The Rams made it two wins in the space of four days, as goals from Mason Bennett, Jamie Ward and a brace from Theo Robinson helped Derby County to a thrilling 4-3 victory over Northampton Town.
Academy youngster Bennett got the Rams off to a flying start with a well taken header from close-range after 35 minutes, before strike-partner Robinson doubled the away side’s advantage just four minutes later, following an error from Cobblers’ goalkeeper Dean Snedker.
Former MK Dons midfielder Ben Harding thrashed the ball past the returning Adam Legzdins to halve the deficit on 41 minutes, but the Rams rallied and second-half goals from Robinson and substitute Ward looked to have made the game safe.
However, in the final five minutes, Northampton captain Kelvin Langmead’s clever finish from a tight angle was followed up with a 90th minute penalty from Chris Hackett, to set-up a grandstand finish.
Nigel Clough’s men arrived at Sixfields for their third pre-season outing off the back of a 1-0 win over Burton Albion on Saturday, courtesy of Michael Jacobs’ 49th minute strike.
Academy graduate Mark O’Brien was handed his first start for the club in over seven months, after coming through 13 minutes at the Pirelli Stadium unscathed, following a long lay-off with a cruciate ligament injury.
And O’Brien showed little signs of sluggishness, as in the opening three minutes the defender expertly blocked Clive Platt’s close-range effort – when the former Coventry City striker looked favourite to score.
Derby’s first real opportunity came after 10 minutes, as Tom Naylor, who was deployed in the left-back position, nodded agonisingly wide of goal after a devilish delivery from Ben Davies.
Eight minutes later, Academy duo Will Hughes and Bennett linked well midway inside the home side’s half, before the latter drilled a low 25-yard effort towards goal that forced Snedker into action.
It was becoming the Bennett vs. Snedker show, as the Rams’ youngster was denied once again denied by the Cobblers’ young goalkeeper. Hughes’ clever through ball sent Bennett clean-through on goal, but Snedker did well to stand up and thwart the striker’s effort from point-blank range.
On the half-an-hour mark the lively Bennett sent a header narrowly wide of goal following Davies’ right-wing cross, however five minutes later the England youth international made no mistake, as the forward finally got the better of the home ‘keeper.
Davies found space on the right before sending in another inch-perfect cross, and this time Bennett’s towering header from six-yards hit the inside of the post before nestling into the back of the net.
The Rams continued to dominate heavy spells of possession, and just four minutes after taking the lead, striker Robinson doubled the away side’s advantage in comical fashion.
‘Keeper Snedker could only parry Davies’ right-wing cross into the path of Robinson, who knew little about his goal as the ball trickled into the net off the back of the former Milwall striker.
However, with four minutes remaining in the first-half, Aidy Boothroyd’s men showed their fighting spirit, as Harding latched onto Clive Platt’s knockdown; lashing the ball past Legzdins from 12-yards out.
In the second period, Derby continued to have a stronghold on the game, and the Rams had a golden opportunity to extend their lead just seven minutes after the interval.
James Bailey’s perfectly weighted pass send Robinson clean-through on goal, but despite taking the ball past Snedker, the 23-year-old was unfortunate to see his effort hit the outside of the post from a tight angle.
However, the Rams’ heavy pressure was once again rewarded in the 66th minute, as Davies made it three assists for the night.
The former Notts County midfielder sent a curling ball in from the left, and Robinson was on hand to divert the ball past the despairing dive of Snedker from six-yards out.
A plethora of substitutes followed six minutes later, and two of the Rams’ changes almost made an instant impact, as Paul Coutts’ lung-busting run and cross was almost turned it by Nathan Tyson, but the striker’s effort flashed over.
Fellow substitute Michael Jacobs almost made it a memorable return to Sixfields, as the former Cobblers midfielder rattled the crossbar with a terrific 20-yard curler.
With four minutes remaining, the Rams thought they had made the game when Ward reacted quickest to turn in defender Richard Keogh’s knockdown, and make the score-line 4-1.
However, two quick-fire goals from the Boothroyd’s side set up a nervy finale, as Langmead powered home from a tight angle, before the defender was brought down in the penalty area by Jake Buxton in the 90th minute.
Former Milwall midfielder Chris Hackett sent Saul Deeney the wrong way with a coolly taken spot-kick, but it was too little too late, as the Rams secured their second victory of pre-season ahead of Friday night’s encounter with Colchester United.
Derby County: Legzdins (GK) (Deeney 68); Brayford, Gjokaj (Keogh 72), O’Brien (Buxton 45), Naylor; Hughes (Jacobs 45), Bailey (Hendrick 62), Doyle; Davies (Coutts 72), Robinson (Ward 72), Bennett (Tyson 72).
Northampton Town: Snedker (GK); Johnson, Charles, Langmead, Widdowson; Hackett, Harding (Tozer 62), Guttridge, Demontagnac; Platt, Nicholls.
Subs Not Used: Kitson (GK), Akinfenwa, Moult, Wilson, Robinson, Hornby, Bryan, Mattock.
Attendance: 1,726 (493 Visiting Supporters)