Matt Clarke headed Derby County to a 1-0 victory over Hull City at Pride Park Stadium with his first goal for the Rams.
The defender rose highest in the box to head home from Tom Lawrence’s corner in the 64th minute for the only goal of the game lifting Phillip Cocu’s to their third consecutive home victory and sixth game unbeaten in all competitions.
Cocu made two changes to the side that drew against Middlesbrough the weekend before, with Tom Huddlestone making his Sky Bet Championship return after a lengthy spell out with a hamstring injury to replace Max Bird, with Andre Wisdom slotting in at centre-back to take the place of Curtis Davies. Bird and Davies were both named as substitutes.
The Rams dominated possession from the opening stages, and throughout the second-half, owning more than two-thirds of the ball. The build-up looked to create a couple of early chances with the ball being worked well to Max Lowe down the left before his cross was intercepted. Martyn Waghorn was then played through in the box but George Long just got their first to put out the danger.
On the seven-minute mark, again after a large spell on the ball, Huddlestone picked out Jason Knight down the right with a great pass. The youngster drove forward looking for his fourth goal in four league games, but his shot was deflected and sent out.
Jarrod Bowen had been kept relatively quiet on the right wing by Lowe for most of the half but found himself in front of goal after 26 minutes to turn and shoot, but his shot glances across goal and wide of the mark.
Just ahead of the break, Wayne Rooney squared to Waghorn in the area and the striker’s close-range effort was going towards goal before being deflected wide.
Just after the hour-mark, the Rams took the lead. After a short delay before the set piece, Tom Lawrence in swinging corner found Clarke who rose highest in the box to fire his powerful header in to the back of the net.
The defender was just as important down the other end moments later when Herbie Kane had space all around him and took aim from the edge of the box only to be denied by a Clarke’s block.
The Rams kept the pressure on and continued with the lions-share of possession. In the final stages, Waghorn drilled a shot into traffic in the area. The ball bounced back out to Rooney who pinged a pass up and over back to the Rams’ striker, but Long scooped up the ball and he was faced with Waghorn one-on-one.
Derby saw out the game for their third-straight victory at Pride Park and moved up to 15th in the Sky Bet Championship.
Cocu’s side will take a brief break from league action when they travel to Northampton Town on Friday night for the FA Cup Fourth Round clash.
Derby County: Hamer; Bogle, Wisdom, Clarke, Lowe; Rooney (C), Huddlestone; Knight, Holmes, Lawrence; Waghorn
Unused Subs: Roos, Forsyth, Martin, Davies, Sibley, Bird, Whittaker
Hull City: Long; Tafazolli, Lichaj (C), Burke, Elder; Irvine, Da Silva Lopes, Kane; Bowen, Magennis (Wilks, 71), Bowler (Samuelsen, 62)
Unused Subs: Ingram, Batty, Eaves, Honeyman, Pennington