Derby County ended 2020 in stunning fashion with a 4-0 victory over Birmingham City on Tuesday evening in the West Midlands.
Wayne Rooney’s side promptly returned to their winning ways after a last-gasp goal by Preston North End on Boxing Day halted their six-game unbeaten run to lift the Rams out of the bottom three of the Sky Bet Championship. It is also the fifth clean sheet in seven games since Rooney took charge.
Krystian Bielik bagged his first goal for Derby after 15 minutes when he struck from close range when the Blues’ keeper couldn’t deal with a corner.
Just one minute later, Louie Sibley who had three shots on target in the game and another just wide, was awarded a penalty which Graeme Shinnie made no mistake in converting. To top off a ruthless 25 minutes, Colin Kazim-Richards slid in to poke home the third goal, again from a corner to edge out in front on the Rams scoring charts with three on the season.
Jason Knight was hot on the striker’s heels however and also bagged his third of the season deep into the second half with a fine finish on the end of a good ball from Kamil Jozwiak.
It is the quickest Derby have scored three goals in a game since December 2014 when a brace by Chris Martin and a goal by Johnny Russell against Brighton and Hove Albion came inside 20 minutes. It is also the first time this season that the Rams have scored more than two goals, which they have done once in their last victory over Swansea City.
The night also handed debuts to 19-year-old Louie Watson and 16-year-old Kaide Gordon, who became the fourth youngest to ever play for Derby.
The opening minute gave a hint as to just how ruthless the Rams intended to be at St. Andrews. It took 23 seconds for them to get their first shot on target as Matt Clarke lumped the ball forward and a flick-on by Kazim-Richards saw Sibley drive forward and see his right-footed shot from 20-yards saved at the bottom right corner.
A minute later, Ivan Sanchez saw his shot in the Derby box deflected wide, but from there it was all Derby.
More shots came within the opening ten minutes as Kamil Jozwiak intercepted a pass just outside the Blues’ box and struck over before Bielik sent a perfectly weighted pass to drop behind the full-back to Sibley to see another shot saved and tipped over from a tight angle down the left side of the area.
The opening goal came on 15 minutes and the floodgates burst open. Shinnie sent in a corner from the right that bent directly to Neil Etheridge, but the Birmingham keeper dropped the catch and it fell to Bielik on the edge of the six-yard box. The midfielder swivelled at his hips and swung a high right leg on the bounce and lashed it into the back of the net.
Just one minute later and the Rams were awarded a penalty when Sibley was barged off the ball just inside the left of the box by Harlie Dean. Shinnie stepped up to the spot and made no mistake as he pinged the spot kick effort into the top right corner.
Sibley’s third shot on target came in the 25th minute but again it was tipped over for Shinnie to take the corner. The set piece came off Matt Clarke’s back and a small touch inside the six-yard box tipped the ball towards the back post and Kazim-Richards reacted quickly to slide in and poke it home.
Another effort by Sibley led to a corner in the dying minutes of the half as his shot was deflected out. The resulting corner was sent in by Nathan Byrne and Clarke headed down and it was cleared off the line for another corner. Clarke got on the end of that one again and came even closer, but this time his headed effort was saved right on the line by Etheridge.
Birmingham made four of their five changes at half-time and managed to get their second shot of the game eight minutes into the second-half as Gary Gardner hit a shot wide on the turn just inside the area.
Straight down the other end and Sibley struck again, just time just off-target as his venomous half-volley after Clarke nodded down went inches past the wrong side of the post.
With 13 minutes left to play the best goal of the game came. Jozwiak cut inside onto his left foot and sent a perfect ball towards the back post. Knight made a great run and a fine finish with his left foot to direct it past Etheridge.
The Rams saw the game comfortably out for the perfect end to 2020. They will look to continue the form to start the 2021 when they take on Sheffield Wednesday on New Year's Day.
Birmingham City: Etheridge, Colin, Pedersen (Clarke-Salter, 45), Friend, Clayton, Hogan (Jutkiewicz, 45), Bela (Leko, 45), Dean (C), Sanchez, Gardner (Kieftenbeld, 60), Sunjic (San Jose, 45).
Substitutes: Prieto, McGree, Toral, Dacres-Cogley.
Derby County: Marshall (C), Wisdom, Forsyth, Shinnie (Gordon, 88), Bielik, Jozwiak, Byrne, Kazim-Richards (Hector-Ingram, 82), Clarke, Sibley (Bird, 75), Knight (Watson, 88).
Substitutes: Roos, te Wierik, Evans, Holmes, Buchanan.