THREE goals in the second half gave Derby County Under-21s victory over Sheffield Wednesday yesterday.
Kwame Thomas, Niall Dawkins and Charles Vernam struck in the Professional Development League Division Two North fixture at the Rams’ training ground.
Derby’s youngsters have won their last two games after opening the season with successive defeats at the hands of Crewe Alexandra and Leeds United.
All of the team were under 20 and there was no Mason Bennett and Michael Jacobs, probably due to the injuries that have hit the first-team squad – the latest being to midfielder Paul Coutts.
Derby were on top for most of the first half against Wednesday but could not find the breakthrough.
Their main threat came from set pieces. Jamie Hanson curled a teasing free-kick just beyond Valentin Gjokaj and saw another thud into Wednesday’s defensive wall.
Michael Hoganson was next to try his luck and his free kick from 30 yards forced a fine save from Arron Jameson, the Wednesday goalkeeper reacting sharply to tip the ball over as it arrowed underneath the bar.
Andy Dales saw his shot saved before Derby had a goal ruled out on the stroke of half time.
Luke Hendrie, who has signed a short-term deal until Christmas, drilled in a low cross-shot and Thomas slid in at the back post to find the net.
The referee had appeared to award a goal until he noticed his assistant flagging for offside. A discussion between the officials ensued before the referee disallowed Thomas' strike.
Wednesday showed little going forward first half and Charlie Dawes’ volley on the turn, straight at Mats Morch, was their only effort on target.
Derby wasted little time in taking a firm grip on the game in the second half.
Hendrie, playing right-back, delivered a centre in the 47th minute and Adam Harvey sliced his attempted clearance on to a post. The ball dropped on the line and Thomas pounced to score.
The lead was doubled three minutes later and it was a well-worked goal.
Vernam found Dales, who worked his way into the box and guided the ball into the feet of Dawkins, who scored from close range.
In control, Derby went in search of a third.
Jameson denied Vernam but was beaten by the striker after 68 minutes. Vernam moved forward and drove his shot from 25 yards low past the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner.
It was comfortable for Derby at that stage, although Wednesday kept plugging away.
They pulled a goal back after 71 minutes, when Adam Hinchcliffe thumped a shot past Morch from just inside the area.
Hinchcliffe was inches away from scoring a second but Dales had two good chances to increase Derby’s lead, the midfielder failing to hit the target both times.
DERBY COUNTY: Morch; Hendrie, Gjokaj, Hanson, Hoganson (Giverin, 61); Dales, Wassall, Dawkins, Lowe; Vernam (Wixted, 82), Thomas. Other subs: Berry, Sharpe, Hayes.
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: Jameson; Harvey (Cvetkovic, 64), Fenwick, Beatson, Obileye, Hanna, Stobbs (Taylor, 81), Hinchcliffe, Betra, Dawes, Lambin (Onowigun, 57). Other subs: Dawson, Mullan.
REFEREE: A Khan (Leicester).