THIS WAS exactly what Derby County needed. Three days after clawing back a 1-1 draw from depths of despair, they bounced back to thump already relegated Blackpool to create a cushion for themselves in the top six.
Craig Bryson set the tone for a much improved evening as he lashed in a low drive after just three minutes, before two goals in the space of a minute, from Tom Ince and Darren Bent, put them three goals up.
Bent converted from the penalty spot shortly after the hour mark to score his 12th goal in 15 appearances to round off an all round good evening for Steve McClaren’s side.
The message ahead of the game, though, was clear from the start. Derby County had to perform much better than they did on Saturday when they scraped a fortunate 1-1 draw with Brentford in the early Sky Bet Chasmpionship kick-off.
The home side’s start could not have been any better. With time and space in the middle after a pass from Jeff Hendrick, Bryson had all the time in the world to pick his spot as he slotted in a low left foot drive beyond the reach of Elliot Parish.
It represented the Rams fastest goal of the season and they were far from done as they zipped the ball around the iPro Stadium surface with purpose, imagination, creativity and intent.
Two missed opportunities aside, both from corners, Blackpool spent the majority of the first half camped inside their own half, attempting to not yield and crumble under the Derby spotlight.
Simon Dawkins was the beating heart of everything Steve McClaren’s side did and he was unfortunate not to add to Bryson’s opener in the opening 45 minutes.
The 27-year-old Jamaican international was denied twice by Parish – the first a well drilled drive and the second a tame curling effort after a neat exchange with Bent that released him through on goal.
Derby were not to be denied, though, and it was Tom Ince, with the bit between his teeth against his former club, that doubled the home side’s lead.
With little room to work with, Ryan Shotton held off two defenders before dinking a ball through the middle of the pair and into the feet of Ince, who took a touch before sweeping a curling effort into the far corner of the goal.
The Rams faithful did not have long to wait until the were celebrating again, 58 seconds to be precise, as Bent seized on a week back pass from Charles Dunne, before burying the ball beyond the helpless Parish.
It was the on loan forward’s fourth goal in four consecutive games, his 11th in 15 appearances, but he was far from done this evening.
Not content with three, Derby embarked on a search for more.
Dawkins, again unlucky, drove narrowly wide, before Jesse Lingard was left wondering how he had not added to the scoreline after he raced away from his marker.
Possessing raw pace, he made headway towards the Blackpool area and after an initial shot was blocked the ball fell back into his path, but the on loan Manchester United could only flick his effort over the top of the bar.
The closest the visitors came during the whole evening to getting on the score sheet came through Andrea Orlandi, who recently extended his spell with the Tangerines to another year, but he spurned his effort wide from a tight angle after beating Grant to the ball.
Derby did get their fourth shortly after the hour mark when the referee, Oliver Langford, pointed straight to the spot after Shotton had been hauled down in the area.
Bent assumed total control of the ball before dispatching his spot kick beyond Parish and he nearly completed his hat trick soon after his deflected strike, after being put through on goal, dropped narrowly wide of goal.
Derby, with ease and comfort, something they have experienced very little of over this last two months, saw out the remaining minutes of the game as they returned to winning ways on an evening when two of their contenders for play-off positions faltered, but importantly, this result extended their unbeaten run to four matches going into the final three games of the campaign.
Derby County: Grant, Shotton, Keogh (C), Whitbread, Warnock; Hendrick (Thomas, 78), Bryson, Dawkins; Ince (Ward, 74), Lingard, Bent (Russell, 68)
Substitutes not used: Roos (GK), Christie, Forsyth, Albentosa
Blackpool: Parish, Maher (Barkhuizen, 54), Clarke, O'Dea, Dunne, Cubero, O'Hara, Perkins, Orlandi, Cameron (Osayi-Samuel, 68), Madine
Substitutes not used: Boney, Higham, Ferguson, Oliver, Telford