Derby County exorcised the demons that haunted them last year at Pride Park Stadium in the Capital One Cup, as a rousing first-half display saw the side overcome League One Brentford 5-0.
Last season, the Rams exited the competition at the First Round stage following an exasperating 7-6 penalty defeat to Scunthorpe United, following a 5-5 draw in 120 minutes of football.
However, thankfully the only similarity to last season’s tie was the Rams taking a three-goal advantage - this time via the efforts of Chris Martin, Conor Sammon and Will Hughes.
A strong second-half display followed, as a goal each from Sammon and Martin took the total to five for Derby on the night, in what was a fluid and clinical attacking display from the hosts.
The new campaign has seen manager Nigel Clough implement a backbone of maturity throughout the side, as like this evening’s result, the 2013/14 campaign has thus far seen the Rams display signs of experience to minimise the potential of mistakes, and ultimately ensure victory.
Although Brentford briefly flirted with prospect of taking the lead, as Jake Reeves hit a swerving shot from the edge of the box over the crossbar, the Rams soon flexed their Championship muscles.
After 18 minutes, Bryson curled in a tailor-made cross for Martin, who beat goalkeeper Jack Bonham to the ball and headed past the former Watford shot-stopper from eight-yards.
Then prior to the half-an-hour mark, a patient build up saw right-back Adam Smith cut inside and tee up Craig Bryson, who from 20-yards, licked the post with a sumptuous curling effort.
The Rams continued to threaten, and only an acrobatic goal-line clearance from Bees defender Kevin O’Connor on Sammon denied the home side extending their lead.
The Republic of Ireland striker then glanced a header wide from Craig Forsyth’s left wing cross. However, just as Sammon might have been thinking it was not going to be his evening, the 26-year-old swept home Derby’s second of the night after 36 minutes.
In a scintillating move - that included neat interchanging passes between Hughes and Bryson in the pocket of space on the edge of the penalty area - the latter released Sammon, who placed a decisive strike beyond the reach of Bonham from inside the box.
Two minutes later, a rampant Derby netted their third of the evening. Tottenham Hotspur loanee Smith galloped down the right, prior to cutting the ball back to Hughes. The midfielder, who was called up to the England Under-21s’ squad earlier today, did not require a touch as he instinctively rifled a low drive into the bottom corner.
Derby’s dazzling first-half display almost forced a fourth before the interval, when Martin clipped outside of the post after slalom-esque dodge and weave maneuver in the penalty area.
Although the second half began uncannily like the first – with Reeves narrowly firing over the crossbar – the Rams did not take long to soar through the gears and threaten to extend their lead.
Former Preston North End midfielder Paul Coutts curled a 20-yard free-kick over the crossbar, before the Scotsman fired a flat delivery across goal for Martin, who diverted the ball agonisingly wide.
Coutts was then desperately unlucky not to open his account for the season when he had two goal-bound efforts cleared in the 70th minute – although Sammon profited from the midfielder’s misfortune as he swiveled and fired the second rebound home.
Derby refused to let up in front of goal, and went on to punish the Bees’ lackadaisical defending, as Martin completed the scoring when he sent a low, rasping drive from 20-yards into the bottom corner on 77 minutes, before leaving the pitch to a standing ovation as he was replaced by Mason Bennett.
Derby County: Grant (GK), Smith, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth, Coutts, Eustace, Hughes (Jacobs 75’), Bryson (Davies 73), Martin (Bennett 78’), Sammon.
Subs Not Used: Legzdins (GK), Ward, Freeman, Russell.
Brentford: Bonham (GK), O'Connor, Barron, (Pierre 46’) Saunders (Mawson 73’), El Alagui, (Hacker 61’) Dallas, Venta, Diagouraga, Reeves, Nugent, Clarke.
Subs Not Used: O'Brien (GK), Saville, Adams, Miller-Rodney.
Attendance: 9,076 (720 visiting supporters).