DERBY COUNTY finished 2014 on a high with a impressive 2-0 win against Leeds United with an own goal from Alex Mowatt and a Jake Buxton header either side of half time deciding the clash.
The home victory ensured that the Rams would end the calendar year in third place in the Sky Bet Championship, just two points off an automatic promotion place and three from top spot.
Steve McClaren’s side were the better in a fiery first half between two fierce rivals and they were rewarded for their endeavour in the closing moments of the first 45 minutes, when Mowatt’s own goal put them in front.
The home side doubled their advantage within 90 seconds of the restart when a Jeff Hendrick free kick was met by the towering figure of Buxton, whose header beat Marco Silvestri and bulged the top corner.
The scoreline could have been even more flattering with good chances falling for Chris Martin and Hughes, but in the end, the two were all that was needed to record a convincing win.
Derby were on the front foot immediately, bossing possession during the opening minutes and getting forward at will, but despite their dominance they were unable to break down the visitors’ stubborn defence.
The first clear chance fell to the Rams in the 17th minute, when a Jordon Ibe pass found Chris Martin, but the centre forward struggled to get the ball from under his feet and the Leeds’ backline mopped up the danger.
A minute later, Cyrus Christie cut inside from the right wing and tried to find the top corner with his left foot, but the right back’s shot was always rising and cleared the bar.
At the other end, Leeds’ Souleymane Doukara played in Mirco Antenucci, who shot from the edge of the box, but his right-footed strike flew just wide of the upright.
In the 37th minute, Christie used his skill to beat his marker before delivering a teasing cross, but Martin was unable to get his head on it before a Leeds defender was able to turn it behind to safety.
With less than five minutes of the half remaining, Derby’s hard work was rewarded as they broke the deadlock, albeit with a helping hand from the visitors’ defence.
Will Hughes worked his way into opposition’s area before putting a low cross into the six-yard box and in his attempt to clear, Mowatt, put the ball past his own ‘keeper via the underside of the bar.
And it could have been two just moments later as a left wing free kick found the head of Richard Keogh who forced Leeds’ Silvestri, into a fantastic reaction save just before half time.
Derby did double their lead less than two minutes after the interval when the Rams won a free kick on the left wing and from Hendrick’s delivery, Buxton rose highest to power a header past Silvestri and notch his first of the season.
Not content with their two-goal advantage, the Rams burst forward again and a good run from Ibe finished with a low, left footed effort, but Silvestri dived to his left to claw the ball away.
Moments later, Hughes picked the ball up just outside the Leeds box and tried his luck with a curling strike but it was straight at Silvestri who made a comfortable stop.
The Rams poured forward again and when Craig Forsyth was picked out on the left he swung a curling ball into the area, which found Martin, but the forward’s powerful header was just wide.
With 15 minutes of the half remaining, Derby won a free kick on the edge of Leeds’ area, when Martin was brought down unfairly. Russell assumed control of the ball, but his curling effort sailed just over.
Ten minutes from time, Forsyth passed to Martin who took a touch before thumping a shot towards goal, but Silvestri got down quickly to gobble up the ball.
Leeds poured men forward in the dying minutes of the game, but the Rams were able to see out the game and record their second consecutive victory and earn maximum points.
Derby County: Grant (GK), Christie, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth, Eustace, Hendrick (Bryson, 80), Hughes, Ibe (Dawkins, 90), Russell (Coutts, 92), Martin
Substitutes not used: Roos, Best, Shotton, Mascarell
Leeds United: Silvestri (GK), Byram, Bellusci, Cooper, Warnock (Berardi, 9), Austin, Bianchi (Adryan, 80), Mowatt, Cook, Antenucci, Doukara (Sharp, 66)
Substitutes not used: S Taylor, Del Fabro, Tonge, Montenegro
Attendance: 31,690 (2,236)