Derby day honours belonged to Derby County as three goals saw them defeat Nottingham Forest in the East Midlands derby and move into the play-off positions for the first time this season.
A cagey first half display only had a Nicklas Bendtner own goal separating the two outfits, before Steve McClaren’s side turned on the style over the second 45 minutes, overrunning their opponents to claim a sixth straight win.
Tom Ince added his fifth goal in as many games to double the Rams’ advantage, before Will Hughes opened his goalscoring account for the season with a smart follow up finish shortly after the hour.
The standout day of McClaren’s second reign in charge at the club was also capped off as his players equalled a club record for home clean sheets – a sixth consecutive – whilst Derby also moved up to fifth in the Sky Bet Championship.
The day began as it started for the visitors, who were rocked by a late enforced change just 15 minutes before kick-off as Henri Lansbury, the Forest captain and November’s Championship Player of the Month, picked up an injury late in the warm-up.
Mustapha Carayol came in for his replacement, but, initially, the mood and pace of this blistering game was unaffected.
The beginning of this game had everything but goalmouth action. In saying that, however, you would be mistaken if you thought it lacked action.
Surprisingly open, both sides marauded forwards in a relentless manner. Forest looked the more effective in the opening stages with Matty Cash and Ben Osborn proving strong outlets in the wing back roles.
Naturally, as is the case with this fixture, there was an added bite – a factor clearly on show as early as the ninth minute when Bradley Johnson and Osborn were both shown yellow cards for an off the ball incident close to the left touchline.
That’s the side of these games that can be done without, especially when you take into the account the electric atmosphere and relentless nature that these games are played in.
Although Philippe Montanier’s side had started the better, Derby grew in stature as the first half wore on. They had held their visitors at bay and were rewarded shortly after the half hour mark as they edged themselves ahead in front of the North Stand.
Having won a corner, Tom Ince whipped a dangerous dead ball into the area that was diverted into the back of his own net by Bendtner – first blood to the Rams.
The second half was outstanding from a Derby perspective, but before it got better, a superb save from Scott Carson was needed to ensure that scoreline remained the same at the interval as a loose ball fell to the feet of Cash, but his low, firm, hit was well claimed by the Derby ‘keeper, who got down to the effort.
A goal to the good at the break, Derby were irresistible over the second 45 minutes and crucially doubled their advantage after the best move of the game.
It could have come sooner after Bendtner, inexplicably, went close to adding a second own goal. On this occasion, he was saved by his crossbar, but Ince struck moments later.
Chris Baird, excellent again at full back, slid in an inch-perfect pass into the path of the wideman, who cut in on his left foot and avoided two challengers, before lifting a high effort over Vladimir Stojković and into the far corner of the goal.
Ten minutes later, the third goal followed and effectively killed the game off for visitors, who were struggling to cope with the Rams’ pressing game.
Hughes was the man that got it – opening his goalscoring account for the season in the process. The midfielder initially passed to the feet of Johnny Russell, who saw his snap shot well saved by Stojković’s outstretched leg, but Hughes followed up to add the third goal.
The remainder of the contest was routine for Derby, who saw the game out superbly to record back-to-back home victories over their bitter A52 rivals for the first time since 2004.
What was equally as impressive, however, was the fact that McClaren’s men equalled a club record for home clean sheets as they kept an intermittent Forest side at bay to record a sixth straight shut out on home soil – meaning the Derby boss is yet to see his side concede a goal at the Pride Park Stadium since returning to the club in mid-October.
Derby County: Carson, Baird, Keogh (C), Pearce, Olsson; Johnson, Butterfield, Hughes (Bryson, 75); Ince (Weimann, 83), Russell, Bent (Vydra, 71)
Substitutes not used: Mitchell, Shackell, Camara, Hanson
Nottingham Forest: Stojković, Lichaj, Mancienne, Mills, Carayol, (Vellios, 60) Osborn, Bendtner, Kasami, Perquis, Lam (Pereira, 70), Cash (Vaughan, 84)
Substitutes not used: Traore, Henderson, Worrall
Attendance: 32,600 (3,115 away supporters)