blocks and created a number of chances, but were almost caught on the break twice in the space of a few minutes as ex-Ram Theo Robinson twice got clear of Derby’s back four.
He shot into the side netting with his first opportunity and brought a great save from Derby ‘keeper, Lee Grant with his second chance.
From that save, Derby broke quickly and at the other end of the pitch, Dawkins found himself clear of Doncaster’s defence taking his time to shoot past the onrushing Doncaster ‘keeper with a great composed finish.
With that goal, Derby looked on course to claim maximum points again, but the mood changed inside the ground just after the hour mark, when Jake Buxton headed towards his own net under pressure and despite his best efforts, Lee Grant couldn’t keep the ball from creeping in.
Having halved the deficit, Rovers poured forward in search of an equaliser and were playing well, but Derby restored their two goal advantage with around thirteen minutes to go, all but ending the visitors’ hopes of getting back into the game.
Chris Martin played an excellent defence-splitting pass through to Craig Bryson who took control of the ball and curled it past Turnbull and into the net.
For the last ten minutes, Doncaster threw everything at Derby who had to be at their best defensively to keep the away side at bay and maintain their winning momentum going into the busy Christmas period.
Derby County: Grant (GK), Wisdom, Keogh (Keane 25), Buxton, Forsyth, Eustace (Hendrick 67), Hughes, Bryson, Dawkins, Ward (Russell 76), Martin.
Subs Not Used: Legzdins (GK), Bennett, Sammon, Cisse.
Doncaster Rovers: Turnbull (GK), Quinn (Wakefield 67), Furman, Duffy, Brown (Macheda 41), McCullough, Khumalo, Woods (Forrester 57), Wellens, Robinson, Stevens.
Subs Not Used: Maxted (GK), Cotterill, De Val, Suk-Young.