Second-half goals from Jeff Hendrick and Chris Martin ensured Derby County a place in the second round of the Capital One Cup, as the Rams edged their way past Carlisle United at Brunton Park.
For the second consecutive fixture it looked as though a single Hendrick goal would prove enough to secure victory, after the Republic of Ireland international struck in the final ten minutes on Saturday to earn the Rams an opening day win over Rotherham United.
The 21-year-old midfielder did not have to wait as long on this occasion however, as the Rams’ Academy graduate powered home a header from close range in the 62nd minute to hand Derby a deserved one goal lead.
With time running out, Martin guaranteed the Rams’ stay in the competition and that any subsequent Carlisle attack would prove futile, as the former Norwich City forward swept the ball in from 12-yards out.
After a quiet opening ten minutes, where Kyle Dempsey’s long-range effort for the home side proved the only notable effort at goal, the Rams began to grow into the game as opportunities in front of goal started to flow.
Firstly, left-back Craig Forsyth was allowed a clear run towards the Carlisle goal, as he galloped almost unchallenged through the Cumbrians’ half, before seeing his placed effort thwarted by goalkeeper Mark Gillespie.
Hendrick then sent a close-range effort over from inside the penalty area, prior to Northern Ireland international Jamie Ward having a double stab at goal. The forward threw himself at Cyrus Christie’s cross and headed goalwards, but was expertly kept out by Gillespie, who stood up to Ward’s follow up effort that skipped across the face of goal.
Ward soon turned provider, crossing to Martin at the back post, but like his team-mate, Martin had his effort kept out by Gillespie, who scampered across his line and beat the ball away from point blank range.
The Rams continued to press high up the pitch, with Ward and Martin incessantly closing down the Carlisle back-line, while Hughes, who retained his place in the deep lying midfield position, recycled the ball meticulously.
In the final 60 seconds of the first-half Derby almost found a breakthrough. Forsyth’s ball forward bounced awkwardly for defender Sean O’Hanlon, which allowed Martin a sight of goal, but the former Crystal Palace loanee sent a deft half-volley onto the top of the crossbar.
Derby maintained their attacking emphasis in the second-half and carved open a clear chance inside five minutes of the restart. Simon Dawkins raced away down the left before teeing up Forsyth. The full-back crossed to the far post, picking out Ward, but the forward’s subsequent header dropped straight into the arms of Gillespie.
As the game went on, Martin’s hold up play and ability to bring the Rams’ midfielders into the game continually wore away at the home side, with Dawkins coming close to benefiting in the 54th minute, striding forward and seeing his bending shot palmed clear by Gillespie.
However, despite Derby’s dominance, the visitors' impressive attacking play would have counted for nothing in the 60th minute, had goalkeeper Lee Grant not produced a terrific reflex save, tipping David Symington’s 25-yard free-kick onto the crossbar.
Grant’s save proved integral, as two minutes later the Rams finally found a way past Gillespie and the Carlisle resistance. Ward’s corner was helped on by Zak Whitbread and Republic of Ireland international Hendrick was well positioned to force the ball over the line from inside the six-yard box.
With 20 minutes remaining, Head Coach Steve McClaren introduced Leon Best and Johnny Russell in place of Ward and Dawkins, freshening up the attacking line, and the former almost wrapped the game up when he found space on the right but saw his low drive kept out by Gillespie.
But in added time Derby did ensure their place in the hat for the second round of the competition, as Martin clinically converted Russell’s centre, netting his first goal of the 2014/15 campaign.
Carlisle United: Gillespie (GK), Thirlwell (Marrow 75'), Meppen-Walter, O'Hanlon, Symington, Robson, Sweeney, Kearns (Brough 81’), Potts, Dempsey, Paynter (Elliott 71’).
Substitutes not used: Hanford (GK), Grainger, Dicker, Gillies.
Derby County: Grant (GK); Christie, Keogh, Whitbread, Forsyth; Hughes, Hendrick, Bryson; Ward (Russell 70’), Dawkins (Best 70’), Martin.
Substitutes not used: Roos (GK), Freeman, Sammon, Eustace, Mascarell.
Attendance: 3,481 (497 Derby County supporters).