TOP scorer Chris Martin headed a dramatic late winner as Derby County stormed back from two down to beat Yeovil 3-2 in a thrilling tussle at the iPro Stadium last night.
Yeovil, struggling in the Championship, jolted the Rams in the first half with goals from John Lundstram and Ishmael Miller.
But this Derby team never seems to know when it is beaten.
They roared in the second half, scored three goals and grabbed the three points.
Patrick Bamford hit his third in four games since arriving on loan from Chelsea and midfielder Craig Bryson notched his 12th of the season to pull Derby level with four minutes of normal time remaining.
A point rescued most people in the stadium thought, but not the players.
They sensed a winner and it came in the fifth minute of added time when Martin met Bryson’s inswinging free kick for his 16th goal of the campaign.
Credit to Yeovil for a brave, battling display and they will feel bitterly disappointed to lose it so late in the game, but Derby deserved the victory. They also struck the woodwork three times.
This was a magnificent comeback and a huge win.
The table shows that Derby now have an 11-point cushion between themselves and Ipswich Town, the team sitting just outside the top six.
Bamford’s impact in his three appearances as a substitute had seen him “hammering on the manager’s door” for a first start.
The 20-year-old forward scored the winning goal against Brighton and a late equaliser at Blackburn, and his eye-catching contribution was rewarded with a place in the team on the right.
Bamford came in for Jamie Ward and Will Hughes returned in place of the injured Jeff Hendrick.
Derby’s tempo, passing and movement was all too much for Yeovil when the sides met in August, the first-ever league meeting, and Derby ran out 3-0 winners. Heavy rain at kick off gave the pitch extra zip and Derby were quick out of the blocks. Hughes was soon involved, Bamford too, and Craig Forsyth needed no second invitation to raid down the left.
A centre from Forsyth found Chris Martin who saw his shot blocked by Shane Duffy before John Eustace’s drive took a deflection and looped into the hands of Marek Stech.
Hughes’ weight of pass shone in the wet conditions early on – though it deserted him later in the half – and his slick one-two with Andre Wisdom ended with Martin’s shot curling just over.
Bryson sliced a shot wide and Simon Dawkins cut in on his right foot to send an effort thudding against the foot of a post. Yeovil had just about kept Derby out in the opening 20 minutes although they collected a couple of yellow cards in that time – Joe Edwards for a foul on Dawkins and James McAllister for a rugged challenge on Bamford.
Derby looked a threat on both flanks and using the width of the pitch opened gaps elsewhere for midfield runners Bryson and Hughes but the Rams needed to be vigilant defensively as Yeovil sensed some joy going forward.
This was highlighted when they scored twice in 10 minutes.
Lundstram fired the visitors ahead after 25 minutes when he showed clever footwork, moved onto his right foot and drilled a low shot from 25 yards wide of Lee Grant.
Miller, on loan from Nottingham Forest, doubled Yeovil’s lead in the 34th minute. He powered into the area on a pass, held off Richard Keogh and blasted his finish past Grant from a tight angle.
Yeovil boss Gary Johnson punched the air in delight, no doubt hoping for a repeat of the result his team recorded in their previous league outing, a 2-0 win at Birmingham.
The Glovers had gone into the game as the lowest scorers in the Championship.
Derby felt they should have had a penalty between the two Yeovil goals when Luke Ayling appeared to make contact with Martin in the area. The striker went down but referee Jeremy Simpson waved away strong appeals.
Miller and the tall Joe Ralls provided a physical presence for the Rams centre backs to deal with, while Yeovil’s determination to put a head or foot in at the back deserved credit.
Keogh’s header from a corner was held by the diving Stech and Derby had laboured in the final 15 minutes of the half after a bright, purposeful start.
The next goal, the third of the contest, was likely to carry huge significance and head coach Steve McClaren made a change at half time when he replaced holding midfielder John Eustace with Ward, another forward.
At two down, a positive approach was needed and it paid off when Bamford reduced the deficit five minutes into the second half.
Dawkins saw a shot blocked, Hughes strike flew narrowly wide with half the ground thinking the ball had found the net, and then Martin’s effort was saved by Stech.
But Derby kept Yeovil pinned in their own area and Dawkins centred to Bamford who dived to head past Stech from six yards.
Suddenly Derby had the bit between their teeth and Bryson’s drive flashed wide but Yeovil remained a threat in what had become a wide open contest. Grant saved from Joel Grant and then reacted quickly to tip the ball over after Duffy’s header and deflected off Keogh’s head.
At which end the next goal would arrive was anybody’s guess although Bamford was a good bet to provide it and almost did when he curled a shot wide of Stech only for the ball to rebound out off the far post.
Bamford shows terrific composure and quality, and displays an impressive calmness when offered a sight of goal as we saw with his classy finishes against Brighton and Blackburn.
He also possesses awareness of what is around him, his clever first-time lay off set up Wisdom who fired over only a few minutes after Rams’ other full back, Forsyth, saw his rising drive clip the top of the bar on its way over after Bryson had three or four touches in the move.
Derby continued to turn the screw and made it increasingly difficult for Yeovil to break out of their own half.
Dawkins once again jinked onto his right foot but his shot lacked the power to seriously trouble and McClaren added to the firepower by sending on Conor Sammon.
When the equaliser came it was from the boot of a midfielder, Bryson.
Hughes, the ball at his feet in the box, waited to pick out Bryson on the edge of the area and he fired low and across Stech.
And there was better to come in stoppage time when Bryson turned provider. His free kick picked out Martin who sparked wild celebrations.