Jack Marriott assisted Craig Bryson and added the winner as Derby County defeated Sheffield United 2-1 at Pride Park Stadium.
Marriott was superb in his second Sky Bet Championship start to earn back-to-back goals and help dethrone the league leaders.
However, before he grabbed the winner, he supplied the ball to Bryson in the opening seconds for the midfielder to fire in at home for the second time in as many games.
Chris Basham equalised for the Blades just before half-time, but there was no doubt as to who deserved the three points as a stellar second-half helped the Rams end United’s four-game winning streak.
The Rams looked fully refreshed and ready to go following the international break from the moment the whistle blew and it was a quick reaction to the kick-off that earned Derby the opening goal.
It only took 19 seconds of quick manoeuvring for the ball to find Marriott who saw Bryson alone just inside of the area. The midfielder coolly slotted his low shot through Jack O’Connell and John Fleck and straight in the back of the net to pick up his second consecutive goal at Pride Park Stadium.
The Rams energy out of the blocks had stunned the league leaders slightly but it didn’t take long for United to pick themselves up and become a match.
Just after 20 minutes the Blades created their first opportunity when former Ram Kieron Freeman crossed in from the left looking for Chris Basham at the near post. Fikayo Tomori kept close to his man, however, to deny the tap in attempt.
Basham got his equaliser with less than five minutes remaining in the half. John Fleck made a well-worked run down the right side before sliding the ball across the goal for Basham to tap in the goal.
The three minutes of added time saw both sides frantically look for a half-time advantage. Marriott, looking for back-to-back goals forced Dean Henderson to stretch up and the Blades ‘keeper just managed to get his fingertips to tip it over. Straight down the other end, Mark Duffy saw his attempt glance wide, as did Mason Mount moments later.
The Rams looked to start the second 45 as they did the first and within the opening 10 minutes had twice come close to regaining the lead.
Tom Lawrence, who had replaced Bryson in the first-half, outrun two defenders and fired a shot on the edge of the box which drew an impressive save from Henderson to again tip away danger. Two minutes later and it was Martyn Waghorn from a similar position to wonderfully curl his effort towards goal, but it had slightly too much on it.
The Rams continued on the front-foot and working hard to re-take the lead. After good ball movement from the team, Tom Huddlestone lobbed the ball down to Craig Forsyth who had found space at the left of the box. He picked out Marriott in front of the goal but his effort to stab it home was just wide.
Derby deservedly got their second goal with less than 15 minutes and arguably no one deserved to grab that goal more than Marriott. It was an identical combination as three minutes earlier, but this time there was no way his pin point volley from the end of Forsyth’s cross would miss.
Last season’s League One top-scorer seemingly has found his form in the Championship with two goals in two league starts for the Rams.
Scott Carson made an important stop at the near post after a scramble in the six-yard box to maintain the Rams lead which they saw out to hand United their first loss since the middle of September.
Derby County: Carson; Bogle, Keogh (C), Tomori, Forsyth; Bryson (Lawrence, 36), Huddlestone; Waghorn (Jozefzoon, 71), Mount, Wilson; Marriott (Davies, 86)
Unused Subs: Johnson, Roos, Nugent, Malone
Sheffield United: Henderson; Stevens, O’Connell, Basham (Washington, 80), Egan; Freeman, Fleck, Norwood; McGoldrick, Sharp (C) (Clarke, 65), Duffy (Coutts, 65)
Unused Subs: Stearman, Johnson, Cranie, (Washington, 80) Moore
From the first whistle, it was a brilliant team effort by the Rams over the league leaders, with their energy and determination to not to settle for anything other than three points apparent.
However, at the forefront was Jack Marriott. The 24-year-old has had to be patient in an experienced team that is full of competition. His first Sky Bet Championship start before the international break against QPR saw him grab his first league goal and ensure his name was again on the starting XI.
He worked tirelessly after his assist to create another goal, and he had to be patient. However after a few close misses, he found a sensational winner.
The Rams will face another tough challenge on Wednesday night when they travel to The Hawthornes to face third-placed West Brom, kick-off: 8pm.
Next Saturday Derby will face current Sky Bet Championship leaders, Middlesbrough at 12:30pm.