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Derby County’s Under-23s stormed into the knockout stages of the Premier League Cup on Monday night as they defeated Norwich City 5-2 at Loughborough University Stadium.

Skipper Eiran Cashin headed home the opener before Louie Sibley and Connor Dixon put Derby firmly in control before half-time.

Further goals followed in the second half with Sibley slotting home the Rams’ fourth, before Jonathan Rowe pulled a couple of goals back for Norwich to set up a tense final 15 minutes.

Those strikes weren’t enough to deny Derby a deserved victory, however, and Sibley found the net in the final moments to complete his hat-trick and round off a fine individual and team display.

The Under-23s are now unbeaten in their last six outings in all competitions and have recorded five wins and a single draw during that excellent run of form.

Pat Lyons’ side have picked up ten points from a possible 12 in Group C in this season’s Premier League Cup, which means their passage into the next phase is now confirmed despite having two group matches in the New Year, at Charlton Athletic and Reading, left to play.

Lyons’ side to take on Norwich included two players that made brief cameo appearances off the bench for the first team against Blackpool at Pride Park Stadium on Saturday in the form of Cashin and Osazee Aghatise, while Sibley and Bartosz Cybulski were also unused substitutes against the Seasiders.

Derby started the game well and in determined mood to put the visitors on the back foot as soon as possible. Cashin headed off target from a corner and also hit the crossbar with a cross-shot, while Isaac Hutchinson and Sibley forced saves from Dylan Berry in the Norwich goal.

The side’s early pressure was eventually rewarded with 25 minutes on the clock as Cashin timed his run to perfection inside the box to powerfully head home Will Grewal-Pollard’s inviting corner from the left-hand side for his second goal of the season.

Derby added a second shortly after the half hour and Sibley was in the right place at the right time to round off a slick team move. Grewal-Pollard’s excellent low cross from the left was tapped home from a few yards out by the attacking midfielder after Hutchinson’s initial ball sent the full-back scampering down the wing.

The Rams weren’t done there, however, and a third followed five minutes before the interval. Derby pressed the visitors high up the pitch to regain possession and Dixon made no mistake with a fine low strike into the bottom corner from just inside the penalty area to net his third goal of the campaign.

Any suggestion of Derby taking their foot off the gas in the second period was quickly blown away within a few minutes of the half kicking off as they added a fourth to their tally.

Sibley again rounded off a fast and incisive move with a typically composed finish, this time after being played clear on goal by Dixon, as he swept the ball into the corner beyond the reach of Berry.

Derby enjoyed a superb spell of pressure after Sibley’s goal and had several opportunities to make the scoreline even more convincing, but they were unable to turn their chances into goals.

Rowe pulled a goal back for Norwich with 20 minutes remaining as he latched onto a ball in behind the Derby backline to lift the ball beyond the onrushing Harrison Foulkes and into the back of the net.

The Canaries forward pulled another goal back with 15 minutes left as he drifted into the box from the right-hand side and thundered a shot into the top corner past the helpless Foulkes.

Derby didn’t let those goals knock them off their stride and in fact they could have added a fifth straight from the kick-off with Hutchinson hitting the crossbar from the edge of the box.

Sibley, however, had the final word. The England youth international latched onto Hutchinson’s pass, after he had got away down the right-hand side, to create time and space for himself inside the box to calmly guide the ball into the top corner to complete his hat-trick.

Derby’s Under-23s are back in action on Sunday 19th December when they head to Crystal Palace for their final Premier League 2 - Division 1 fixture of 2021 (1pm kick-off).

The Under-23s will return to Premier League Cup action when they head to Charlton Athletic in their penultimate Group C fixture on Friday 14th January 2022 (7pm kick-off).

Derby County Under-23s: Foulkes (GK), McDonald, Grewal-Pollard, Cashin (C), Bardell, Robinson, Dixon, I Hutchinson (S Thompson 87), Sibley, Aghatise (Matthews 89), Cybulski (Clarke 71).

Substitutes Not Used: Roberts (GK), De Gracia.

Norwich City Under-23s: Berry (GK), Thorn, Springett, Warner, Bushiri (C) (Welch 46), Shipley (Hills 8), Kamara, Gibbs, Clarke, Rowe, Khumbeni.

Substitutes Not Used: Coker, Rose (GK).