TOM INCE'S tenth goal in a Derby County shirt ensured that the Rams came away with a share of the spoils from an eight-goal thriller with Huddersfield Town.
The 23-year-old wideman struck his second of the afternoon with 10 minutes remaining as Steve McClaren’s side came from behind for the second time in West Yorkshire.
It was Ince that got the ball rolling at the John Smith’s Stadium, but three goals in the space of eight minutes – from Oscar Gobern, Mark Hudson and Reece James – saw Chris Powell’s side in front at the break.
Simon Dawkins cut the deficit back to one with a strike seven minutes after the restart and Jesse Lingard got the Rams back on level terms, but after Nahki Wells’ deflected strike edged the Terriers back in front, Ince struck to extend Derby’s unbeaten run to five games.
Whilst McClaren will lament the way in which Derby collapsed at the end of the first half, it was the problems in the first 30 minutes that will be of greater concern to the Head Coach.
McClaren is a man that has craved consistency all season. It served as the backbone of the successful campaign that engulfed itself around for the iPro Stadium last term, but for reasons stemming right back over the last nine months, it has never been the case this time around.
Today seemed like the day they may have discovered some sort of consistency in line-up heading into the final furlong of the most unpredictable of seasons. Twenty seven minutes later, the sight of Craig Bryson and Zak Whitbread prematurely departing meant it was back to the drawing board.
In between that time frame, the Rams looked lively with the ball, whilst maintaining a stranglehold without it – so much so that Huddersfield’s only notable opportunity until the brink of half time saw Lee Grant palm away Sean Scannell’s effort right of centre early on.
After seeing a long-range free kick beaten away by Alex Smithies, the Huddersfield goalkeeper, Ince opened the scoring with a sublime drive from range – a rocket into the far corner that Smithies, at full stretch, could not get the ends of his fingertips on to.
The contest ebbed and flowed until the final 10 minutes of the half before the home side scored three goals in eight minutes to turn the game on its head in devastating fashion.
The first came through Oscar Gobern, who showed wonderful control before striking beyond Grant, before weak marking at a corner three minutes later allowed Mark Hudson, the Terriers’ Captain, to head the home side in front.
With four minutes of added time shown, Chris Powell’s side were far from finished. The third came from another corner, but this time directly, as Reece James’ whipped set piece evaded everyone before crashing into the back of the net.
In between two further home goals being chalked off – one for a foul on Grant and the other for offside – Derby responded to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Dispossessed of the ball on the left, the visitors worked possession out to the feet of Stephen Warnock, whose deft cross fell into the path of Simon Dawkins to finish, first time, past Smithies.
The Jamaican international turned provider shortly after the hour mark, as this pulsating encounter in West Yorkshire took another turn.
Cutting through the middle, Derby, led by Dawkins, marched forwards in numbers and after the ball was played into the middle by the 27-year-old substitute, Jesse Lingard took aim before slamming a low drive into the bottom corner.
It looked as though the tide had turned and Derby had taken control, but after weathering the storm, Huddersfield clawed themselves back in front.
Stephen Warnock’s slip in this move was crucial. The ball played behind the full back caught him out and Scannell was in. The wideman cut the ball back to Miller, but after his shot was blocked, Wells collected possession, held, before seeing his heavily deflected strike loop into far corner.
McClaren’s side recovered once more, though, to make it four apiece at the John Smith’s Stadium with still more than 10 minutes to play.
Bent’s deft touch took out two Huddersfield players and Ince scampered through the middle, before unleashing an unstoppable low drive into the bottom corner.
Into five minutes of stoppage time, the relentless nature of the contest failed to yield. Huddersfield saw another goal disallowed and Johnny Russell, the substitute, saw a free kick bounce narrowly over. Just another day in the Sky Bet Championship then.
Huddersfield Town: Smithies (GK), James, Hudson (C), Scannell, Butterfield, Coady (Hogg, 80), Miller, Wells (Bunn, 88), Smith, Gobern, Lynch
Substitutes not used: Murphy (GK), Edgar, Wallace, Lolley, Billing
Derby County: Grant (GK), Shotton, Keogh (C), Whitbread (Christie, 27), Warnock; Hendrick, Bryson (Dawkins, 8), Hughes (Russell, 78), Ince, Lingard, Bent
Substitutes not used: Roos (GK), Forsyth, Ward, Russell, Sammon