Tom Lawrence bagged a brace help Derby County to their fourth consecutive home victory with a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough at Pride Park Stadium.
Ahead of the game, both sides lined up around the centre circle while The Last Post was played out in Derby’s annual Remembrance fixture.
Phillip Cocu’s side put on an impressive display in the Sky Bet Championship meeting with Lawrence finding the opener in the first half before doubling his tally late in the second after Derby piled on the pressure.
Middlesbrough were reduced to ten men with ten minutes left in the first half when George Saville was shown red for a strong challenge on Krystian Bielik.
Derby had plenty of chances to add to their lead before Lawrence notched his second late on.
Boro looked to hand Derby an early blow when Kelle Roos came out to meet Britt Assombalonga in the box in the second minute after he burst through the Rams’ backline. The forward took it round the Rams keeper, as Matt Clarke sprinted back to make a crucial block.
From there, however, it was the home side who looked a threat every time they went forward with quick ball movement. By the 22nd minute, that sharpness paid off.
Duane Holmes galloped down the middle of the park before playing a long ball down to Bielik. The midfielder found Chis Martin outside the area for a quick one-two with Lawrence who then unleashed a right-footed shot from just inside onto the bottom left corner.
Curtis Davies, still in a face mask to protect a broken nose, looked to double the lead in the 29th minute powering a header from Graeme Shinnie’s corner goalbound, but Aynsley Pears tipped the ball over.
Just after the half hour mark they were denied by three stops in quick succession as they continued to pile on the pressure. Jack Marriott beat his man in down the left of the box to get a shot off at a tight angle, his shot was blocked, and he did well to win the ball back and cross to Holmes.
Another block denied Holmes and the ball fell to Martin who drilled his effort into the defenders who had piled into the area. The visitors made a break from the final block until Bielik won the ball back in the middle of the Derby half. As he looked to turn, Saville slid in with a heavy tackle and was immediately shown the red card by Daren Bond.
The Rams started the second-half as they played the first, on the front foot while Middlesbrough sat back in an attempt to absorb the pressure. Minutes after the restart, Jayden Bogle was left free down the right flank and whipped a cross into Martin in front of goal, but the striker sent it just over.
The opportunities continued to be carved out and soon after Marriott played Holmes clean through and the midfielder dragged his shot wide of the far post from a difficult angle. Holmes was back again charging down the centre of the pitch in the 57th minute and opted to take his chance again and his shot glanced just wide as it evaded the traffic in the area.
With 15 minutes remaining, Lawrence was eyeing a brace when he stepped over a free-kick after Martyn Waghorn was fouled from 25 yards out. The Welshman’s effort twisted in the air, flying towards the top left corner, only to be met by Pears glove as he palmed the powerful strike away.
Bogle, who had wreaked havoc down the right all game drew an instinctive save by Pears with his leg to send the defenders effort from close-range out for a corner. The resulting set piece was then headed by Waghorn into the hands of Pears.
With just six minutes remaining, the Rams finally broke through Boro’s deep defence to get the second goal they had been pushing for. It was Lawrence again who beat his man as he waltzed through the box and struck with his left-foot into the back of the net after good work by Bogle
He worked hard to find a hat-trick stinging the fingers of Pears with another effort in injury time, but he had to settle with a brace which lifted the Rams to their fourth straight home win.
Derby County: Roos; Bogle, Davies (C), Clarke, Malone (Lowe, 85); Shinnie, Bielik (Evans, 53), Holmes, Lawrence; Marriott, Martin (Waghorn, 67)
Unused Subs: Hamer, Wisdom, Paterson, Dowell
Middlesbrough: Pears; Ayala (C), Fry, Tavenier, Assombalonga, Browne (Dijksteel, 35), Howson, McNair, Johnson (Walker, 79), Saville, Wing (Coulson, 79)
Unused Subs: Mejias, Clayton, Wood, Liddle