Louie Sibley’s last-minute winner gave Derby a 1-0 home victory over stubborn Stevenage to boost their automatic promotion hopes in League One.

With top scorer James Collins out with a knee injury, Derby lacked a presence up front but Sibley finally found a way through in the last minute of normal time.

The victory moved Derby three points clear of third-placed Bolton.

It was Stevenage who came closest to scoring in a goalless first half.

Joe Wildsmith missed a corner and Sonny Bradley had to clear off the line in the 31st minute and Wildsmith rescued Derby soon after when the hosts failed to deal with a long throw and the goalkeeper stopped Jordan Roberts’ shot on the turn.

Derby did not register a shot on goal in the first half and they continued to struggle until Kane Wilson surged forward in the 68th minute and played Nathaniel Mendez-Laing in but he fired wide.

Max Bird was denied by a superb Taye Ashby-Hammond save in the 77th minute but Derby struck late on.

Mendez-Laing cut in from the right and set up Sibley who finished first time from 12 yards.

Derby boosted their League One promotion hopes with a comfortable 3-0 victory at Exeter.

The Rams created the first chance with James Collins firing straight at Vili Sinisalo from 10 yards, while Exeter’s Reece Cole was off target with a shot from distance before sending a free-kick straight at goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith.

Derby took the lead in the 24th minute. Ilmari Niskanen lost the ball to Max Bird, who drove forward before firing past Sinisalo from distance as his shot bounced over the goalkeeper’s arm and into the net.

Jack Aitchison fired against the base of the post for Exeter, but it was Derby that ended the first half on top with Bird twice forcing Sinisalo into saves with long-range shots.

The Rams doubled their lead after 52 minutes when Nathaniel Mendez-Laing burst onto a ball over the top and had too much pace for the Exeter defence as he slammed it past Sinisalo and into the bottom corner.

The Rams completed the scoring in the 62nd minute when Tom Barkhuizen received the ball wide on the left and cut infield before curling a delightful shot into the far corner.

Derby boss Paul Warne believes his side’s away form could be the catalyst for promotion after a 3-1 victory at Fleetwood.

The Rams fired themselves to within two points of second-placed Bolton with a fine fifth straight victory on the road.

Player-of-the-match Nathaniel Mendez-Laing opened the scoring before prolific marksman James Collins hit his 16th goal of the season on the stroke of the break.

Jayden Stockley pulled one back in the second half, but Tom Barkhuizen ensured Derby’s impressive away run went on.

Warne said: “We did enough to win and come the end of the season it doesn’t matter how you win, it’s just important that you win.

“We’ve done well away from home in different football matches. At Oxford and Wigan, they were different matches to today.

“It’s a boost for us. They’re good lads and they want to get near the summit.

“There aren’t many weekends when you know you’re going to have a positive trajectory with a win because of the FA Cup.

“To take ourselves into third is great. I think we’ve got another gear.

“In fairness, at 2-1 I can’t say my blood pressure wasn’t through the roof because it was. Every time they went forward you’re always thinking the worst so to get the third goal was a relief.

“Over the course of the season you can outplay teams at Pride Park, but away from home these games are difficult. It’s winter football.

“We could have been better, but I’ll take three points over a better performance and a draw.

“We need to be better and have more control in games. I thought we overcomplicated it a bit in the second half.

“Our own errors allowed them back into the game and that’s disappointing.

“We allowed the opposition in and then had to weather the storm.”

New boss Charlie Adam is yet to taste victory since taking over the reigns at Fleetwood two games ago.

The Cod Army remained rooted to the foot of League One after a third straight league defeat.

But former Scotland international Adam believes his squad, who have not won in their last 11 games in all competitions, have what it takes to stay up.

He said: “I couldn’t be anymore proud of these lads.

“Again, we’re disappointed with the goals that we lost. But we’ll take positives from the performance, the endeavour, the shape and the organisation. They took everything in.

“They came up against a quality side in Derby, they punished us. But I couldn’t be prouder of these players.

“This group of players are taking on what we’re trying to give them as a staff. If they keep giving me that then we’ll be pushing up the league there’s no doubt about that.

“My two midfielders were magnificent. I said that to them in the dressing room, they’re playing against a Premier League player in Conor Hourihane and I thought they were magnificent against him.

“If they get that level of intensity and quality during games then we’re a good side and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season with them.

“We could have nicked a point. We had chances. But it comes back to moments in games. We conceded a set piece in the second minute of added time in the first half and then we’re 2-0 down.

“If you don’t take your chances with the quality that Derby have you can get punished. But I want to take the positives and we’ll build on that for next week.”

Charlie Adam’s first home game in charge of Fleetwood ended with a 3-1 defeat to promotion-chasing Derby.

The former Scotland international has lost his first two matches, after defeat by the same scoreline at Shrewsbury on New Year’s Day, with his bottom side now winless in nine league games.

Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and James Collins did the majority of the damage in the first-half at Highbury.

Jayden Stockley pulled one back but Tom Barkhuizen sealed a vital three points in County’s promotion push in stoppage time.

Josh Earl squandered a great early chance for the hosts when he nodded wide.

Winger Mendez-Laing used his pace to get in behind and neatly slot home the opener in the 27th minute.

He almost made it two minutes later as he fired wide before Collins bagged a 16th goal of the season with a glancing header from Conor Hourihane’s corner at the near post.

After a poor spell, Stockley gave the hosts a glimmer as he converted Shaun Rooney’s deadly cross with 15 minutes to go.

But Barkhuizen sealed a fifth straight away win for the Rams with his late strike.

Paul Warne could not contain his delight after watching his Derby side complete a comfortable 3-0 League One win at 10-man Leyton Orient, their first victory at Brisbane Road since the 1964-65 season.

The Rams had gone ahead in the first half with a sublime strike from Louie Sibley before Orient defender Brandon Cooper was sent off for elbowing James Collins.

After the interval, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and substitute Tom Barkhuizen netted one apiece to earn the visitors their fifth-successive league win as they moved up a spot to fifth.

“Obviously I’m very pleased,” Warne said. “We’re in it to win games of course and it’s good to see the lads in good fettle.

“They are good friends on and off the pitch and I think the team plays better when you have that in the dressing room. We have real confidence and you need that to win games and I thought we were handsome for the win.

“It was a really good day at the office. We could have played better in parts of the game but it’s all about winning so when you come away from home and keep a clean sheet and win then I don’t think you can have too many complaints as a manager.

“I liked the fact we won the game, scored three goals and created lots of chances.

“Our third one was a counter-attack from their corner and I enjoyed seeing six of my players running like the wind to get on the end of it. We were pretty solid and energetic but to be successful we need to be striving to the next level.

Orient coach Matt Harrold reflected: “I thought that we started the game great and things happened in the first 10 minutes which we worked on in training where we were on the front foot and everything was OK.

“But then they score a goal – probably against the run of play – and at the minute things are going against us and so it’s kind of where we are at the moment.

“Last week we were poor at Chesterfield but I thought we put on a good performance today but we’re giving ourselves a mountain to climb by conceding a goal and then losing a player to a red card which has a big bearing on the result.

“At two-nil down, we score one but have it ruled out for offside and then Derby score a third where we just not good enough and it’s those details against good teams where we have to be much, much better.”

Harrold had no complaints about the dismissal of Cooper.

“At the time I wasn’t sure as my view was the other side but having watched our red card again, I don’t think we can have any complaints and it doesn’t look good on the video,” he admitted.

Derby head coach Paul Warne described the 3-0 home win over Barnsley as “a boost for the dressing room.”

Barnsley came into the game unbeaten on the road this season but that run was ended by a James Collins brace and a Craig Forsyth goal.

The game was reasonably even up to the 35th minute when Jordan Williams pushed over Collins in the box and the striker got up to tuck away the penalty.

Derby rammed home that advantage in the second half when they twice caught Barnsley out with long free-kicks from goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith.

On both occasions, Forsyth got in behind Barnsley on the left when the ball was flicked on, firing low past Ben Killip in the 48th minute and then forcing the goalkeeper into an acrobatic save in the 63rd before Collins chested in the rebound.

Barnsley had a chance to get back in it but John McAtee fired wide after Devante Cole’s pass set him up in the 52nd minute.

Warne said: “I thought the first half was really tight, I didn’t think either team was really in the ascendancy and it felt like one of those games that was going to come down to small margins.

“Massive credit to the players, they were excellent today. It’s about the dressing room, the lads feel good about it.

“I’ve been saying all week I thought they were going to win, not from an arrogant point of view but I just felt it, I could see the lads in training taking the information on.

“It’s a boost for the dressing room obviously and the lads back themselves when they are at their best and today they were and we could have competed against anyone.”

Barnsley slipped to sixth in League One, now level on points with Derby.

Head coach Neill Collins said: “Up until the third goal, I didn’t think there was anything in the game.

“We were behind to the penalty at half-time which I thought was more than recoverable but the second and third goals, to lose goals to direct play and you’re 3-0 down.

“I thought there was nothing between the teams, there wasn’t really clear-cut chances for either team, it was a good tight game but then it quickly unfolded because we didn’t deal with direct play.

“We have dealt with that type of play and we’ve kept a lot of clean sheets but you’re coming up against a better calibre of opposition today and we just didn’t deal with it and that was the one aspect which was really frustrating.

“At times, had we shown a little more devilment and intensity it could have been there for us in the first 60 minutes but we didn’t.”

Derby ended Barnsley’s unbeaten away run in League One as James Collins scored twice in a 3-0 win.

Collins fired in a first-half penalty and struck again after Craig Forsyth scored to condemn Barnsley to their first defeat on the road this season.

Derby started strongly with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing causing problems on the left although Joe Wildsmith had to turn behind an Adam Phillips free-kick in the 21st minute.

But Derby went ahead in the 35th minute when Jordan Williams pushed over Collins to concede a penalty which the striker confidently converted.

Derby were worth their lead and they extended it in the 48th minute with Forsyth ghosting in to score with a low finish after a long free-kick was flicked on.

A repeat of that move brought Derby a third in the 63rd minute with Forsyth again getting in on the left to fire in a shot which Ben Killip saved but Collins bundled in the rebound.

Tom Barkhuizen fired over and Louie Sibley rattled the bar as Derby enjoyed a comprehensive victory.

Derby assistant head coach Richie Barker admitted he still had frustrations despite his side’s 4-0 demolition of Northampton.

Barker thought the margin of victory should have been even bigger after Derby bounced back in style from defeat to Stevenage to blow Northampton away.

He said: “I’m pleased with the result but more so with the performance, the goals were excellent.

“My biggest frustration, if I’m being honest, is that it wasn’t more. It was a good opportunity for us to send out a real message but it’s about reaction and the ability to put things behind them 48 hours later and get on with it.

“Our reaction to losing the ball was excellent, we have to do the right things. People come here to watch goals, but you have to get the ball back to do that.

“Northampton ended up playing three different formations in the first half, which shows we created issues for them.

“People have gone away from here tonight saying we have the right work ethic. I was proud of them as a group of players. At the weekend we didn’t compete physically but here we gained in confidence.”

Max Bird scored his first goal of the season in the 14th minute, steering in a cross from Conor Washington who then burst between two defenders to add a second in the 22nd minute.

Bird bagged his second 10 minutes later when he converted Conor Hourihane’s clever pass and although Northampton made three changes at the break, they were opened up again in the 49th minute with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing dispatching Tom Barkhuizen’s cross.

Barkhuizen and James Collins missed good chances to add to Northampton’s misery but the result was still Derby’s biggest win of the season.

Northampton manager Jon Brady said: “They are an incredible team, they moved the ball brilliantly well with great rotations.

“We talked defensively about the way we had to move with the speed of the ball but when you have players who aren’t moving at the speed of the ball and leaving big gaps, it was plain to see in the first 15 minutes we weren’t at the races really.

“They were probably on a night at their best and we need to have every single player at 12 out of 10 to even have a chance of competing and our levels weren’t anywhere near that.

“We had little spells but we couldn’t get anywhere near their goal. Not being disrespectful to our players but they are a high-class team in the way they played and unfortunately we were below our standards to even try and get anything out of the game.”

Paul Warne was delighted for striker James Collins after he scored his 200th goal in club football during Derby’s 2-0 win over Carlisle.

The Republic of Ireland international’s brilliant brace secured the Rams their first win at Carlisle since 1957.

Collins’ milestone came with a fine instinctive first-half finish before the 32-year-old wrapped up the points at Brunton Park with an emphatic late penalty.

Warne, who has a quartet of strikers to keep happy at Pride Park, said: “We always try and pick a team to win and I thought the team would win with Collo in it.

“Starting him paid off. He was really good. He led the line really well.

“You need a physical presence up there when other players aren’t having their best game, and I thought Collo was the standout.

“I’m really pleased for him. He lives right, trains right. He’s the best version of himself. I’d have loved him 10 years ago!

“He’s a great guy and the lads love him in the dressing room so they’re really pleased he’s got a brace. It’s a nice day for him.

“Every player thinks they should play every minute of every game.

“It’s not easy, I have to have disappointing conversations and disappoint people, but that’s my job.

“I’m pretty pleased. I didn’t think we were amazing, but this is League One. You come away and you have to be resilient.

“We’ve felt sorry for ourselves in recent weeks. Great teams dig in when they need to and I think we defended well.”

Carlisle had their chances and on another day could have got something out of the game.

Jordan Gibson’s strike slipped through Joe Wildsmith’s fingers but only hit the crossbar before Luke Plange’s effort came back off a post.

Carlisle boss Paul Simpson said: “You look at the players they’re bringing on and they’re really effective players.

“I always felt we looked like we’d get something out of it and the disappointing thing is that we didn’t show that in the second half.

“What we have to do is take that belief from what we did in the first half and get the momentum back from the last three games and that first half.

“We didn’t do enough second half and didn’t build on that momentum we had in the first half.

“They showed their experience, their nous and in the end it was a fairly comfortable second half for them.

“I was disappointed. I thought we were in it first half and deserved to be level at half-time.

“We created opportunities and caused them problems. We didn’t have that little bit of luck with Jordan Gibson’s shot and Luke Plange’s shot against the post.”

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