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Derby County fell to defeat on the road as they were beaten 4-1 by Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.

Four of the goals came in the first half as Boro took the lead courtesy of an own goal from defender Lee Buchanan.

Derby were level five minutes before the break through a lovely volley from Max Bird, his second goal of the season, but Boro grabbed two before the half time interval to take the game away from the Rams.

Aaron Connolly’s heavily deflected effort put the home side back ahead and deep into first half additional time, Matt Crooks tapped home from close range.

Derby continued to battle in the second half, backed by a noisy away following from the East Midlands, but in the final minutes of the game, Boro sealed victory as Duncan Watmore converted from six yards to win the game for the home side.

Manager Wayne Rooney made one change to the side which beat Hull City on Tuesday night for the trip to the Riverside as Liam Thompson replaced Festy Ebosele who missed the game owing to a hamstring niggle.

The Rams settled into the game well but it would be the home side that drew first blood at the Riverside Stadium.

There was a warning sign as Connolly raced forward on the counter attack and forced a save by Ryan Allsop, but Boro did that the lead a minute later.

Derby failed to clear the danger on the right-hand side and it allowed Isaiah Jones the chance to cross. His teasing ball was diverted into his own goal by the stray leg of Buchanan as Boro took the lead.

The home side did start to dictate proceedings and almost extended their lead midway through the half as Jonny Howson was allowed space to shoot 25 yards from goal but he struck wide.

The game did almost spill over a couple of times in the first half as Tom Lawrence and Marcus Tavernier were booked for a off the ball incident, whilst Crooks was lucky to only get away with a booking following a reckless challenge on Krystian Bielik.

Derby needed a response but were being frustrated by their hosts. Daniel Fry almost converted from a free kick into the box, but the Rams did manage to get a leveller on 39 minutes.

And it was a good goal, too. A free kick into the box was cleared by the head of Howson straight onto the boot of Bird who volleyed into the bottom corner from 25 yards to pull the Rams level.

However, that would only last five minutes as Boro managed to regain the lead. There was much fortune about the goal as Connolly swivelled in the penalty area and shot, and with the benefit of a huge deflection, it deceived Allsop and bounced into the bottom corner.

Before the half time interval, Middlesbrough managed to get a third as Crooks tapped home from close range following good work from Jones on the right-hand side.

Rooney made a change at half time as he brought on Ebosele in place of Thompson to add pace to the attack and he was immediately in the action as he drew a booking from Howson.

Derby struggled to break down a stubborn Boro defence and it was the home side who maybe should have extended their lead in the second half.

Connolly was denied twice in a short space of time by Allsop, whilst Tavernier also saw a shot saved by the strong palms of the goalkeeper.

The Rams had a lot to thank their goalkeeper for as he tipped an effort from Florian Balogun wide of the post with 15 minutes of the game remaining.

Derby continued to battle but in the final minutes of the game, Boro put the gloss on the scoreline as Duncan Watmore converted from close range with his first touch of the game as the Rams travelled back to the East Midlands pointless.

Middlesbrough: Lumley, Dijkstell, Taylor, Fry, Tavernier, Howson (C), McNair, Crooks (McGree 66’), Connolly (Watmore 88’), Jones, Balogun (Sporar 90’).

Substitutes: Daniels, Peltier, Bamba, Coburn.

Derby County: Allsop, Byrne, Forsyth (Ebiowei 83’), Bielik (Morrison 66’), Bird, Lawrence (C), Buchanan, Davies, Knight, Thompson (Ebosele 46’), Plange.

Substitutes: Roos, Sibley, Stretton, Cashin.

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