Derby County Under-23s cruised to a 5-0 victory over Arsenal to move to top of the Premier League 2 Division 1 at the half-way point of the season.
After five consecutive league wins, the Rams replaced Everton at the top of the table. George Thorne opened the scoring in the first-half by converting a penalty won by Jayden Mitchell-Lawson.
Cameron Cresswell then doubled the lead shortly after half-time before a wonder-strike by Jason Knight for his first goal for the Under-23s and a brace by Louie Sibley followed.
Both sides were reduced to ten men ten minutes into the second-half after an altercation between Thorne and Arsenal substitute Jordi Osei-Tutu. The Gunners, already 2-0 down, where then reduced to nine when Danny Ballard was given the marching orders for a challenge on Kyle McAllister.
The Rams took control from the opening minutes and from early on looked to press high. Inside the first ten minutes Arsenal ‘keeper Deyan Iliev was called into action when Cresswell stormed down the left of the area and struck from close range which the visiting ‘keeper tipped over.
With the ball spending much of it’s time in the Gunners half, Derby continued to work to break the deadlock. Mitchell-Lawson raced down the centre of the pitch before going out wide and feed back in to Louie Sibley on the edge of the box.
The young midfielder controlled well and struck on the bounce to rattle his effort off the crossbar.
Mitchell-Lawson was in the thick of the action soon after as well and it was another threatening run into the box that lead to the Rams’ goal. Tolaji Bola brought the forward down to hand Derby a penalty which George Thorne coolly tucked away.
As half an hour stuck, Arsenal went on the attack as Cohen Brammall speed off down the right flank his cross was latched onto and struck well but Ethan Wassall made an important block on the line. It landed to the visiting side again and their second attempt was cleared by Calum Macdonald.
With Rams ‘keeper left with little to do for the remainder of the half thanks to his solid back-line, Derby kept the lead into the break.
Just two minutes after the restart and that lead was doubled when George Evans played Cresswell through and the striker fired into the roof of the net.
Just ten minutes in, however, the game took a turn as both teams found themselves a man down. A foul on Thorne by Arsenal substitute Jordi Osei-Tutu caused the Rams midfielder to react and prompt an altercation between the pair.
The referee pulled out a third red card moments later for Ballard’s challenge on McAllister to reduce Arsenal to nine men.
Derby’s man advantage was apparent and dangerous crosses continued to flash across the goal, although the they couldn’t be converted. The third goal did come though, and it was a stunning strike by Knight and a first Under-23s goal to remember.
The young forward struck sweetly from range to launch an unstoppable rocket into the top corner.
Sibley then added more damage when he tapped home from close range after great work by Mitchell-Lawson down the right.
The first-year scholar doubled his goal tally when he struck again from close range and capped off Derby's goal spree for the night.
The Rams moved to five consecutive league wins to take the top spot in Premier League 2 Division 1, two points clear of Everton in second.
Derby County: Barnes, Brown, Macdonald, Thorne, Pearce, Mitchell-Lawson, Wassall, Evans (Knight, 69), Cresswell (Shonibare, 78), Sibley, McAllister (Wilson, 68)
Unused Subs: Yates, Kari
Arsenal: Iliev, Olowu, Bramall, Bola, Ballard, Koscielny (Osei-Tutu, 46), Olayinka, Gilmour, John-Jules, Zelalem (Saka, 65), Coyle
Unused Subs: Omole, Hein, Tormey,