Sheffield Wednesday fell to their sixth defeat of 2020 after Derby capitalised on an error-ridden performance at Hillsborough.
Steven Fletcher’s midweek heroics earned him a start ahead of Connor Wickham as Garry Monk made just one alteration from The Owls’ dramatic 1-0 victory against Charlton. Phillip Cocu, however, decided to ring the changes after the Rams’ 2-1 defeat to QPR with Craig Forsyth, Chris Martin, Jayden Bogle and Jason Knight all making a return.
Derby started as they meant to go on, taking the lead inside 7 minutes. Tom Lawrence finished off a fast counterattack with a deflected strike from the edge of the box, which squeezed past Cameron Dawson.
The hosts were sloppy in possession and Derby took advantage in the 24th minute. A lapse in concentration by Owls captain Tom Lees allowed Chris Martin to dispossess him and play in Lawrence for his second of the game.
Wednesday gave the ball away to Martin once again on the 30-minute mark and he found Knight who calmly slotted in off the post. At this point, many of the Hillsborough faithful decided they had seen enough and began to head for the exits.
Wayne Rooney demonstrated his quality throughout the first half as he dictated the play from a deep-lying midfield role, allowing Derby to dominate the middle of the pitch.
Monk made a substitution in the 39th minute, replacing Harris with Wickham. However, The Rams continued to find spaces in behind the Wednesday back four, with Martin and Waghorn both having shots blocked before the break.
Monk used up his remaining subs at half time with Lees and Fletcher getting the hook for Dominic Iorfa and Josh Windass. It appeared to make a difference as The Owls looked much brighter after the interval.
Wickham had an excellent chance in the 56th minute to reduce the deficit having rounded the keeper, but opted to cut back to Murphy, who blasted high and wide.
The visitors seemed content to sit back and protect their lead as Knight was replaced by Curtis Davies just before the hour mark, and Derby switched to a back five. Nonetheless, they remained a threat on the counter as Martin was put through on goal in the 64th minute before Iorfa and Borner caught up and smothered the chance.
Wednesday continued to look for a way back into the game and almost found it in minute 70 as Ben Hamer was forced into a good save by Kieran Lee.
They eventually got their goal in the 74th minute after an excellent cross-field pass from Bannan found Murphy on the right wing. He crossed in to Windass who poked it home.
However, it was no more than a consolation as boos rang around Hillsborough at the final whistle.
Garry Monk expressed frustration with his side’s inconsistent form: “Every time we take a step forward, we knock ourselves back with really poor mistakes and you can’t keep doing that if you want to try and build momentum and results.
“The hard work that everyone’s putting in is not paying off in the performances but ultimately that’s my responsibility.
“It is probably the most difficult moment in my career in management.”
Phillip Cocu, on the other hand, was pleased as Derby ended their four-game winless streak: “It was a good team performance. We played out from the back well and they couldn’t press us.
“The second half was more of a fight but we reacted well, kept control of the game and it was a deserved win.”
Sheffield Wednesday: Dawson, Palmer, Lees (46′ Iorfa), Börner, Fox; Murphy, Lee, Bannan, Harris (39’ Wickham); Forestieri, Fletcher (46’Windass). Subs not used: Wildsmith, Pelupessy, Da Cruz, Nuhiu.
Derby: Hamer; Forsyth, Clarke, Wisdom, Bogle; Rooney, Bird; Knight (58′ Davies), Lawrence, Waghorn (77′ Marriott); Martin (76′ Shinnie). Subs not used: Roos, Lowe, Sibley, Whittaker.
Yellow Cards: Sheffield Wednesday: 41′ Bannan, 87′ Iorfa.
Derby: 82′ Shinnie
Scorers: Sheffield Wednesday: 74′ Windass
Derby: 7′, 24′ Lawrence, 30′ Knight.