Derby County returned to winning ways in Sky Bet League One as they claimed a 3-1 victory in the lunchtime kick-off at Fleetwood Town.

Nathaniel Mendez-Laing’s seventh goal of the season put Derby in front just before the half hour mark at Highbury Stadium.

Striker James Collins doubled the Rams’ lead in first half injury time with his 16th goal of the campaign with a deft header.

Jayden Stockley pulled a goal back for Fleetwood with just under 15 minutes remaining to set up a nervy conclusion, but Derby added a third in the final minute through substitute Tom Barkhuizen to pick up their ninth away win of the season in the league, having recorded only eight last term.

Key Moments

Head Coach PaulWarne opted to make three changes from the 3-2 defeat at home to Peterborough United on New Year’s Day as his side saw their impressive two-month unbeaten run in League One come to an end.

Goalkeeper Josh Vickers, defender Sonny Bradley and forward Tyreece John-Jules came into the starting line-up against the Cod Army with Vickers and John-Jules making their first league starts in Rams colours.

Defender Ryan Nyambe missed out after heading off on international duty with Namibia earlier this week ahead of the start of their African Cup of Nations campaign later this month, while Barkhuizen and Joe Wildsmith reverted to the bench.

Fleetwood went into the game under new management following the recent appointment of former Rangers, Blackpool, Liverpool and Stoke City midfielder Charlie Adam, who was taking charge of his first home game since replacing Lee Johnson.

There was little action in the early exchanges to report although the Rams did carve out a chance on the counter which ended with Mendez-Laing having a shot from the edge of the box well blocked by a Fleetwood defender.

The hosts had an excellent opportunity after nine minutes which should have seen them take the lead. Skipper Josh Vela got away down the right and cut the ball back to striker Jayden Stockley in the box to shoot, but he dragged his effort wide of Vickers’ right-hand post.

Straight down the other end, the Rams had their first effort on target. A ball towards the near post from the left by Craig Forsyth picked out Mendez-Laing inside the area and the Guatemala international could only direct his first-time effort into the arms of Jay Lynch in the home goal.

Defender Josh Earl headed a corner over the bar after 15 minutes as Fleetwood applied some pressure from their first set play with Vickers remaining untested.

As the halfway point of the first period arrived, Derby’s top-scorer Collins had a half chance to open the scoring. The experienced frontman got in front of his marker to deftly flick a Kane Wilson cross from the right-hand side towards goal, however Lynch was alert to claim the ball inside his six-yard box.

Derby drew first blood after 27 minutes as Mendez-Laing was the man to find the back of the net and swing the momentum of the contest in their favour. Max Bird played the attacker clear on goal with a lovely pass and the 31-year-old kept his cool, under pressure from two defenders, to slot the ball into the bottom corner to record his seventh goal of the campaign.

He could have had another straight from the kick-off after Fleetwood surrendered possession but his effort from 20-yards out was swerved wide of Lynch’s right-hand post.

Derby continued to apply plenty of attacking intent for the rest of the half and they were able to double their lead in added time at the end of the opening period. Skipper Conor Hourihane swung a corner into the box with his left foot from the right and Collins’ excellent run to the near post saw him glance a header into the back of the net.

Warne made a change at the break with Callum Elder continuing his comeback from an injury-disrupted start to the campaign in place of Forsyth at left-back in a like-for-like switch.

Derby pushed forward in search of a third goal early in the second half and earned themselves a succession of corners, although they came to nothing.

Another change followed for the Rams just after the hour mark as John-Jules was replaced by Barkhuizen after getting more minutes under his belt on his first start in a black and white shirt.

Fleetwood pushed for a way back into the game and Derby had to deal with several crosses into the box and block several shots as the half unfolded.

It was a cross into the penalty area that provided a way back into the match for the hosts with 15 minutes left as a whipped ball by Shaun Rooney was headed into the far corner by Stockley with Vickers left with no chance.

That goal set up a nervy conclusion, with midfielder Liam Thompson coming off the bench in place of Collins for the closing stages to offer fresh legs, but the Rams motored forward and added a third in the final minute to claim all three points on the road.

Bird drove into the box from midfield and crossed low for Barkhuizen to tap home from inside the six yard box to ensure the Rams started 2024 on the road with a victory.

The Teams

Fleetwood Town: Lynch (GK), Rooney, Lawal, Heneghan, Marriott (Quitirna 61), Patterson (Omochere 71), Stockley, Wiredu, Vela (C) (Coughlan 86), Dolan, Earl.

Substitutes Not Used: McMullan (GK), Holgate, Asamoah, McAdam.

Derby County: Vickers (GK), Wilson, Forsyth (Elder 46), Hourihane (C) (Fornah 90), Bradley, Cashin, Bird, Collins (Thompson 80), Mendez-Laing, John-Jules (Barkhuizen 63), Nelson.

Substitutes Not Used: Wildsmith (GK), Sibley, Ward.

What’s Next?

Derby return to action on Tuesday night when they host Sky Bet League Two side Bradford City in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy Round of 16 at Pride Park Stadium (7pm kick-off), before returning to league action against Burton Albion on home turf on Monday 15th January (8pm kick-off).