Jayden Mitchell-Lawson struck in the second half to secure a much-deserved 1-0 win for Derby County Under-23s away at Southampton in Premier League 2 – Division 1.
The Rams went into the game looking to bounce back from a narrow 1-0 defeat to Chelsea at Pride Park last week, but they provided the perfect response at the Saints’ Staplewood Training Ground.
Southampton, managed by former defender Radhi Jaidi, had the first chance of the game after five minutes but Dan N’Lundulu’s effort came back off the post.
Following that let-off, Duane Holmes – making his first club appearance since the play-off semi-final second leg at Elland Road in May – drove his side forward and went close twice.
Holmes came through 45 minutes unscathed as his recovery from injury continued and Max Hunt replaced him at the break.
The lively Morgan Whittaker had a shot saved just after the break, before he provided the assist for Derby’s crucial opening goal.
Fresh from his first team debut at Scunthorpe United in the Carabao Cup last week, Whittaker provided the knock-down from a back-post cross, and Mitchell-Lawson was on hand to bury the chance.
Mitchell-Lawson was Derby’s stand-out performer on the night and he produced an outrageous piece of skill to set up Louie Sibley with five minutes to play, but Jack Bycroft made a strong stop with his feet.
Darren Wassall’s side were forced to defend strongly in added time, and they held on for a valuable three points to get their league campaign up and running.
Southampton: Bycroft, Ramsay, Ledwidge, Slattery (C), O’Driscoll, Klarer, Smales-Braithwaite (Hale, 61’), Smallbone, N’Lundulu, Hansen, Vokins (Freeman, 87’).
Substitutes not used: Defise, Scott, Olufunwa.
Derby County: Mitchell; Minkley, Wassall, Bird (C), Brown; Sibley (Dixon, 90’), Shinnie, Holmes (Hunt, HT); Whittaker (Shonibare, 70’), Martin, Mitchell-Lawson.
Substitutes not used: Yates, Hector-Ingram.