By Tom Rawcliffe: Derby County Under-18s made it eight consecutive wins in all competitions as they beat Blackburn Rovers Under-18s 3-1 to climb to second in the U18 Premier League North.
Morgan Whittaker opened the scoring for the visitors just three minutes into the game before Sam Durrant equalised for Blackburn, but the Rams were not to be denied as Jason Knight and Connor Dixon secured the three points in the second half.
Derby came flying out the blocks and claimed the advantage when Archie Brown beat his man down the left-hand side before finding the unmarked Whittaker, who had the simple task of tapping home his eighth league goal of the season.
However, they were quickly pegged back through a superb goal by Durrant, with the first-year apprentice hitting an excellent curling effort high into the net.
Justin Walker’s Derby responded well and created a handful of chances to regain the lead as Knight missed twice in quick succession, while Whittaker failed to find the target with just the keeper to beat from 12 yards out.
Blackburn also threatened to break parity before half-time as they countered to great effect following a County free-kick, with Vilius Piliukaitis knocking the ball beyond keeper Sam French, but defender Eiran Cashin produced a tremendous clearance off the line.
Rovers were again unfortunate after the break as James Connolly’s header deflected off Whittaker and cannoned off the post before falling into the grateful hands of French.
And Derby capitalised on that luck as a long ball forward was pounced on by Knight, who chipped the ball into the back of the net to restore the lead with 20 minutes remaining.
The away team were then able to control possession and put the result beyond doubt 10 minutes later when Jack Stretton played through the impressive Dixon to calmly slot under Ben Winterbottom in the Rovers goal.
“Derby are a good side; they’ve got some really good players,” Blackburn’s PDP Assistant Coach Mike Sheron told LFE. “I think they over-powered us in the last 15 minutes with some good intelligent and purposeful play.
“We were quite content with how the first half went. We had a game last week which was very similar, so maybe it’s concentration levels in the second half that we need to work on.”
Meanwhile, Derby Under-18s manager Walker told the club website: “I think we were magnificent, I thought we were professional in every department. I enjoyed watching the reaction of the players because I think we need to find out about them.
“We didn’t have it all our own way, they had periods of pressure and we conceded but it’s what you do at that stage; we showed resilience, we dug in, got through a bit of a tough period and came out on top in the end.”