Derby County displayed their clinical best as they recorded a 3-0 win over Reading at the Madejski Stadium.
Chris Martin opened the scoring after 18 minutes, before Jordon Ibe showed neat foot work and a deadly turn of pace to carve out the second after 38 minutes – both goals coming at times when Derby had been heavily under Reading pressure.
Martin added his ninth goal of the season 11 minutes of time to compound the result as the Rams notched their first win on the Royal’s home turf in nine years.
Despite failing to win in any of their last five games, Reading made the brighter start to the contest as they pressed the Derby backline with intent and aggression in search for an early break through.
After Chris Gunter’s cross from the right cleared the area, Hal Robson-Kanu worked the ball back to Jordan Obita who crossed first time on to the head of Simon Cox, but the forward could only head over the bar.
The Rams survived the early onslaught and after their first corner of the game had been half cleared, Jordon Ibe showed quick feet to create space and thread a pass to Chris Martin, who tapped the ball back to Craig Bryson to rifle over at the other end.
The Royals continued to combine their high pressing game with slick passing and quick movement as they controlled the opening stages.
Oliver Norwood was next to try his luck as he curled a first time effort over the bar, before Derby grew into the game and made the breakthrough after 20 minutes.
Jamie Ward took a routine corner from the right and Martin rose highest to head into the bottom left corner beyond the outstretched Adam Federici.
McClaren’s side nearly repeated the same trick two minutes later as a poor header from Gunter gifted Derby another corner. Bryson took over from Ward this time and sent in a deep inswinging ball that was turned over by Craig Forsyth.
The aerial presence of Glenn Murray was proving to be Reading’s biggest threat and after holding up a lofted pass from Michael Hector, the forward played a pass to Taylor as Reading shaped their next opening.
The Welsh winger hit a rasping shot that was palmed out by Grant and Robson-Kanu, who was following in the shot, could not get enough on the rebound as the ball fell thankfully into the arms of Grant.
Derby’s ‘keeper was soon called back into action as he tipped away a Murray header, before the crossbar came to Derby’s rescue with 10 minutes of the half remaining as the striker was, again, denied once again from a Norwood corner.
Despite their own goal living a charmed life, Derby doubled their lead on 38 minutes as Ibe showed a great touch and turn of pace after collecting a pass from Will Hughes to escape one challenge before cutting inside a Alex Pearce and curling his effort into the bottom corner.
Ward stepped in from the left to curl an effort wide as the Rams attempted to add a third before the break, but immediately after the shot, the Northern Ireland was withdrawn in place of Johnny Russell.
With the words of McClaren ringing in their ears, Derby started the second half with much more intent.
Martin, twice, in the matter of 30 seconds could have added a third for Derby as he cleared the top of the bar from close range, before the game entered its quietest spell.
Nigel Adkins signalled his intent in his side’s battle to find an equaliser with 20 minutes to go as he made a triple change. One of them, Pavel Pogrebnyak, thought he had found the equaliser.
First the big striker blasted over the top of the bar, before he followed in an Obita shot that Grant had saved, but could only send it into the side netting in a frantic two-minute spell.
Reading began to real turn the screw and a deflected Murray effort had Grant sprawling before the ball dropped narrowly wide of the post, but Derby, again, rode out the wave of attacks to add a third with 11 minutes remaining.
Substitute, Jeff Hendrick, started the move and played a pass to Russell on the edge of the area, and the Scottish striker, flicked a pass into the path of Martin who held off one defender before clipping a shot over Federici and into the back of the net.
Martin’s second proved to be a body blow to the home side as Derby entered cruise control to see out the remaining 10 minutes of the contest as the Rams extended their unbeaten run to 12 games and recorded their fifth straight clean sheet.
Reading: Federici, Gunter, Pearce, Norwood (Kuhl, 70), Robson-Kanu (Blackman, 70), Cox, Obita, Hector, Mackie (Pogrebnyak, 70), Murray, Taylor
Substitutes not used: Akpan, Andersen, Long, Cooper
Derby County: Grant, Christie, Keogh (Shotton, 45), Whitbread, Forsyth, Eustace, Bryson (Hendrick, 75), Hughes, Ward (Russell, 43), Ibe, Martin
Substitutes not used: Roos, Buxton, Best, Mascarell