Another fine team performance from Derby County saw them knock Newcastle United off the top of the Championship after a 3-0 victory at Pride Park. Rob Hulse gave The Rams the lead just before halftime and two goals in five minutes after the break from Kris Commons and Shaun Barker sealed the win. Nigel Clough`s men came flying out of the blocks and their work rate didn`t waiver all night as they harried and closed down their high flying opponents whilst playing seem neat football of their own with Michael Tonge and Kris Commons in particular standing out for their lively displays. Once again Shaun Barker and Jake Buxton stood firm at the heart of the defence as Derby put paid to Newcastle`s fifteen game unbeaten run to move up to fifteenth in the table.
Nigel Clough named an unchanged side from the team who were denied in injury time at Bramall Lane on Saturday with the only change in the matchday eighteen coming with the inclusion of new signing David Martin on the bench in place of Ben Pringle. The Rams got the match underway and were quickly out of the blocks with Stephen Pearson looking dangerous down the left and Rob Hulse was only inches away from his low cross in the opening minutes after a surging run forward. Pearson again made ground down the left and his clipped cross found Commons but his header was straight at Steve Harper in the visitor`s goal.
Derby were certainly up for the fight and with Pearson still looking dangerous down the left and Michael Tonge making good use of the ball down the right they were playing some neat football and not letting Newcastle into the game. Jonas Gutierrez made a break forward just after the twenty minute mark after the ball was won back but Robbie Savage got back well to take the ball off the Argentinean as he was set to shoot. The chance gave the visitors a little momentum and they enjoyed a little more possession over the following minutes but Shaun Barker and Jake Buxton stood firm and dealt with everything that was thrown at them.
The Rams responded to the visitors` pressure and went on the front foot again and got the breakthrough their efforts deserved five minutes before the break. A free kick down the right was worked between Michael Tonge and Robbie Savage with the later sliding a ball to Commons on the right edge of the area. The Derby man made room for himself before picking out Rob Hulse with a pinpoint cross and the striker headed in his eighth goal of the campaign from close range giving Harper no chance. Stephen Bywater was called into action in the closing moments of the half as Newcastle looked to hit back immediately with firstly Wayne Routledge and then Kevin Nolan being denied with sharp reaction saves from the stopper to preserve his sides lead going into the break.
Newcastle started the second half strongly and Andy Carroll headed the ball into the net but the whistle had gone much earlier in the build-up and the play was brought back for a free kick to the visitors but they couldn`t take advantage of the set piece. Just as the visitors were looking to take control of the game they were hit by a swift counter from Derby and found themselves two goals behind after a penalty was awarded against them. Michael Tonge chased a low ball across the area and went down under the close attentions of Jonas Gutierrez with the referee`s assistant signalling for a foul. Kris Commons took the kick and calmly sent Harper the wrong way to give The Rams a two goal lead just before the hour mark.
Things got even better for Derby five minutes later when Rob Hulse nearly got on the end of a corner from the left, the ball eventually fell to Shaun Barker who crashed home a low right foot volley across Harper and into the far corner for a three goal lead that few could have imagined before the match. The Rams were keeping up the high tempo with the whole side working hard to deny Newcastle any room and Kris Commons tried his luck again taking a skewed clearance on his chest before hitting a dipping volley that wasn`t far wide of the mark.
Chris Hughton made a triple substitution with a little over twenty minutes to go with Peter Lovenkrands, Shola Ameobi and Alan Smith coming on in place of Patrick van Aanholt, Andy Carroll and Leon Best as his side looked for a way back into the game. Kris Commons made way in the first change for Derby and he received a standing ovation after an enterprising performance as he was replaced by Javan Vidal for his Rams` debut. Stephen Pearson nearly capped a fine display with a headed goal when he met a Michael Tonge cross but he couldn`t keep his header down and the ball flew narrowly over.
Newcastle had been reduced to throwing a number of long balls forward in search of a foothold in the match but Derby were breaking up the play and dealing well with the balls being pumped into the box. They made further changes with Rob Hulse and Robbie Savage being replaced by David Martin and Russell Anderson with the former making his first appearance in a Derby shirt after joining on an emergency loan deal earlier in the day. Nigel Clough`s men saw out the five minutes of added time without further scares to claim an impressive victory to add to their recent run of good form and knock their visitors off the top of the Championship table.