He may be deemed surplus to requirements at Villa Park, but Darren Bent’s loan arrangement with Derby County seems to be working out quite nicely for Steve McClaren’s men at the moment. His double against Blackburn after coming on as a second-half substitute for the Rams, ensured that County moved back level with Bournemouth at the top of the Championship table. They now only trail the league leaders on goal difference. Bent now boasts an impressive record of three goals in as many matches for his new side, as they look to maintain their position in the automatic promotion places.

With Derby and Blackburn having safely negotiated their fourth round FA Cup matches at the weekend, confidence was high in both camps coming into the midweek fixture. Derby had enjoyed a comfortable victory over Chesterfield, while Blackburn took the Premier League scalp of Swansea City.

Derby found their opponents in resilient mood and it was not until the introduction of Bent in the second-half, before they were able to break them down. Utilising his predatory instincts, developed over many years in the game, he scored the opener on 68 minutes from Ryan Shotton’s long-throw.

The home fans were grateful for the reactions of their goalkeeper Lee Grant to maintain their slender advantage, as he repelled efforts from both Chris Brown and Tom Cairney for the visitors, as they sought the equaliser. Derby continued to be the dominant force for much of the game but seemed unable to reflect that superiority on the scoreboard.     

Indeed, it was not until the dying moments of injury time before the game was made safe for the home side, when Bent was again in the right place to stab in a rebound, after fellow striker Chris Martin’s shot have been initially saved.

In an intriguing battle at the top of the table, five teams are now separated by only two points, with sixth place Watford only four points from the summit themselves. It promises to be an entertaining run-in until the end of the season for the neutrals, if the positions continue to chop and change on a weekly basis, as seems likely at present. 
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