Troy Deeney made his Birmingham City debut, Scott Hogan gained vindication for his Barnsley misses, Jeremie Bela opened his account for the season and the Tilton Road end reopened.
This was as enjoyable a night as St Andrew’s has seen in a while.
It was also a 2-0 victory that lifted Blues into the play-off places in a league table that has little value other than a fun-factor. Not that it won’t stop excited tongues wagging.
New signing Deeney started the game on the bench – with his new team-mates no doubt aware of his goal-scoring reputation.
So Hogan will have been delighted to have accepted the first chance that came his way.
That was just after the half hour and came as a result of a Derby error.
Left back Lee Buchanan tried to pass back to Curtis Davies but put the ball in between the centre half and Kelle Roos.
The goalkeeper raced out to deny Lukas Jutkiewicz but was helpless when the striker’s deflected cross was tucked home by his partner.
Hogan probably should have doubled the lead soon after when Roos wrong footed his defender playing out and only found the Blues man.
This time, with 35 yards between him and the empty net, the 29-year-old chipped wide.
Blues didn’t create that much in the first half of the second period, the odd cross into the box nodded over by Marc Roberts or Jutkiewicz.
Indeed it was the Rams who looked a touch more dangerous, not least when the excellent Matija Sarkic had to beat out a drive from Tom Lawrence.
At that point, having brought Deeney on, Bowyer opted to sacrifice a striker and replaced Hogan with Gary Gardner to fortify the midfield.
Soon after Bela was on the end of a sweeping counter and finished clincally with nine minutes to go.
Was calm and decisive with the crosses that came into his box and swept well behind his defence in a commendable performance, including a couple of saves from Lawrence. Really growing into the role.
His opening 45 was assertive the highlight of which was galloping 30 yards back to catch Louis Sibley on the break. Did well after the break too, particularly as Derby tried to pull him out of position as they got in behind Colin.
Totally unruffled with what little Derby asked of Blues early on. Became more evident after the break as Derby had an enterprising 20 minutes. Yet another sound display from the captain.
Sibley got in a couple of times down his side but the Dane coped well in the opening period. Did everything that was asked of him througout.
Had very little defending to do in the first half, instead was alive to opportunities to unpick the Rams’ defence. Made some surging runs in the second half.
Looked assured, made time for himself and angles for team-mates. Already crucial to this Blues midfield.
Often had to go and press high up and then chase back if Derby played through. Ran himself ragged – even if he did pick up a ‘good booking’ to break up a counter attack.
Derby started attacking him but seemed to stop as their possession dried up. The Angolan found himself in some promising first half positions with mixed results. Closed the period with a shoulder charge on Nathan Byrne. Eager to get forward in the second period, exemplified by his goal – but was also attentive to his defensive duty.
His work-rate for someone so obviously talented is what stands out, so eager to please without the ball. When he had it, it didn’t quite come off for him in the opening 45 but he was a thorn in the Rams’ side and became increasingly influential in the game – even as Derby meted out the rough stuff. Talent.
Will no doubt be hugely relieved to have recovered from his Barnsley misses with a neat first half finish. Worked hard until he came off with 15 minutes to go.
Seized on to Buchanan mistake in what was a strong first 45. Didn’t get much by way of the service into the box he relies on – but won his battle with Davies and Jagielka.
Deeney (for Jutkiewicz, 68) 6.5 Great ovation – the return will come.
Gardner (for Hogan, 74) 6 Fortified the middle
Not used: Trueman, Friend, Sanderson, McGree, Aneke
DERBY (4-2-3-1): Roos; Byrne, Jagielka, Davies, Buchanan; Bird, Shinnie (Stretton HT); Lawrence (Knight 83), Morrison, Sibley (Williams 81); Baldock. Not used: Allsop, Stearman, Brown, Watson.
Blues: Hogan (31), Bela (81)
Referee : Gavin Ward