Tom Lawrence inspired Derby to a 2-1 victory at Huddersfield in their opening game of the Sky Bet Championship season as the Terriers landed back in the second tier with a bump.
The Wales international scored both goals for last season’s beaten play-off finalists, who were beginning life under new boss Phillip Cocu.
Lawrence’s first came after an unfortunate defensive error from home debutant Tommy Elphick, but he deserved full credit for his second – a well-taken effort from the edge of the box.
The 25-year-old’s goals came in the 22nd and 25th minutes of an entertaining opening period, from which Huddersfield – who finished bottom of the Premier League last season – emerged one goal behind after Karlan Grant netted a penalty on the half-hour mark.
Jan Siewert’s men pushed for a leveller after the break but were unable to find a way through, Aaron Mooy sending one of their better opportunities whistling wide of a post.
Huddersfield had been beginning to build some momentum when Elphick’s attempt at chesting the ball back to fellow debutant Kamil Grabara bounced awkwardly off his shoulder, forcing the Polish goalkeeper to rush out of his box.
Grabara’s desperate header fell to Lawrence, who gratefully lifted a shot into the empty net beyond the outstretched boot of a backtracking Elphick – understandably keen to atone for his mishap that created the goalscoring chance.
Alex Pritchard sent a fierce shot just over the crossbar at the other end as Huddersfield looked to instantly restore parity.
But Lawrence – who appeared to be struggling with an ankle issue at times during the first half – netted his second in the space of three minutes when he received the ball on the edge of the box, picked his spot and placed a considered left-footed strike to Grabara’s left.
Kieran Dowell’s clumsy challenge on Juninho Bacuna in the penalty area opened the door for Grant – the Terriers’ top scorer last season with only four goals – to reduce Derby’s lead from the spot, as he planted a confident spot-kick in the bottom right corner and sent Kelle Roos the wrong way.
Grabara was forced into a diving save to deny Martyn Waghorn from close range shortly before the interval, but it was the hosts who looked most dangerous early the second period, with Roos standing up to Christopher Schindler’s shot from a tight angle before Mooy fizzed an effort just wide of the right-hand post.
However, it was as close as Huddersfield – who saw Bacuna limp down the tunnel shortly after the hour – came to an equaliser, as substitute Elias Kachunga blazed another promising opportunity over 12 minutes from time.
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