Firing on all cylinders
Attendance: 26, 621
After playing Norwich off the park for an hour Derby very nearly let the visitors back into the game when Kennedy headed in from a poorly defended corner and lost their shape for a ten minute spell. Przemyslaw Kazmierczak then came off the bench to clinically finish for his first Derby goal and The Rams ran out comfortable winners in a game they could have doubled their winning margin. A superb first half should have seen the home side out of site with goals from Green and Hulse amongst a host of chances created. Hulse then hit the bar early in the second half before the Derby defence was caught napping from a corner and a ten minute spell of nerves nearly spoilt the good work but the third goal killed the game and Villa could and perhaps should have added a fourth in the final minutes to run out comfortable winners.
Martin Albrechtsen made a surprise return from injury to make the starting line-up but perhaps not quite as surprising as Gary Teale making the starting team for the first time since January, Paul Green also returned in midfield after his neck problems had cleared. The game opened at a lively pace and both sides looked to be setting their stall out to attack in this encounter. Derby had the games first effort on goal when Rob Hulse had his shot from the edge of the box deflected behind for a corner and Albrechtsen heading wide from the resulting Commons corner. David Marshall was called into action after eight minutes when Addison met another Commons cross to head powerfully at goal only for The Canaries' keeper to turn his effort away for a corner.
Derby got the early breakthrough their domination deserved when Paul Connolly's throw in was collected by Ellington, some neat footwork followed by a burst of pace took him clear on the right of the penalty area and fire in a low cross that Paul Green couldn't miss from as he turned the ball into the net from within the six yard box. Ellington was looking sharp and he again made room for himself down the right before crossing for Commons but the winger had to stretch slightly to far to meet the ball and his shot ended wide of the goal.
Norwich's first real effort on goal came after 22 minutes but Stefanovic couldn't keep his effort down and the ball flew harmlessly over. Hulse, having a fine time up front, then fired over a cross for Ellington but his strike partner again was overstretched and couldn't quite keep his header on target. Commons was giving the Norwich defence a torrid time down Derby's left and he played a part as Derby doubled the lead on 28 minutes. Ellington played the ball wide to the Scottish international and he cleverly jinked past his man before picking out Hulse with a pinpoint cross that was duly dispatched from eight yards for a 2-0 lead. Marshall was then called into action seconds later to deny Ellington as Derby threatened to run away with the game.
Antoine Sibierski had the first half's last effort with a powerful strike from the edge of the box but his effort flew wide and The Rams went into half time two goals to the good and having put in perhaps the best show of attacking football so far this season.
Norwich made two changes during half-time as they attempted to turn the tide with Bell and Pattison coming on in place of Hoolahan and Sibierski. Commons picked up where he left again at the start of the second half and his ball allowed Addison to get a shot in on goal but the effort didn't trouble Marshall in the visitors' goal. The save of the match then came from Stephen Bywater who superbly tipped over a twenty yard volley from Russell that looked bound for the top corner.
Another Commons pass picked out Rob Hulse who took a touch and turned in the area only to see his effort strike the bar and go over before Ellington headed just over from a Teale cross as The Rams continued on the front foot. Norwich forced a corner from a rare raid forward and from the resulting set piece got themselves a lifeline when Jon Kennedy powered in a header after finding room in the box.
From nowhere Derby suddenly looked nervous and Leroy Lita could have levelled things when breaking onto a ball from Pattison and finding himself one on one with Bywater only to fire wide of the mark. Sammy Clingan then had an effort deflected just wide and the tension was starting to build as Derby looked like they might pay for not taking better advantage whilst on top.
Przemyslaw Kazmierczak came on for Gary Teale after 76 minutes and he soon made an impact, Paul Connolly fired over a cross from the right that seemed to cause little danger but the Norwich defence let it bounce across the area and in came the Polish international to fire low into the bottom corner with a clinical left foot effort to effectively seal the win. There was only one side in it from that point onwards and the newly introduced Tito Villa nearly added a fourth after charging down Marshall's clearance then picking himself off the floor only to roll his effort just wide of an empty net from a tight angle. Ellington then saw his effort dip just over with the games last real shot and Ruben Zadkovich came on on the stroke of full time to make his Derby debut.
Despite a nervous ten minutes when Norwich looked to ready to snatch something this was a thoroughly deserved victory for The Rams and whilst Paul Jewell will admit that his side are far from the finished article it was nice to see them give a side a good old fashioned hammering and leave Pride Park with a real spring in the step.
His best performance in a Derby shirt so far and the pick of the bunch as The Rams picked off Norwich at will in the first half. Dug in well second half when Norwich briefly threatened and was soon on the attack again in the final minutes, the Norwich defence will be glad they don't have to face him again this season.
Stephen Bywater 7
Paul Connolly 8
Jordan Stewart 7
Martin Albrechtsen 8
Lewin Nyatanga 8
Gary Teale 6
Miles Addison 8
Paul Green 8
Kris Commons 9
Rob Hulse 8
Nathan Ellington 8
Przemyslaw Kazmierczak 7
Tito Villa 7
Ruben Zadkovich 6