DERBY COUNTY'S clinical 17 minute start proved to be enough as they recorded back-to-back home wins with a 2-0 victory over Charlton Athletic.
Jeff Hendrick got the ball rolling as he converted Darren Bent’s cut back, before he slipped in Jesse Lingard to finish past Stephen Henderson for his first goal since joining the Rams on loan until the end of the season.
Charlton grew into the game, but never seriously troubled a Derby backline that recorded their 20th clean sheet of the campaign.
After falling behind in their last four games, the challenge to Derby was to return to basics at the back and stop having to come from behind in games.
Intent and purposeful from the first whistle, Derby took the game to Charlton in relentless fashion and opened the scoring with their first chance on nine minutes.
George Thorne started the move, spreading a ball out to Will Hughes on the right who nipped in front of his marker to cut inside into the middle.
The 19-year-old, through the eye of needle, fed the ball to Darren Bent who cut a teasing ball into the six-yard area for Hendrick to apply the easiest of finishes.
The Republic of Ireland international was involved five minutes later as the Rams looked to double their lead.
With possession on the edge of the area, Hendrick back heeled the ball into the path of Tom Ince who curled narrowly wide of the outstretched Stephen Henderson’s far post.
It got better moments later as Steve McClaren’s side doubled their lead on 17 minutes.
The game was Thorne’s as he dictated play through the middle and the returning midfielder picked out Hendrick 25 yards from goal to feed Jesse Lingard who smartly finished past Henderson.
A quieter period ensued in the game, but the Rams still maintained control of the contest.
With the half winding down, Hughes cracked a shot narrowly wide from the edge of the area, whilst at the other end, Chris Solly, the Charlton Captain, forced Lee Grant into his first save of the evening with a low effort inside the area.
As time wore on, Charlton grew stronger into the game as Johann Berg-Gudmundsson’s free kick had Grant sprawling to tip over for a corner.
Derby survived the pressure and were denied a third goal by the crossbar as the game entered a period of one minute of added on time.
A failed cross in from the left came back to Craig Forsyth, celebrating his 26th birthday, and he passed into the feet of Hendrick who curled a high effort over the ‘keeper but was denied by the woodwork.
In a bid to stop Derby dominating the midfield battle, Guy Luzon, the Addicks’ Manager, introduced former France international Alou Diarra.
A renowned tough tackler, he made his presence felt early on with a perfectly time challenge on Jeff Hendrick and tried to half the deficit but saw his powerful effort blocked by Ryan Shotton.
Chances came at a premium there after for the remainder of the second half as McClaren's men saw out the game.
Gudmundsson’s free kick well over the bar on 78 minutes was as close as either team came to adding to the scoring.
With three minutes remaining, Hendrick saw an effort deflected for a corner but the damage had already been in the first 17 minutes as the Rams extended their gap between themselves and third place to five points ahead of Bournemouth’s trip to Nottingham Forest on Wednesday.
Derby County: Grant; Christie, Keogh, Shotton, Forsyth; Thorne (Mascarell, 71), Hendrick, Hughes (Bryson, 76); Ince, Lingard (Dawkins, 69), Bent
Substitutes not used: Roos, Buxton, Ward, Thomas
Charlton Athletic: Henderson, Solly (c), Fox, Ben Haim, Johnson, Gudmundsson, Buyens, Wilson (Diarra, 45), Bulot (Eagles, 68), Vetokele, Watt (Harriott, 71)
Substitutes not used: Dmitrovic, Gomez, Bikey-Amougou, Eagles, Lepoint