Tom Huddlestone has praised Derby County’s ability to hold onto leads after their impressive 3-0 victory at Birmingham City.
Derby maintained their grip on second place in the Sky Bet Championship with a comfortable win against the Blues.
The hosts started strongly and applied some early pressure before Johnny Russell struck after 19 minutes to open the scoring.
Leading scorer Matej Vydra and substitute Andreas Weimann scored second-half goals to fire Gary Rowett’s men to victory.
Derby have only lost once after taking the lead in a league game so far this season, which came in a 4-1 defeat at Bristol City back in September when the Rams will still searching for consistency.
Once they got their noses in front at St Andrew’s, Huddlestone felt he and the rest of the players had the confidence and belief to ensure they claimed another three points to further establish themselves as genuine automatic promotion contenders.
He told RamsTV: “I didn’t think we were great in the first half but we got the goal after 19 minutes.
“That gave us something to hold on and it was an important moment for us. It was a bit frantic early on and we had to show composure when we got on the ball to beat their press against us.
“We’ve been good at holding onto leads of late and once we got in front we had confidence we could do it again.
“We had to defend well early on as they put us under pressure; we’ve got Richard Keogh and Curtis Davies who are prepared to put their bodies on the line while Scott Carson is probably in the form of his career as well.”
He added: “We’ve got a good basis to keep clean sheets and in the second half I thought we were a lot better without the ball and got two more goals to make it a great day for us.
“The second goal really settled the nerves for us. Vyds (Matej Vydra) laced it in the roof of the net and it was a brilliant finish.
“Andi Weimann rounded it off with that third goal and while 3-0 might be a bit flattering for us, I think we thoroughly deserved it.”
Derby are now unbeaten in their last ten games away from home in the Championship.
The run stretches back to that aforementioned defeat at Bristol City; with the Rams claiming six wins and four draws during that run.
Huddlestone says Rowett’s side have a strong game plan away from home which is being followed to the letter by the players.
The way their start games on their travels in particular has been impressive, keeping their opponents at bay before stamping their authority on proceedings.
He said: “To go unbeaten for ten games away from home, which is over the course of a fair few months, is fantastic.
“It’s good going and early on in the season we probably got caught in between wanting to over-press teams and play out from the back early on in the games. At times we maybe gave the opposition a lift if they got a tackle in or something like that.
“Now, we’ve got a plan for five or ten minutes to try and do the ugly stuff and then go and play our football after that and not take too many unneeded risks.”
Next up for Derby is next Friday’s top-of-the-table clash against Bristol City at Pride Park Stadium.
Lee Johnson’s side have been one of the division’s surprise packages this season and have also reached the Carabao Cup Semi-Finals.
Huddlestone says the Rams must maintain their standards and continue to perform well as a side both with and without the ball.
He said: “It’s a cliché but we just have to take things game-by-game.
“The next game carries massive importance because it’s Bristol City and they’re in and around us in the table.
“We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and working hard without the ball.
“With the attacking players we have we will create chances for anybody.”