Connolly goal makes it three of a kind for Blues
Town left Pride Park with a third successive 1-0 win at the stadium thanks to a first goal for the Club from Callum Connolly.
The Everton loanee struck after five minutes, heading in from a corner in an accomplished first-half display from Mick McCarthy’s side.
Derby threatened after the break, Bart Bialkowski making an outstanding save but Blues held on for a really impressive result.
Town made three changes to the team that went down at Aston Villa at the weekend, with Emyr Huws in for his first start since recovering from an achilles problem. Jordan Spence and Bersant Celina returned to the line-up with the injured Joe Garner one of the trio that missed out.
Former Town loanee Tom Lawrence headed wide in the game’s first opening but on five minutes Blues were ahead, Martyn Waghorn’s vicious corner met by Connolly’s glancing header and the ball was judged to have crossed the line after hitting the bar, with Hawkeye in operation.
Grant Ward sent in a terrific cross from a tight angle that Scott Carson held on to after Waghorn had won the initial header, then at the other end Luke Chambers’ superbly timed challenge stopped Matej Vydra getting clear on goal.
Ward sent another cross that had Carson back-peddling before seeing the ball drift pass the far post as Town continued to carry a threat, Adam Webster then finding Ward with an incisive ball, Connolly’s shot denied from the pass inside.
Derby responded with Lawrence’s cross volleyed wide by Andreas Weimann at the far post, then Wales international Lawrence went down in the box under a challenge from Spence but with the Rams looking for a penalty, referee Scott Duncan booked the wideman instead.
Curtis Davies had a volley from a corner cleared off the line, Bialkowski dealing with Lawrence’s free-kick, then Town’s ‘keeper was quickly off his line to smother then danger after a clever flick from Vydra.
Ward proved a constant threat on the break in the first-half and he won a free-kick down the left that Huws couldn’t get enough on with his head, Richard Keogh clearing.
Weimann had a shot deflected wide, David Nugent going close from the corner as Town saw out the first-half with the goal intact.
Nugent was replaced by Chris Martin at the break in the game’s first change but the Rams were almost two down inside two minutes of the restart, Carson denying Connolly from close range.
Connolly was in the thick of the action again seconds later, winning a free-kick 30 yards out after being fouled by Tom Huddlestone. Town lost possession though and Derby countered at pace and it took a superb save from Bialkowski to keep out Huddlestone’s deflected strike.
Webster cleared from Weimann’s cross, while at the other end the ever-willing Waghorn found space but pulled his shot wide of the far post.
Vydra spun away and had Bialkowski scampering across goal with a 20 yarder as the Rams turned up the heat on the Town goal, Chambers then booked for a foul on Lawrence that will see him miss Saturday’s game against Nottingham Forest through suspension.
Flynn Downes and Freddie Sears replaced Celina and Huws on the hour, Keogh, whose driving runs from deep started to pose a problem for Blues, won a free-kick on the edge of the box, Vydra’s strike deflected wide.
Martin had a shot blocked, Vydra miskicked in front of goal from Weimann’s cross before Johnny Russell and Tristan Nydam entered the fray with Connolly making way for Blues.
Cole Skuse robbed Lawrence when a goal looked on the cards after a flowing move from the home side, Waghorn then going down in the box at the other end and for a split second it looked a penalty but referee Duncan pointed for a corner.
Downes picked up his fifth yellow card of the season and a suspension for kicking the ball away at a free-kick, Lawrence’s ambitious effort going wide.
Vydra was much closer with an acrobatic right foot effort as the Rams threw everything at the Town goal in search of an equaliser, George Thorne claiming a penalty then Joe Ledley hammering the ball over at the far post but Town held on for a terrific three points.
Derby: Carson, Forsyth, Keogh, Lawrence, Baird, Weimann (Russell 69), Vydra, Nugent (Martin 46) Davies (Thorne 82), Ledley, Huddlestone. Subs not used: Mitchell, Wisdom, Pearce, Olsson. Booked: Lawrence, Russell, Baird.
Town: Bialkowski, Spence, Chambers, Webster, Knudsen, Huws (Downes 60), Connolly (Nydam 71), Skuse, Ward, Waghorn, Celina (Sears 60). Subs not used: Gerken, Iorfa, Bishop, Morris. Booked: Chambers, Webster, Downes.
Att: 24, 475