TOM INCE scored two debut goals as Derby County recorded a 4-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers at the iPro Stadium.
The winger, who joined the Club on loan from Hull City on Transfer Deadline Day, scored a sublime free kick to separate a feisty contest on 39 minutes, before Jeff Hendrick scored on the cusp of half time.
Ince added his second, and Derby’s third, two minutes after the interval, before substitute, Filip Twardzik, cut the score to 3-1 with a headed finish soon after.
Steve McClaren’s side, though, added a fourth on 68 minutes to ensure Derby recorded their eighth win in nine games ahead of Tuesday night’s top of the table clash with AFC Bournemouth.
Whilst the Rams turned on the style in the second half, the first 45 minutes, for large parts, had nothing separating the two sides as Derby were left frustrated by a well-disciplined Bolton side operating at a high intensity.
For the best part, chances came at a premium as Dorian Dervite headed over the top of Lee Grant’s crossbar and Hendrick fired a volley well over the top of Andy Lonergan’s bar at the other end.
That aside there was no further chances in a contest that was largely played out in the middle of the park, whilst a revitalised Bolton mopped up any promising move the Rams could craft.
Derby continued to persist and often looked for the wide outlet of Tom Ince, who showed plenty of promise on the right hand side and the 23-year-old throughout the opening stages.
The winger had a shot blocked on 33 minutes after being picked out by Hendrick in the middle. It was going to take something special from either side to make the breakthrough.
That distinctive moment was to come twice in the final six minutes as Derby knocked the stuffing out of their opponents with two moments of brilliance.
The first came from Ince as he swept in fierce curling free kick beyond the outstretched finger tips of Lonergan to crown a fine debut with a debut goal, but Derby were not finished there.
With the bit between their teeth, Steve McClaren’s side took the game to the Bolton backline.
Starting out on the right side, Derby were the ball with a number of neat interchanges on to the edge of the area where Hendrick picked up possession, evaded one challenge and swept the ball into the back of the net.
McClaren’s side kept their momentum going into the early second exchanges of the second 45 minutes and added a third two minutes after the restart.
Just like the second goal, the movement was exquisite as the ball was moved quickly from the left via Hendrick, Martin and Hughes before the ball was rolled out to the feet of Ince to sweep in his second goal of the afternoon.
Bolton immediately responded to ensure the Rams would not be recording a fourth consecutive clean sheet.
A free kick from the left was bent in to the diving head of Filip Twardzik, the half time substitute, who glanced the ball under Grant and into the back of the net.
Undeterred, Derby were on the top of their game as they laid siege on the Lonergan’s goal.
From the right this time, the ball was worked to Jamie Ward, whose snap shot was palmed away by the Trotters’ ‘keeper before Omar Mascarell had a deflected drive tipped around the post for a corner from a well worked free kick routine.
With the confidence flowing through their veins, Derby added a fourth just before the 70 minute mark as added his second of the contest – his seventh goal of the season.
It came from another well-worked set piece routine as Mascarell arched a free kick to the back post and on to the head of Jake Buxton, who was making 150th Rams appearance, and the defender headed into the path of Hendrick to knock past Lonergan.
Zach Clough smashed a low effort straight at Grant after a swift break away and Darren Bent, on as a late substitute, sent a first time shot narrowly wide after being played through by Hendrick.
Simon Dawkins drove a late effort wide with the clock ticking down, as did Craig Bryson, the Rams’ final change, with only two minutes remaining, but as the game entered added on time, Ince was presented the chance to complete his hat trick.
After being fed on the right by Bent, the winger cracked a right foot shot against the foot of Lonergan’s near post, before collecting the ball and crossing an arching ball to the back stick for Simon Dawkins to head straight at the ‘keeper,
The damage was already done, though, and the final whistle was greeted by a wave of approval and cheers as the Rams continued to ride the wave of momentum they have built up over the last nine games.
Derby County: Grant, Shotton, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth; Mascarell, Hendrick, Hughes (Bryson, 80); Ward (Dawkins, 74), Ince, Martin (Bent, 74)
Substitutes not used: Roos, Christie, Lingard, Warnock
Bolton Wanderers: Lonergan, Vela (Gudjohnsen, 70), Wheater (Twardzik, 46), Dervite, Ream, Trotter (Slavchev, 46), Bannan, Feeney, Clough, Moxey, Le Fondre
Substitutes not used: Amos, Hall, Rochinha, Threlkeld