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7th February


Derby County                 4         Thomas Ince 39, 47  Jeff Hendrick 45, 68    

Bolton Wanderers         1           Filip Twardzik 51                  

Watching this Derby team when it clicks is a joy and our Rams definitely clicked in this 4-1 win over a Bolton team that had just taken Liverpool to the last minutes of a replayed FA Cup tie.

This was indeed a joyous game to watch as the Rams exhibited the slick passing interplay that is our trademark in front of a 30,000 + crowd who were loud and raucous in support of the team.

The South Stand was in fine voice and for the first time in a long time (perhaps Brighton in the play-off, perhaps the Forest 5-0 last season) all of the stands of the iPro chipped in with a song or two which made for a superb atmosphere which was noted by a number of magnanimous Bolton fans on social media afterwards. (The comments included – intimidating atmosphere, great team, top manager)

The headlines after this win inevitably focused on debut maker Tom Ince, who scored twice and so nearly crowned his first game since joining us form Hull on loan on deadline day with a hat-trick, the historic hat-trick being missed by a whisker as his shot cannoned back off the post with keeper Andy Lonergan beaten.

As well as the goals our new wide man showed energy and invention throughout, noticeably giving us different options as his runs were both central and wide and also tracking back with diligence. A positive and eloquent interview afterwards expressing his desire to make a mark at Derby rounded off a great start for the former Blackpool and Liverpool player who undoubtedly has a touch of class about his play.

Ince junior’s name may have headed all of the reports but Will Hughes’ performance deserved just as many plaudits. Yet again our midfield playmaker was at the heart of everything that was good about us despite Bolton’s attempts to starve him of both space and time which, in the first 25 minutes or so, had some success.

As the game went on however our midfield asserted itself and the visitors, managed by football’s angriest man, Neil Lennon, found it increasingly difficult to resist our moves in and around their area.

Three goals in the space of eight minutes over the half time break sealed the three points for the Rams. After a number of moves failed on the last pass or movement just as they looked like they were going to lead to a goal Chris Martin won the Rams a free kick just outside of the penalty area. There were a few nudges and nods in our part of the ground when Tom Ince placed the ball very deliberately for the free kick but they were soon forgotten as he arrowed a tremendous left footed free kick into the top corner to give us the lead.

Six minutes later and just before the break we were two up after a superb move involving Chris Martin and Will Hughes freed Jeff Hendrick in the area who, after a drop of the shoulder to lose Bolton’s Josh Vela, fired home.

Hendrick was another of our players who had a superb game, one of his best for weeks, always buzzing around and a threat as we moved forward and while we are listing positives Omar Mascarell had another good game anchoring the midfield and breaking up Bolton’s moves.

Another sweet passing move just after the break involving Hendrick, Martin and Hughes saw Hughes playing in Ince on the right hand side of the area for the debutant to fire home and make it 3-0.

A bit of Rams sleepiness at a free kick allowed Filip Twardzik to head home and spoil the clean sheet but there was never a real prospect of Bolton dragging us back. Jamie Ward was foiled by a fine Lonergan save before the game was put away by Jeff Hendrick’s second of the game – and his seventh of an increasingly productive season – after Jake Buxton won a towering back post header from an Omar Mascarell free kick.

Another important three points banked and another game ticked off.

Tuesday sees us visit the leaders Bournemouth on the south coast for a top two clash.

The Rams are in good shape for this crucial game having recovered from the set backs of the Forest loss, Johnny Russell’s injury and Jordan Ibe’s recall with remarkable resilience…..COYR