Rams show their class with Town's injury woes continuing with loss of Lawrence
Derby showed their promotion credentials with an emphatic performance at Portman Road with former Blue, Darren Bent, amongst their scorers.
It was an uphill climb for Blues as early as 11 minutes with the Rams two goals to the good. Craig Bryson put the visitors in front and the excellent Tom Ince soon doubled their advantage with a superb goal.
Tom Lawrence again provided the main threat for Town but Bent wrapped up the points for Derby on the stroke of half-time.
David McGoldrick went close for Blues in the second-half but Derby had chances to add a fourth with Bart Bialkowski producing a string of saves.
Town made three changes to the side that drew at Preston at the weekend, with Jordan Spence coming in for his home debut. Paul Digby and Kevin Bru also returning to the side.
Digby cleared from Abdoul Camara’s cross as the high-flying visitors started on the front foot and they were ahead on nine minutes, Ince the provider after getting on the end of a lofted pass and Bryson sliding the ball into the net from 15 yards.
Blues responded with Tom Lawrence and Bru linking up, the Mauritius international trying to finding his team-mate with a return ball but Richard Keogh spotted the danger.
Derby extended their lead on 11 minutes with a brilliant goal from Ince, the former Liverpool wideman cutting inside the Town defence and smashing an unstoppable shot into the far corner of the net.
Lawrence drove at the Rams’ defence at every opportunity and won a free-kick 40 yards out, the Leicester loanee’s delivery just evading Christophe Berra at the far post.
Lawrence, full of tricks and confidence, tested Scott Carson with a snap shot after creating space in the Derby box as Town looked for a foothold in the game, at the other end Camara whipping in a terrific cross that was eventually cleared by Berra.
A flowing move between Ince and Camara conjured up another chance for Ince, Bialkowski equal to the task with a save at his feet.
Town made an early change with Digby making way for McGoldrick 10 minutes before the break, Spence then finding Lawrence inside the Derby box but his shot was cleared by Alex Pearce.
Freddie Sears had a shot blocked by Marcus Olsson to spark a flurry of corners, Carson forcing the ball away as Berra challenged at the far post.
Ince sent in a fantastic delivery that almost found the far corner, then Bialkowski produced a wonder save to tip Bryson’s vicious strike from 20 yards onto the bar but Derby kept the ball alive and Bent was left alone to head home from close range on the stroke of half-time.
Lawrence, who fell awkwardly before the break, was replaced by Grant Ward for the second-half as Town’s injury woes continued.
McGoldrick had a shot blocked, Sears seeing his follow up effort deflect over the bar as Blues looked for a lifeline.
Ince tested Bialkowski with a right foot strike from 18 yards, McGoldrick having a volley blocked at the far post, Bryson then leading another break for the Rams, the midfielder pulling his shot wide.
Ince looked certain to score eight minutes in, the Rams cut through the Town defence and the former Blackpool striker had the goal gaping eight yards out but hit the post.
Bialkowski saved superbly from Bent, Town then making a final change midway through the half with Kieffer Moore on for his home debut.
The signing from Forest Green almost made an instant impact, Keogh just edging him out as he got on the end of a cross before Bent received a standing ovation from the Town fans as he was replaced by Matej Vydra.
Bialkowski denied Bryson, then did even better to keep out Jacob Butterfield’s close range finish after Ince had led another breakaway.
Carson held firm from McGoldrick’s free-kick, Moore had a shot cannon off Olsson, the striker then seeing a header cleared off the line as Town pressed for a consolation until the final whistle without reward.
Town: Bialkowski, Spence, Chambers, Digby (McGoldrick 35), Berra, Knudsen, Skuse, Bru, Lawrence (Ward 46), Sears, Pitman (Moore 65). Subs not used: Gerken, Emmanuel, Douglas, Dozzell.
Derby: Carson, Bryson, Keogh, Ince, Bent (Vydra 68), Baird (Christie 76), Johnson, Pearce, Butterfield, Camara (Anya 55), Olsson. Subs not used: Mitchell, Shackell, De Sart, Blackman.
Att: 14, 719