Tom Ince scored his first career hat trick as Derby County recorded their biggest win of the season over Bristol City.

Tom Ince scored his first career hat trick as Derby County recorded their biggest win of the season over Bristol City.

After netting the first shortly before the half time interval, Ince struck twice in eight second half minutes to claim the matchball, before Johnny Russell put the seal of approval on the evening with a fourth goal 15 minutes from time.

The win saw Paul Clement’s side claim their sixth victory on home soil in eight games and climb up to third in the Sky Bet Championship table.

Not quite as quick as they were on Saturday to create their first opening, the Rams were swift out of the traps at the iPro Stadium as Jason Shackell registered the first chance of the encounter.

The defender rose highest to flick Russell’s corner, but his header drop wide of Frank Fielding’s goal – the only notable opportunity of a largely uneventful first 20 minutes in Derbyshire.

After that, Derby sprung to life and nearly opened the scoring on 24 minutes through another header.

All the good work leading to the opportunity came through Jeff Hendrick. The Irish midfielder, first, made a run to latch on to Cyrus Christie’s precise pass before he weaved an opening to deliver a cross. Angle formed, Hendrick clipped a ball to the back post and the lurking Darren Bent, but the forward could only direct his header on to Fielding’s crossbar.

Later, from an Ince free kick out on the left, Bradley Johnson headed wide, whilst on 32 minutes, Steve Cotterill’s side recorded their first shot on goal as Luke Freeman drove a shot straight at the midriff of a largely untroubled Lee Grant.

With five minutes of the first half remaining, a set piece into the Rams’ penalty area caused havoc as Grant snatched twice at a loose ball, before Derby cleared their lines.

The contest needed a moment of quality and Ince delivered shortly before the interval after evading two challengers with quick feet as he roamed into the City penalty area, before slotting a low right footed shot across Fielding and into the far corner of the goal.

The strike was his fourth goal in as many games against the Robins and was the ‘magic’ that Chris Martin had called for ahead of the meeting in his pre-match press briefing.

Ince’s strike was nearly matched in the early stages of the second half as Cyrus Christie whipped a dangerous ball into the six-yard box. The full back put too much on his cross, however, and forced the back-pedalling Fielding to turn the ball off his goal line from underneath his crossbar.

Later, a late Keogh challenge gifted the visitors a chance on goal from the edge of the area. Freeman, the former Arsenal youngster, assumed control of the ball, but smashed the opportunity over Grant’s crossbar.

Clement introduced George Thorne to shore up an erratic midfield that had allowed Bristol City to get on top of the contest, but Ince struck crucially shortly after the hour mark to double the hosts’ lead.

Breaking through the middle, the 23-year-old composed himself, before sending a left foot strike goalwards that beat Fielding too easily and nestled beyond him in the back of the net.

Scoring two in matches was a regular thing for Ince last season. Whilst naturally delighted, he consistently spoke of wanting to turn the two into a three as he searched for his first career hat trick.

Today would be that day for the wideman as he struck his third of the evening through another touch of class.

Slick interplay, started by Ince, and involving Bent, opened a gap in the middle for the former to exploit and he did with devastating effect as he slotted a right footed effort beyond Fielding.

Derby were relentless and did not stop at three, instead merely pressed harder for more goals at the iPro Stadium.

The fourth came five minutes later as Russell converted Chris Baird’s sweet cross from the left beyond Fielding at his near post – his first goal since October.

It was nearly five soon after as Christie forced Fielding into a smart save, whilst Bent wasted a free kick from the edge of the area late on.

The damage, though, was already as Clement’s men recorded their biggest win of the 2015/16 season so far.

Derby County: Grant, Christie, Keogh, Shackell, Warnock (Baird, 74), Hendrick (Thorne, 60), Johnson, Russell, Ince, Weimann (Butterfield, 70), Bent

Substitutes not used: Mitchell, Martin, Hanson, Shotton

Bristol City: Fielding, Bennett, Flint, Moore, Baker, Williams, Bryan (Reid, 72), Smith, Pack (Wilbraham, 82), Freeman, Agard

Substitutes not used: O'Leary, Ayling, Little, Cox, Kodjia

Attendance: 27,781

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