Billy Davies indicated he hopes to strengthen his Nottingham Forest squad during the transfer window after a conclusive victory over their east Midland rivals helped his side rise to eighth in the Championship, and still with games in hand.
Extending the loan of Aaron Ramsey from Arsenal is among his priorities, but the manner in which his side dismantled Derby suggested Forest already have the class to mount a serious promotion challenge.
"I don't know if it's as well as we've played this season, but that was a very good three points," Davies acknowledged.
Looking to make it 30 consecutive games unbeaten at the City Ground, Forest could not have made a better start. Barely a minute had elapsed when they won a corner on their right and the centre-half Luke Chambers rose above his marker to head Radoslaw Majewski's nicely flighted delivery past Stephen Bywater in the Derby goal.
Even if it was poor defending, Chambers' partner Wes Morgan should have done far better soon afterwards, when he allowed Derby's striker Luke Moore to run across him on to Alberto Bueno's pass. Although the Forest goalkeeper Lee Camp got a strong hand on Moore's shot, the ball hit the underside of the bar and bounced down over the line.
Earnshaw then skinned Shaun Barker before picking out Marcus Tudgay with a cross the striker met with a header of sufficient power to beat Bywater's attempt to save, come down off the underside of the bar and cross the line before being cleared. With Nathan Tyson pushing forward from the left at every opportunity, Forest were effectively playing three up front, and their pace and movement caused the Derby back four, and particularly right-back Dean Leacock, constant problems.
In first-half added time Tyson crossed for Tudgay to head home again. Forest should have extended their lead still further when a fortunate rebound handed Earnshaw a one-on-one with Bywater a minute after the restart. This time the goalkeeper did enough to prevent a weak shot crossing the line, but the regularity with which Tyson in particular was catching the Derby back four square meant a Forest fourth was never going to be long delayed.
Sure enough, yet another break down the left gave Tyson the opportunity to pick out Earnshaw with a lovely curling cross hit with the outside of his foot, and the striker turned the ball past Bywater from six yards . That should have been that, but almost immediately Forest conceded a free-kick and, from around 25 yards, their former player Kris Commons struck the ball under the jumping wall and past the flat-footed Camp.
They never really looked confident of scoring again, however, and deep into added time, Earnshaw seized on another defensive error to emphasise the home team's superiority. Having seen his team lose five successive matches, Nigel Clough may also be active during the transfer window. The former Forest forward made clear his disgust at his team's lack of spirit, naming several individuals including Leacock and Paul Green.
"I'm very angry, very upset, because this was a massive setback," said Clough. "There was a lack of desire individually and collectively. I thought we were further down the road than this. The players can't hide, they either do it or they don't, and if they don't, at some point you move on to the next group. We can't afford to have nights like this."
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