DERBY COUNTY score twice in each half to get their festive programme off to an emphatic start following a 4-0 away win at Birmingham City.
Jordon Ibe, who was facing the Club he spent the second half of last season on loan at, opened the scoring with a hard shot from close range, before Chris Martin added a second with a sublime free kick.
Craig Forsyth, who scored in Derby’s last trip to St Andrew’s added a third and Johnny Russell completed the scoring as Steve McClaren’s side recorded their biggest away win of the campaign so far.
Backed by a packed out travelling support, Derby started the brighter, dictating the possession and moving the ball through the midfield channels and with their first meaningful attack, they opened the scoring.
Will Hughes scampered away through the middle of the park and flicked a pass into the path of Chris Martin. The striker’s slight touch took the ball into Ibe, who darted into the area before slamming the ball beyond Darren Randolph and into the back of the net.
The 19-year-old played on loan with the Blues last season and after switching wings with Johnny Russell, Derby nearly doubled their lead.
The Scottish forward came in from the left to find himself one-on-one with Randolph, but on his weaker foot, he smashed the ball straight into the ‘keeper’s midriff before the ball was cleared to safety.
The Rams continued to pile the pressure on the home side and after a neat passing move, Cyrus Christie waltzed inside Jonathan Grounds, the Birmingham full back, and played the ball across to Martin, but Rowett’s side recovered to deny him a clean shot on goal.
Birmingham found themselves being limited to long range efforts by an industrious Derby backline with David Cotterill having the home side’s only notable effort with a strike from 30-yards easily being gathered by Lee Grant after 20 minutes.
Two minutes later and Derby deservedly doubled their lead.
A marauding run by Russell, after cutting inside from the right, carved open the Birmingham defence and after being hauled down by Stephen Gleeson on the edge of the area, Martin picked the ball up and smashed an unstoppable drive beyond Randolph for his 16th goal of the season.
Derby continued to dominate proceedings as Martin flicked over Russell’s corner after 28 minutes and Ryan Shotton side footed an effort wide from another set piece just after the hour mark.
From the left, Ibe continued to cause the Birmingham backline problems as a neat touch took him away from Paul Caddis and after running into the area, he pulled a ball back for Hughes who lost his feet at the vital moment and scuffed a right foot shot wide.
The Blues grew into the game with five minutes of the half remaining as Andy Shinnie had a shot blocked by Shotton and Cotterill blazed over a free kick on the edge of the area after Hughes had fouled Demarai Gray.
The second half began in a cagey manner in which neither side could carve out any clear openings. The Rams held firm and still looked bright with their quick passing and sharp movement and on 56 minutes, Derby nearly added a third.
Neat work on the right set Christie free on the right and his deep cross was only half cleared to Hughes, whose first time volley flew just wide of Randolph’s near post.
With the game opening up, Rowett twisted and made two attacking changes with Nikola Zigic and Wes Thomas coming on in a bid to save the game.
The two substitutes combined in the box after from Zigic’s knock down, Thomas had a low drive well saved by Grant and at the other end, Jeff Hendrick had an effort deflected for a corner after Martin’s lay off.
On 62 minutes, Derby broke at relentless pace down the left as Ibe raced away from Caddis and after checking back, the winger slipped a teasing ball back across the box. Russell collected the ball and smashed an effort straight at Randolph.
With the snow pouring heavily in the West Midlands, the Rams, after a prolonged spell of sparring, eventually got their third as Craig Forsyth, who started the move, collected a pass on the edge of the area by Martin and swept a right foot shot into the bottom corner of Randolph’s goal.
With the game entering its final stages, Derby added a fourth as Leon Best, a late substitute, closed down Grounds on the left and after the defender’s clearance cannoned off the striker and landed at the feet of Russell on the area.
After setting himself, Russell darted towards Randolph’s goal and curled a low left foot shot across the ‘keeper and into the bottom corner to ensure the Rams returned to winning ways in style.
Birmingham City: Randolph, Caddis, Morrison, Robinson, Grounds, Davis, Gleeson, Cotterill (Thomas, 58), Shinnie (Zigic, 58), Gray, Donaldson (Novak, 87)
Substitutes not used: Doyle, Moussi, Edgar, Reilly
Derby County: Grant; Christie, Keogh, Shotton, Forsyth; Eustace, Hendrick (Coutts, 66), Hughes; Russell, Ibe, Martin (Best, 86)
Substitutes not used: Roos, Dawkins, L Naylor, Calero, Mascarell