A Tom Lawrence double either side of a George Saville red card handed a routine win for Derby against a tame Middlesbrough at Pride Park.
The opener came from some tidy interplay between Chris Martin and the Welshman, who slotted home from the edge of the box to take the lead. George Saville’s red came ten minutes from the break for a late and frankly rash challenge on Krystian Bielik.
The finisher came in the last ten minutes as Lawrence once again beat Aynsley Pears with a tidy chip to wrap up all three points.
Before the game, Phillip Cocu decided to change it up for Derby. The Dutchman deployed a midfield diamond with two up front in the form of Martin and Jack Marriott, Lawrence deployed as the tip of the diamond.
It was a brave choice as it could leave Derby struggling to defend with width due to the natural narrowness that comes with a 4-1-2-1-2, however the players were well drilled enough to deal with the Boro threat.
Despite how dominating Derby looked, it was the visitors that should’ve took the lead just two minutes into the game. Curtis Davies’ misplaced pass put in Britt Assombalonga, who rounded goalkeeper Kelle Roos in the process. However, centre-back partner Matt Clarke was in place to spare Davies’ blushes as the Brighton loanee blocked the strikers’ effort at a seemingly open net.
Then the Rams broke the deadlock. Bielik’s surging run allowed the space to find Martin. The forward’s clever one-two with Lawrence opened more space for the number 10 to slot his chance away from the edge of the box.
Derby’s search to secure another valuable three points was helped by the dismissal of Saville, who went in late on Bielik and given his marching orders almost straight away.
The rest of the game seemed like it was a case of damage limitation from Woodgate’s side, which gave the Rams more time to pick the lock once again with the man advantage. Lawrence’s ambitious freekick forced Pears into a save to deny a possible outstanding goal.
Derby’s patience finally paid off with a goal to double the lead. Bogle and Lawrence’s move parted the visitor’s defence allowing Lawrence to grab a second. The forward was denied a hat-trick just a minute later as Pears blocked a fizzed shot late on.
The win puts the Rams up to 15th and just four points off the top six before the last game ahead of the international break, that being Nottingham Forest away next week.
Derby County: Roos; Bogle, Davies, Clarke, Malone (Lowe 85), Shinnie, Bielik (Evans 53), Holmes, Marriott, Martin (Waghorn 67), Lawrence.
Middlesbrough: Pears, Howson, Ayala, Fry, McNair, Johnson (Walker 79), Wing (Coulson 79), Tavernier, Saville, Browne (Dijksteel 34), Assombalonga.