Darren Bent’s 200th career strike ensured Derby County secured a safe passage to the next round of the Emirates FA Cup with a hard fought 2-1 win over Hartlepool United.
The forward lashed a half volley into the far corner of the goal to turn the game on its head after Jacob Butterfield cancelled out Jake Gray’s stunning opener.
Hartlepool made a firm fist of the tie and pushed Paul Clement’s side all the way, but the Rams edged their lower ranked opponents out at Victoria Park.
A quick start by the hosts aside – in which Michael Woods fired an early warning to Jonathan Mitchell’s goal – Derby held total control in a slow first half of the tie, content to create their openings through prolonged spells of possession.
Hartlepool’s hard work and endeavour left the Rams’ front line starved of service and possession, whilst the hosts pressed the Derby midfield and defence into stray passes on a hard service.
For all their trying, Hartlepool threatened very little going forward and over the course of the game and the only notable chances came from Clement’s side.
Bent saw a firm drive pushed away by Trevor Carson at his near post, whilst Nick Blackman saw a side footed volley crucially blocked midway through the first half.
The contest sparked to life with five minutes remaining with Carson being called into action with a fine instinctive save to deny Blackman‘s point blank effort from close range.
That was the first of three clear goalscoring opportunities for the Rams’ latest recruit in a strong period of pressure as a defender blocked another goal bound effort and the forward saw another drive deflected for a corner.
Hartlepool weathered the spell to ensure the two sides went into the break on level terms, but in the early stages of the second half, it took the width of the crossbar to make sure the contest stayed at deadlock.
Abdoul Camara, making his debut, had taken time to grow into the contest, but come the second half the pacey Guinea international had established himself as the Rams’ biggest threat.
It was the wideman that cracked the woodwork with a drive from range, before he showed quick feet to evade a challenger and dart into the penalty area, but his low cross was smothered by Carson before Blackman could tap home.
Just shy of the hour mark, though, and with the hosts looking more threatening on the counter attack, Hartlepool broke the deadlock in sublime fashion.
Woods’ involvement was just as eye-catching as the goal itself as he drove with the ball at the Derby defence, before clipping a ball into the area that was leathered beyond Mitchell on the volley.
Clement moved to rectify the situation and introduced Butterfield in place of Craig Bryson and within a minute, the midfielder hit back with a superb drive from the edge of the area.
Only another superb save from Carson kept the scores level, again instinctive as he got two firm fists on Bent’s header from six-yards out, whilst the ‘keeper got his body behind Andreas Weimann’ s shot from an acute angle.
Allowed to charge forward, Alex Pearce bent a tame effort into the arms of Carson as Derby pushed for a late winner and their efforts were rewarded with four minutes remaining as Bent lashed a half volley into the far corner of the goal and complete the comeback.
Hartlepool United: Carson, Richards, Harrison, Jackson, Carroll, Featherstone (Bingham, 87), Woods, Gray (Walker, 80), Hawkins, Oates, Fenwick
Substitutes not used: Bartlett, Jones, Nearney, Oyenuga, Smith
Derby County: Mitchell, Shotton, Buxton, Pearce, Warnock; Baird, Hanson (Russell, 46), Bryson (Butterfield, 66); Blackman (Weimann, 76), Camara, Bent
Substitutes not used: Grant, Christie, Ssewankambo, Bennett
Attendance: 4,860 (935 Derby supporters)Tweets by @ dcfcofficial