Bolton Wanderers were well beaten by high-flying Derby County at the iPro Stadium, despite a debut goal from Filip Twardzik.
For the majority of the opening period Wanderers more than held their own, but a quickfire Derby double with half time imminent would ultimately set the tone for the remainder of the afternoon.
Derby then added to their lead immediately after the restart, though Twardzik’s header from Barry Bannan’s free kick gave Bolton hope.
But as Neil Lennon’s side searched to reduce the margin, the hosts extended their lead with a header from a free kick and with it put to bed any aspirations of a Bolton fightback.
Lennon made three changes to the side that had exited the FA Cup following a replay defeat against Liverpool three days earlier.
Bannan came in for his Bolton debut after signing a deadline day loan move from Crystal Palace, whilst Liam Trotter and Adam Le Fondre were also in from the off.
David Wheater donned the captain’s armband in place of Matt Mills, who missed out with a knee complaint.
Bolton started the game brightly, with Bannan in particular buzzing around in the midfield areas.
The effort on goal was a Bolton one. Bannan flighted a free kick deep into the Derby penalty area, with Dorian Dervite’s looping header eventually landing on the roof of the net.
Derby weaved pretty patterns in the final third, but for the opening half hour lacked any real penetration.
Bolton continued to press the hosts high up the pitch and the restlessness of the home fans increased further when Liam Trotter took ball and man in full-blooded tackle with Will Hughes.
Towards the end of the half Derby engineered a few half chances with loose balls bobbling in and around the Bolton area. Tom Ince and Jeff Hendrick both saw efforts blocked by Tim Ream and David Wheater.
Just as it seemed Bolton would see the remainder of the half out, Derby broke the deadlock on 40 minutes.
Ince expertly sent a 25-yard free kick up and over the wall into the top corner of the goal.
And with half time rapidly approaching Derby really upped the ante.
Ince poked an effort wide when sent clean through by Hendrick before the lead was soon doubled.
A neat team move down the right saw Hughes and Chris Martin combine to tee up Hendrick, who duly dispatched when in space inside the area.
Lennon made a double substitution at the interval, introducing Simeon Slavchev and Twardzik for their respective debuts.
But the second half started as the second had ended with the hosts adding a third.
Hughes was once again at the fulcrum of the move that saw the ball farmed from left to right across the face of the Bolton penalty area, with Ince the man over who converted back across into Andrew Lonergan’s far corner.
Just as it seemed Bolton were set for a long 43 minutes, the deficit was immediately reduced.
Bannan sent over teasing free kick which was met by the stopping figure of Twardzik, who guided the ball into the far corner.
It continued to remain one-way traffic, though Wanderers knew that a goal would have changed the phycology of the game.
But unfortunately that goal went the way of the hosts.
A simple free kick routine culminated in Hendrick heading home from point blank range.
On the odd occasion Bolton did threaten on the break, with Clough forcing a smart low save out of Derby stopper Lee Grant.
Derby made a series of substitutions, one of which was Darren Bent, who poked a low effort wide as game somewhat fizzled out.
Late on and in search of a hat-trick goal, Ince struck the base of the post with a low drive.