Derby recorded their biggest win of the season as a 4-0 Birmingham triumph saw them come out of the bottom three for the first time since late October.
Three goals in 10 minutes of the first half took their toll for Wayne Rooney’s side as they reacted strongly to their loss to Preston on Boxing Day, which ended a previous six-game unbeaten streak.
It also hasn’t hurt Rooney’s chances of being named a permanent successor to Phillip Cocu, who was sacked as manager in early November, as the club await a possible takeover by a consortium.
However, Birmingham are now looking over their shoulders as Aitor Karanka’s men haven’t won any of their last five games and their last home win was back on October 28.
The Rams had started the night as the lowest scorers in the Sky Bet Championship with 10 games in 20 games and they hadn’t scored more than two in any game, but they fixed that in 25 minutes.
They could have taken the lead after 10 minutes when Louie Sibley – replacing suspended Martyn Waghorn – was played on goal, but Neil Etheridge put out a strong hand to push the effort over the bar.
But the goalkeeper was the villain in the 15th minute giving the visitors the lead. Etheridge made two howls in his last game at St Andrew’s and here’s another as he let go of Graeme Shinnie’s corner without any pressure.
Krystian Bielik was the grateful recipient as he hooked the ball into the empty net for his first Derby goal.
And Etheridge was beaten again in the 17th minute. Blues captain Harlee Dean challenged Sibley and referee Tony Harrington indicated the spot, with Shinnie adamantly converting the penalty.
Derby was rampant and Etheridge made a nice save to stop Sibley from making three.
But the reprieve was temporary as Rooney’s side took advantage of a terrible defense against the resulting corner kick from Shinnie.
Matthew Clarke dragged it to the near post and everyone in blue watched Colin Kazim-Richards unchallenged slide it to the back post.
One-way traffic continued as Sibley had a deflected effort into the side net and Clarke had a header kicked off the line by Adam Clayton.
Karanka made four changes to her Birmingham side at half-time in search of an answer, sending in Lukas Jutkiewicz, Jonathan Leko, Jake Clarke-Salter and Mikel San Jose, but it didn’t make a difference.
And Jason Knight added to their woes in the 77th minute, converting the cross from Kamil Jozwiak as Derby scored four away goals for the first time since their famous Leeds play-off semi-final victory at Marcelo Bielsa in May. 2019.