Craig Forsyth’s first goal since August 2016 secured Derby County a valuable three points against Reading at Pride Park Stadium.
The defender, who is the club’s longest serving player, managed to ghost in at the back post and loop his header over the Reading goalkeeper just after the half hour mark to move the Rams on to positive points for the season.
The Rams were dominant from the first kick and forced a number of chances against the Royals with Tom Lawrence and Jack Stretton denied by Luke Southwood in either half.
But, despite a nervy ending, Derby managed to hold on to record maximum points and move on to one point for the season, recording back-to-back home victories in the process.
Manager Wayne Rooney made four changes, two enforced, from Saturday’s game against Sheffield United, as Ryan Allsop made his first league start, whilst Forsyth, Jason Knight and Richard Stearman came back into the starting line up as Phil Jagielka missed out through a minor muscle injury.
The Rams started the game the stronger of the two sides and imposed their game on the visitors from the first whistle as they dominated the possession and showed neat movement.
A cross from Graeme Shinnie caused problems in the opening 10 minutes as he found an onrushing Baldock, who was playing against his former club, but he could not connect with the teasing cross, with Reading goalkeeper Luke Southwood rooted to the spot.
The goalkeeper was forced into action on 20 minutes, however, as he tipped over Knight’s 20-yard effort. Ravel Morrison fizzed the ball into the Irishman who controlled well and shot but Southwood’s outstretched fingers palmed over the crossbar.
With the visitors rarely troubling, they did force their first chance midway through the first half but found an inspired Allsop. Ovie Ejaria found Baba Rahman advancing into the penalty area and unleased a fierce strike, but the goalkeeper managed to push his strong effort wide.
The Rams continued to probe their opponents with the skipper Tom Lawrence, Max Bird and Shinnie seeing a lot of the ball in midfield.
And just after the half hour mark, Derby’s hard work paid off as they managed to take the lead through an unlikely source as defender Forsyth netted his first goal in more than five years.
Knight dug out a cross to the back post which was met by the Scottish defender who looped the ball over the goalkeeper’s head and into the back of the net to score his first since August 2016.
Derby were in the ascendancy and almost doubled their lead with five minutes of the half remaining. Knight played a low ball across the box to Baldock who dummied for Lawrence but Southwood was out to block his effort.
But the Rams had to be wary of the counter attack before the break as Allsop was tested on two occasions. Firstly he denied Ejaria after he played a neat one-two on the edge of the box, whilst from the rebound, the goalkeeper was back up to save from Jonathan Swift as Rooney’s side led at the break.
Derby started the second half much the same as they started the first, on the front foot and eyeing to extend their lead.
And they almost did that on 50 minutes as a rehearsed corner routine nearly paid off. Byrne’s low corner found Lawrence steaming in on the edge of the box but his effort was blocked in a crowded penalty area.
And on the hour mark, substitute Jack Stretton, who had replaced Baldock at the break, created an opening for himself and was close to doubling his tally for the season.
He picked the ball up midway through opposition half, managed to get away from a midfielder before taking it beyond Josh Laurent in the Reading defence and shot but it went straight into the arms of Southwood.
Again, at the opposite end of the field, Derby had to be wary of Swift who twice was denied by Allsop. His strong arm tipped his first effort, and he had to be alert to the second attempt two minutes later.
The Derby supporters were vocal and were right behind the Rams, and they felt the Rams deserved a penalty with less than 20 minutes remaining as the ball appeared to strike the arm of Laurent but the referee waved away the strong protests.
With the clock ticking down, Derby had to withstand some pressure from the visitors, however, they rarely threatened Allsop’s goal. However, they did go mightily close in the final minute of normal time as Laurent headed inches wide with the goalkeeper rooted to the spot.
But the Rams managed to hold on to a valuable three points on home turf for the second game in successive to ensure Derby climbed a hurdle and reached positive points.
Derby County: Allsop (GK), Byrne, Forsyth, Shinnie, Bird, Baldock (Stretton 46’), Lawrence (C), Morrison (Williams 90'), Stearman, Davies, Knight (Buchanan 81’).
Substitutes: Marshall (GK), Jozwiak, Sibley, Watson.
Reading: Southwood, Halilovic (Clarke 63’), Swift, Ejaria, Drinkwater, Tetek (Dann 76’), Yiadom (C), Dele-Bashiru, Rahman, Laurent, Puscas (Hoilett 56’).
Substitutes: Cabral, Ehibhatiomhan, Stickland, Bristow.
Attendance: 18,769 (477 visiting supporters)